Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Spirit Of Sharing

This afternoon in Alexandria, Virginia, Eddie and I ate at La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar & Restaurant. It was one of the best meals I've had in my five years on the road. Seriously.

I've always wanted to go to a tapas restaurant (and yes, Eddie thought I kept saying "topless" so his eyes were like saucers and he agreed to pay for everything, no matter what was involved) so when someone on the water taxi recommended this place we couldn't get there fast enough.

The first page of the menu explained The Story Of Tapas; "Tapa means 'lid' or 'cover' in Spanish. The origins of modern day tapas are not truly known, but it is widely believed that centuries ago at the end of long workdays, farmers and laborers would visit local 'tascas' for a well-earned drink, on top of which they would find a slice of bread to protect it from pesky flies. Over time, the innkeepers gradually began placing snacks, such as cured meats and sausages, on top of the bread slices. With the passage of even more time, the "edible lids" evolved into the beginning of the exciting tapas experience we are familiar with today."

The rest of it was dedicated to the food. If you're familiar with tapas, you know how everything comes out in smaller portions on small plates. For those not familiar with it, think half the size of a regular entree. With the smaller portions, the idea is to order several different menu items so everyone can share and have a little taste of it all. So after spending an inordinate amount of time reading the
menu (there was so much to absorb!), we decided to start with Pan a la Catalana and Berenjenas Fritas.

This is the Pan a la Catalana, which was made on their house ciabatta bread, grilled and then topped with grated vine ripened tomatoes and chopped fresh basil. Amazing.

Then we had the Berenjenas Fritas; lightly floured fried eggplant slices served with a warm Cabrales cheese dip. Eddie and I love eggplant and this did not disappoint. Its coating was so light, it was like tempura, only better. The Cabrales cheese dip was making love to my taste buds. Information I found online stated that it's a pungent and full-bodied blue cheese produced in the Asturias region of northern Spain. It is made by hand in small batches under very specific conditions. I don't care if those conditions mean pulling fingernails out of the dairy farmer, because I think I'd actually condone that behavior for this cheese.

Then we had our meal choices; one seafood, one meat, two vegetables. Because I LOVE scallops, I had to order the Vieiras al Cava. Grilled scallops sauteed in a creamy sparkling wine sauce. Do you see the gorgeous grilling job? They were perfect inside. And the creamy sparkling wine sauce? I couldn't decide if I wanted to swish my scallop around in it or drink it. Dear Lord, it was a fine wine sauce.

Then our meat choice, for my carnivorous boyfriend, was Buey al Jerez; grilled Angus beef steak slices in a sherry mushroom sauce, served with fried fingerling potatoes. The beef was fork tender and the mushrooms abundant. As for the fingerling potatoes, they were perfectly done and the only observation (not complaint) I have is that they were not long and skinny like fingerlings usually are, they were a little rounder. OK, I'm kinda being picky, but I just had to make note of it.

For the two vegetable choices, which were so hard to decide because we love them all, we had the Meloso de Ajo and the Vainas de Arveja Salteadas.

First, the Meloso de Ajo. Described in the menu as creamy rice with roasted garlic, pine nuts, raisins and scallions, all I can say about it is Holy Meloso! I wasn't sure about the pine nuts at first because my grandmother used to put them in meatballs and although she made the best meatballs in all the world, the ones with the pine nuts (called pignole in Italian) just sort of turned me off. I always ate the ones without. But in this dish, they worked. It was so creamy, it was like eating rice pudding. And I loved, loved, loved the flavor of it. I am SO going to duplicate this rice!

And I think I'm saving the best for last here, the Vainas de Arveja Salteadas; snow peas sauteed in extra virgin olive oil and garlic with Serrano ham. The ham was optional but the server said it was much better with it, so we ordered it that way. This dish might even make my cousin Ro eat pork again (she doesn't abstain for religious reasons, she abtains because she loves piggies). It was simple in that the vegetables were just sauteed in olive oil and garlic, but the pieces of ham were thick like the country bacon Ed's mom makes. And although they call it ham, it didn't taste like a thick piece of spiral ham one would have on a holiday, it tasted like bacon. Just look at it....doesn't it make you want to eat snow peas for life? I think I just might.

The only thing I do regret, was not having desert. We were kinda full and didn't want to go overboard since we had a lot of sightseeing to do and didn't want to do it by rolling around on our protruding bellies. But just thinking about it makes me want to go back and have at least three things I saw in the postres category. Maybe next time.

Although this "Spirit of Sharing" bullshit is just not going to fly when it comes to dessert.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sailor Boy Friday
Cozy Dining
It’s All About Me
Alien Land


Evil Pixie said...

Ugh! Now I'm starving! :)

all things bradbury said...

everything looks fantastic....especially the scallops and the rice.....i just finished supper, but gosh, i could eat

Gil said...

I should read these kind of stories right after I eat. Now I have to find something to eat. That was on great restaurant review!

Hedon said...

Man that all looks great!!

Good thing we just hit an Outback about an hour ago or I would be dying here.

Sauntering Soul said...

I've been there! In fact, I was in a long distance relationship with a guy who used to play flamenco there at night and I went to one of his shows. It's an awesome place.

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

My yogurt suddenly isn't so satisfying....