An interesting cultural aspect of dining in Spain (aside from their incredibly late dinner times!) is sharing tapas. Tapas are small dishes, so a group will generally order several of these petite plates to make a meal. Eating tapas is a social endeavour, which emphasizes the communal aspect of dining. Last evening was particularly special because the UK Spanish tourism board, in conjunction with the tourism bureaus of Granada and Jaén, hosted a fabulous get together in honour of the third annual Tapas Day for Traverse influencers. I was ecstatic to eat my way through a feast of both beloved tapas and a few dishes that were new to me at Carousel London. (Unfortunately these plates were prepared especially for the event and are not regularly served to the public.) From olives and cured meats to cheeses, these are a few of my favourite Spanish tapas.
Last year, if you had told me that I would enjoy olives, let alone put them on my top tapas list, I would have laughed in your face. Despite my dad constantly coercing me to try them, I detested the little green and black oblongs. However, Spanish olives are king! (Sorry, Greece and Italy.) Additionally, Spanish locals – and Jamie Oliver – insist that olives are much more flavoursome with the stones. (Or ‘con el hueso.’) I plucked a few choice olives at the Tapas Day celebration, but I must admit that I missed my favourite flavour: anchovy. Perhaps they don’t sound appetizing, but that extra bit of richness and salty bite make anchovy-flavoured olives supreme. Seriously, try them; and you can thank me after you fall in love with them.
Jamón: Spanish Ham
In terms of Spanish meats, chorizo es delicioso, but jamón is simply divine. The most treasured ham, jamón ibérico, is made from a certain type species of black pig. The prized piggies eat lots of acorns and fetch the highest prices once they have been turned into ham. Jamón serrano is made from white pigs. Both types of ham are cut and extraordinarily thinly, and it’s a treat to see the meat being expertly carved. While speaking to Josef, he offered me the chance to try cutting the delicate jamón; hence the nervous photo of me, not wanting to ruin the leg which takes an average of 4 years to produce and can cost upwards of a few hundred pounds. In London, a leg of jamón ibérico can cost £800. But indulging in a small plate is certainly worth the price tag, since the top-grade ham just melts on your tongue.
Queso & Croquetas: Cheese & Croquettes
I love cheese so much that my old co-workers gifted me a cheese basket upon leaving the office. Growing up in Wisconsin gave me a fine appreciation, or borderline obsession, with queso. I even visited the small, remote Spanish town of Trujillo to specifically celebrate at their Feria del Queso! In Trujillo, locals love torta del casar, which uses thistle as a coagulant. One of Spain’s more famous (and scrumptious) cheeses in Manchego, made from sheep’s milk in the region of La Mancha. One of the best ways to enjoy Manchego is in a croqueta, a breaded fritter, which happily reminds me of beer-battered Wisconsin cheese curds.
Tapas Day Celebration
London’s Tapas Day celebration was delightful, from the cool welcome glass of sangria to grabbing goodie bags with honey from Granada and tons of travel inspiration about the often-overlooked province of Jaén. Throughout the evening I sampled exquisite organic Beluga caviar, cinnamon chocolate and gazpacho, while catching up with fellow Traverse influencers. After tapas it is quite common to stay out for a night on the town, ending the early morning with a cup of hot chocolate and warm, sugar coated churros. But after a lively evening celebrating Tapas Day with Traverse, I was content just to find my way home and roll my full belly into bed.