Tag Archives: tapas

Spain Diaries: A New World of Tapas

The creamy, rich, savory, salty center

The stretch of highway between Malaga and Marbella winds along mountainous Costa del Sol, and Cris, our host for the weekend and a Malaga native, nonchalantly drives his adorable red Audi like a race car, hurtling along at breakneck speed while pointing out landmarks that disappear in a blink.  Having just landed from a long journey, I silently command my jet-lagged and suddenly nauseous body to be good, for there is reward at the end of this road. Cris is friends with Michelin-starred chef Dani Garcia, and we are going to have lunch at La Moraga, Garcia’s tapas joint in Marbella.

Ajoblanco with "frozen" mango; on right, cherry gazpacho with basil oil and "frozen" goat cheese

Ajoblanco with "frozen" mango; on right, cherry gazpacho with basil oil and "frozen" goat cheese

Marbella, a funky little town filled with vacationing Brits and Russians, is almost laughably ugly.  Most of its development ocurred post-Franco, which means after 1975, and you can imagine what that means.  So it comes as a brilliant surprise to come upon La Moraga, a fun, modern spot that takes classic Spanish tapas and gives it a clever, completely delicious update.

Braised Beef Cheeks

Croquetas, those fried little nuggets usually made with jamon, are made with chunks of squid and squid ink, a rich, salty, oozy treat.  Gazpacho is made with cherries, and served with a crumbled frozen goat cheese.  An ajoblanco, a traditional Spanish cold soup made of almonds, gets a bright punch from frozen mango.

Tortilla Espanola

The tortilla espanola completely changed my notion of tortillas.  You mean a good tortilla espanola is supposed to be so soft and gooey that the potatoes melt in your mouth?  Oh, okay.  Now I’m completely ruined for all future encounters with tortillas, unless it’s that Garcia’s.

Foie Gras, Sliced Apple, Goat Cheese

Then there was foie gras, layered with paper-thin slices of apple, a layer of goat cheese and atop, a layer of caramelized apples.  It’s one of those dishes you play around with in your mouth, savoring flavors that alternated between sweet, salt, rich, nutty, musky.

Bull Burger

Bull Burger

The bull burger, however, had to be one of the great awe-inspiring surprises.  I mean, really, what Spaniard is going to mess with a good ol’American burger?  Garcia takes braised oxtail and makes a patty that has a consistency similar to a really good crabcake. Then he smothers it in havarti cheese and a salty sweet special sauce so addicting (what is it? miso? soy?) I fought the urge to ask for some to take home.

Braised Oxtail, Special Sauce.  Wickedly Delicious.

We finished simply, with a trio of custards served in little jars, which seemed like a homey throwback considering the modern space and attitude towards the traditional.  My favorite was Bailey’s with bananas, but there was also a chocolate custard with pistachios and a tiramisu.

Dessert Trio

La Moraga, Complejo Marina Banus (Puerto Banus), Marbella +34 952 815 652

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Tapas at Boqueria

 

the absolutely remarkable blistered shisito peppers

the absolutely remarkable blistered shisito peppers

 

It was packed last Thursday at Boqueria on 19th St.  People crammed every last space along the bar, ordering sangria and cava and rose and tempranillo, laughing and passing drinks along, apologizing for the inconvenience of their order to my friend and I who had managed to score two seats at this zoo they called a bar.  We didn’t mind.  The place felt alive with an energy that felt promising and indeed it was.

 

At the bar with my Cava Romero

At the bar with my Cava Romero

 

  I ordered the special cocktail- a cava romero- a clean, crisp sip of rosemary, lemon and gin topped with cava.  My friend remarked it smelled like a really fresh lemon granita, the one you get in Italy.  Her name is Giovanna, and she would know these things.

 

The fantastic salt cod brandade toast

The fantastic salt cod brandade toast

 

These are the best tapas I’ve had in a long time, maybe ever.  We started with blistered shisito peppers that I would happily give up chips for.  Slightly spicy, lightly crispy, with satisfying crunches of sea salt mixed in, these little green peppers were incredible.  Then we had salt cod brandade baked on two pieces of  toast- I literally groaned when I took a bite of this thing- whipped up so light, yet creamy and rich and salty on the lightest sliver of toast.  There were grilled octopus skewers, delicately shaved sea scallops served atop crushed potatoes that had been drizzled in good olive oil, fluke served with pickled ramps, a simple pan con tomate.  For dessert, a simple hazelnut ice cream served atop chocolate mousse, which (now there were three of us) we devoured apparently quite loudly, as two men sitting next to us remarked after we’d finished that they were wondering what made us act like animals.

 

Octopus skewers

Octopus skewers

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Seared Scallop

Seared Scallop with Favas and Peas

 

 

Boqueria has a Soho location as well, which I have not been to.  I highly recommend this spot- it’s amazing.

Flatiron: 53 W. 19th bet 5th and 6th

Soho: 171 Spring St.

See the menu (they serve brunch that looks cool!) on their website.

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Bar Carrera, Best Spanish Wine Bar

 

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that is some serious jamon at Bar Carrera

I love a sexy wine bar that isn’t afraid to serve up some serious meat for those in need of a little something with their glass of Tempranillo.  That’s why I’ve had an ongoing love affair with Bar Carrera, a Spanish-inspired spot from wine bar specialist Frederick Twomey.  The first spot, in the East Village, was a winner from the start, which explains why Frederick took the concept west, to Greenwich Village.  I went recently with two friends for a low-key evening, some tasty bites and an easy buzz.  A great glass of red is only $8, and the tapas are excellent- grassy olives, serrano ham sandwiches on baby brioche, and my favorite, the chorizo bocadillo.  The chorizo bocadillo is the Spaniard’s answer to a good old-fashioned ballpark sausage sandwich, and it’s so much better.

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A perfect wine bar evening: wine, olives, bocadillo

 

Bar Carrera: 175 Second at 11th St in East Village AND new location at 146 W. Houston St.

Read more on nymag.com

 

 

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