I recently had the pleasure of dining at a lovely French bistro for dinner on Friday night, which was followed by a fabulous Spanish tapas dinner on Saturday. These meals, although quite different in flavor and presentation, were more similar than you might think. French and Spanish food may appear different at first glance, but they share many similarities. When you compare traditional French cuisine and dining style to Spanish tapas dining, you’ll find that they have strong Mediterranean influences:
Mediterranean Influences in French and Spanish Dining
- Based on real, homemade food, not processed
- Include much smaller portion sizes (at least by American standards)
- Focus on eating in courses or “rounds” – not serving or ordering the next round/course until the first is finished
- Promote slow eating, savoring eating bite
- Include a mix of many flavors and foods
- Emphasize food quality over quantity
- Encourage socialization at the meal
- Consider wine as an important part of the meal
- Both cultures tend to eat their meals late in the evening (after 8 PM)
Tapas Dining At Home
I have been a fan of tapas-style eating for years. I love trying new tapas restaurants and cafes. And, when I can’t get out to a tapas restaurant, I try recreating that same tapas-style dining and overall Mediterranean feeling at home. Here’s how:
- Eat on smaller dishes and change plates for eat course. Yes, it means more dishes, but that’s what dishwashers are for!
- Serve your tapas in “courses” or rounds, where you serve 2-3 tapas at a time, allowing everyone to get a taste, before serving the next round
- Serve a variety of tapas with different spices, flavorings, sauces, as well as other ingredients
- Serve high quality (or at least decent) wine or sangria
- Adapt meals that I love to a “tapas” version
- Eat outside whenever possible!
Even if you’re a tapas novice or don’t have time to prepare intricate little dishes, think about how you can adapt your favorite dishes to make them tapas-style. For instance, we love tacos in our house. To make them tapas style, I use a round cookie cutter to make smaller flour tortillas, which means smaller holders/bites for the taco filling. Even soup can be made into a tapa when served in an espresso cup or small ramekin. If you’re still not sure how or what to serve as tapas, you can’t go wrong with these standard and very easy tapas, many of which take very little preparation:
- Cheeses – all kinds, from soft to hard, and stinky to non – served with crusty bread
- Small sausages – roasted, and screwed with roasted veggies
- Olives or olive tapenade – spread on flatbreads
- Homemade dips – served with crostini or raw veggies
- Nuts and Mediterranean style fruit – grapes, figs, and dates make great choices
- Anything stuffed – little bell peppers, olives, cherry or roma tomatoes, mini artichokes, mushrooms, dates, grape leaves, etc. stuffed with flavored rice, cheese, or ground spicy meat, etc.
Time for Tapas! Ciao!