Sunday, February 15, 2009

Espana tiene mi corazon...

Tapas 101

Turkey "Cubans" - pulled turkey with roasted garlic & homemade pickles on grilled bread

"Pan con tomate" - bruschetta with mango, tomato, and basil

"Gambas a la Plancha" - grilled shrimp in a spicy red pepper sauce

"Gambas a la Plancha"...Chicken Samosas with Tamarind Sauce...Yuca Potato & Chorizo Croquetas (these potato & sausage fried balls were authentic!)

Plantain Fries with lemon aioli
Tapas, (n.): small plates of bites of food originating in Spain; usually accompanies any beverage purchase free of charge

During my semester of study abroad in Spain, I had the absolute pleasure of experiencing some of the most authentic, delicious national cuisine. It was a unique situation that not many people find themselves in. Since I was living in the country for four months I really had the time to delve into the true culinary world of Espana. Only by living in a country for an extended period of time can one get the slightest grasp on the culture, traditions, people, etc. Even then, there are mysteries yet to be uncovered. One more reason that the intrigue of travel continues to beckon...

Tapas bars were one of the pleasant surprises that I discovered. In Spain, bars are the normal venue for grabbing a quick lunch or afternoon tea, a meeting place for study groups or friends, or a watering hole for families with babies in tote. This is all to illustrate that a Spanish "bar" is nothing like an American bar. They are an integral part of Spain's culture as well as the social interaction among the natives. Bars are where one could grab coffee with a close friend, order a breakfast pastry and hot chocolate before class, or meet an executive for a job interview. It is also not atypical to see children running around the stools with an orange Fanta and baguette of bread. The Spanish bar is a social gathering place, a shelter in which the warmth of an espresso is offered from the biting winter cold, a safe haven that provides comfort, a lifesaver on a dehydrating hot summer day...The Spanish bar is one defining factor of SPAIN!!

So, this past Friday, I was excited to try a new tapas lounge in Nashville with some girlfriends of mine. This newest addition to Belmont Boulevard is called CHA CHAH. It took me back to my Spanish days...Granada, Sevilla, Segovia, Barcelona, Madrid... Some of the menu items were definitely fusion or adapted for American tastes, but there were a few that I felt were authentic...well, at least as authentic as I've had in the States. It was such a fun night, and of course, as you have seen, I have photos to share. Enjoy!

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