When you travel to Madrid in the summer and first step outside, as we did most recently in July of 2019, you’re covered with a blanket of heat. Sweltering yes, but sun-washed and beautiful. Within hours of stepping on Spanish soil, you learn to submit to the heat, and begin to understand how the food culture is a product of the environment, as well as a physical necessity.
You soon discover the pleasure of cooling off with sips of iced tonic and balancing electrolytes with nibbles of salt-cured ham. Put a slice of that ham on a small piece of bread and you have one of Spain’s genius contributions to the food world—tapas.
I first experienced tapas nearly 20 years ago in the south of Spain, near Granada, thanks to the hospitality of the Palomar family. Tapas, also known as "pinchos" or "pintxos" in the north's Basque Country, are often made of a small slice of bread or a skewered bite of ... just about anything. This leaves room to imagine all sorts of delicious combinations!
Tapas are central to the food scene all over Spain, including Granada, Barcelona, and Madrid. Even swanky San Sebastian, as we found on our most recent trip, with all its Michelin-starred restaurants, is still a great city for tapas/pinchos, this uniquely Spanish way of eating.
The Spanish food culture gives you license to gad about after sunset enjoying tasty little bites in a cheerful sort of gastronomic mosh pit that is a tapas bar. You develop a rhythm. After the Jamón Ibérico, next is a tapa of succulent ventresca tuna with a sliver of roasted red pepper, followed by a slice of manchego cheese with a dab of sweet quince paste, then a bite of tortilla de patatas (omelet with potatoes), and so on. It’s no wonder the Spanish are a happy lot around the table!
In that spirit, we invite you to pick up some Spanish food finds from us this month, gather a few friends, and savor the greatness of Spain. At our house, we nearly always put out foods for guests, such as manchego, chorizo, fig cake, and marcona almonds. We love it all year long! Think also of saffron-scented paella, savory salt-cured hams, flavorful cheeses, full-bodied red wines, superb olive oils, and the best canned tuna in the world. Join us as we explore and savor the taste of Spain.