Crazy for Tapas!


If you’ve ever gone to dinner and decided to order several appetizers and “graze” your way through the meal rather than eat a single entree selection, you may be a fan of tapas, too!

Tapas, a series of appetizers or snacks originating in Spain, have become a bit of a trend in recent years but one I’m happy to welcome. They can consist of both hot and cold items and, I think, are perfect for a communal supper among friends with plenty of wine or cocktails.

In it’s country of origin, tapas are usually small hors d’oeuvres-size portions, one or two bites, and frequently served on a piece of bread. In the U.S., of course, the traditional has given way to the idea of small plates with small portions, enough for a single snack or to share. We have a local restaurant/lounge (101) that features a fairly robust tapas menu in addition to larger appetizers. It’s fabulous for a girls night out or a late night supper after a movie.

Our best tapas experience, though, came in Jacksonville, Florida, on my birthday where we lucked into a table at the small but mighty 13 Gypsies. And when I say lucked-into I mean it: the couple at the table next to us had been trying to get a reservation for 6 months!

Honey-Garlic Hummus from 13 Gypsies The exterior of 13 Gypsies, Jacksonville, FL Garlicy Green Beans from 13 Gypsies
Quixote Style Beef from 13 Gypsies Coconut Mango Curry Chicken from 13 Gypsies Shrimp Piri Piri from 13 Gypsies

While 13 Gypsies does offer full-sized entrees, we were in a grazing mood and ordered a series of small plates, 6 in all, that added up to an amazing dinner with each plate better than the last. We went for both simple pleasures, like Honey-Garlic Hummus and Spanish Peasant Bread, to the more exotic Quixote Style Beef and Coconut Mango Curry Chicken, rounding out the meal with Shrimp Piri-Piri and crisp, fresh steamed Green Beans (gotta add a vegetable somewhere). Had we limited ourselves to a single entree a piece, I think we’d have short-changed ourselves. Washed down with glasses of Spanish wine it was a dining experience we’ll not soon forget.

In fact, it was so good that when Todd and I started discussing our wedding reception, I began the campaign for a tapas-style spread and meeting no resistance from the groom-to-be. Now all we have to do is find someone to carry it out for us!

In the mean time, I’ll be doing more research and experimentation on tapas (and the cousin-cuisines of the Middle Eastern mezze).

Have you tried the tapas craze, yet?