Whenever you think of Spanish cuisine, you think of tapas (or at least I do). The funny thing is, the tapas that we have had here is VERY different from what is called tapas in Canada or in the US. I like both of types but they are so very different.
Tonight we went on a Tapas and Wine tour through Viatours. I’m not going to tell you every place we went because that would ruin the tour. We were a bit worried about how it would go because our guide was 25 minutes late due to a scheduling mix up. However, he promised to make it up to us and he definitely did!
Our tour was focused on the traditional tapas of Spain. No neuvo cuisine here. Many of the establishments we visit had been in business for close to or over 100 years. Anyone in the restaurant business will tell that is a VERY long time. Their successes have been built on consistent, dependable, traditional tapas plates such as Spanish tortilla (omelette), gambas (prawns) and Iberian ham. One of the key tips our guide, Ishmael, told us was that every tapas restaurant has 2 or 3 things that they are known for. Like with people, restaurants can only be really good at 2 or 3 things. Unfortunately with thousands of tapas restaurants in Madrid, it is hard to know what those specialties are. The easiest way to find out is to go on the tour, the other is to ask when you get there.
We started our tour in Santa Ana square and visited 5 tapas bars. In each we sampled a glass of wine and 2 or 3 plates of tapas. Ishmael explained that the word tapas comes from when the king went to visit Southern Spain. The chef that was preparing his food and drink was afraid that dust would get in his wine so he shaved a thin slice of ham and laid it on top of the glass. The king thought this was great (though unusual) and ordered another drink “con tapa” which meant with cover. The tradition of tapas was born!
Tapas is a tradition and a way of life in Madrid. Definitely try it out when you visit and do not be afraid to order a drink and a plate of tapas in one bar and then move along. With so many bars to try, you never know what might be around the next corner!