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Little Plates, BIG Flavor

Stuffed figs with proscuitto.

Stuffed figs with proscuitto.

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The mere mention of “tapas” can evoke a sense of exotic delight. The blend of color and mystique tantalizes the palate. These Spanish snacks, or small plates, hold true to their origins and the myriad influences that helped shape them: native chefs, local resources, and the contrasting climatic regions which bring nuance to the delicacies.

The word tapas translates as “to cover,” and though this is fact, historians have not agreed on how the name originated. One theory­—how Spanish farmers and workers were able to carry small amounts of food during their work time—directly relates to the word origin. These snacks allowed them to continue working between their main meals, “covering” their appetite.
Another possibility is that the word comes from the practice of using a slice of bread to cover wine and sherry glasses, keeping flies away and allowing the patrons to drink more. These slices of bread soon evolved to include a variety of toppings, prompting a third theory of how tapas came to be: The practice of covering the glasses afforded tavern owners the opportunity to serve rotten wine by masking the smell with a strong, odorous cheese. Another popular story attributed to tapas has to do with Castile’s King Alfonso the 10th, known as Alfonso the Wise. Alfonso fell ill and then recovered by drinking wine and nibbling small dishes, as his system couldn’t handle anything more than scant portions. After regaining his health, the king ordered the taverns in the country to serve food with drink. A law was passed that prohibited serving wine unless it was served with snacks.

The popularity of tapas soon spread throughout Spain, and each region adapted its tapas to incorporate local flavor.

Now tapas are common in both North and South America where the Spanish influence has been strong. We, in our fair Valley, have both the Basque influence and the wonderful eateries around town to thank for some real local delicacies. >>>



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