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TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tapas Party For World Tapas Day

“Official” food holidays are those officially declared by a government: local, state or national. In these fast and loose days of the Internet, however, many companies and individuals don’t bother to seek official sanction for a “special observance day.” Instead, they simply announce online that a particular date is now World Nutella Day (started by two bloggers) or National [Whatever] Day.

Here’s how official holidays are established in the U.S.
 
IT’S OFFICIAL: WORLD TAPAS DAY

No less an entity than the country of Spain has established a welcome new holiday: World Tapas Day. Spain’s tourism agency, Turespaña, has declared El Día Mundial de la Tapa, to recognize the “singular nature of this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture” (here’s more information).

World Tapas Day will be held each year on the third Thursday of June. That’s June 16th this year, and you’ve got time to plan a tapas party—or serve tapas for Father’s Day on June 19th. Tapas are easy to make. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart. You can make it a “group party” and have everyone make a different tapa.

Tapas are a long tradition in Spain. A snack for agricultural workers evolved into bar food, and has become so popular in modern times that it is now the focus of brunches and cocktail parties.
 
THE HISTORY OF TAPAS

While there are legends surrounding the birth of tapas, the accepted theory is that they originated as a snack for field workers. (Paella also originated among field workers, as the lunch meal.)

As a refreshment during the long hours between breakfast and lunch, workers were served wine from a ceramic jug. The top of the jug was covered with a piece of bread with ham or cheese, which served to keep insects out of the wine. Tapa is a cover or lid.

As the idea came to cities, tapas with a snack became popular at midday or for an after-work drink. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas (TOP-us) are “a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.”

The original tapas were simple: slices of bread with ham or chorizo served free with a drink. The bread was set on top of the glass rim and covered the drink, just as with the jug of wine. Today the choices can be vast, and are served on small plates.

It has evolved into a verb, tapear: to eat tapas. A tapeo is a social gathering where the food is tapas.As with the free caviar supplied at American taverns in the 19th century (American sturgeon were plentiful then, and caviar was cheap [sigh]), the salty food made patrons thirstier and they bought more alcohol.

   

Tapas Plate

Modern Tuna Tapas

TOP: A platter of tapas: tortilla (potato omelet), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and chiles fritos (fried shishito peppers (photo courtesy Foods From Spain). Bottom: Headed to Vegas? Check out the best tapas restaurants in this feature from Vegas Magazine. This is Julian Serrano’s modern take on tuna tapas.

 

Today, tapas comprise a wide variety of cold or hot foods can be ordered with a drink or combined into an entire meal.

Each region of Spain serves tapas that reflect the local cuisine. Meats, cheeses, olives and nuts and tortillas (egg and potato omelet) are common to all areas, with more seafood tapas along the coastline.

Spaniards seek out the best tapas bars (a bar that serves tapas—not all bars do) as Americans seek out the best pizza. While tapas are ubiquitous all over Spain, cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, San Sebastian and Seville are known for the quality, variety and innovation of their tapas.

 

Croquetas de Bacalao

Empanada Gallega Galicia

Top: Croquetas De Bacalo, cod croquettes. Bottom: Empanada Gallega Galicia, Galician Pork and Pepper Pie—the original empanada (photos courtesy LaTienda.com).

 

HOW ARE TAPAS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SMALL PLATES?

Amuses-bouche, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre, mezzo and tapas are similar, though different.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto, the traditional first course of a formal Italian dinner, is an assortment of anchovies, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone), cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms and other vegetables, olives, peperoncini and pickled foods. The choices vary greatly, reflecting regional cuisines. Some restaurants have antipasto buffets.
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés—small pieces of bread or pastry with a savory topping, served at room temperature—were the original hors d’oeuvre. They’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and other foods. Also in modern times, several pieces of hors d’oeuvre can be plated to serve as an “hors d’oeuvre plate” appetizer/first course.
  • The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) refers an assortment of small dishes, served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Among the many other options, anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers are commonly served. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek (small meat turnovers). Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
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    MORE ON TAPAS

  • Entertaining With Tapas
  • Vermouth & Tapas Brunch Or Cocktails
  • Potato Tapas
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