Tapas: small bites of deliciousness

I love tapas, not only for the informal, casual dining style that it lends itself to, but also for the fact that you get to try so many different dishes all in one sitting.

Anchor & Den has recently launched “El Mercat – Nit de Tapes” every Thursday night, offering diners a delicious taste of traditional Spanish cuisine.

Many of the resort’s culinary team have lived and worked in the Spanish city of Barcelona, helping to recreate a truly authentic tapas experience. On the menu, diners will find a wide range of specialty imported cheeses and charcuterie, pitchers of sangria and those all-important delectable small plates, such as sauteed chorizo and clams, Spanish black pudding with onion, potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and garlic aioli, and Galician-style spicy pork.

The menu was put together by Thais Rodriguez, Anchor & Den’s chef de cuisine following a four-day visit to Barcelona to discover Spain’s culinary delights.

“I used to live in the northern part of Spain, so coming back to the country in general just to eat was a dream come true,” Rodriguez said. “I had four days, and every day I ate at a minimum of six restaurants.

“The culture of the food, and better yet the quality of their ingredients is a staple to Spanish cuisine and it is taken seriously. The traditions from years ago are either still being delicately produced or transformed into new original dishes. That’s something to admire as the nurturing of the ingredients and consistency of the dishes are what the people rely on and pride themselves in. It’s inspiring. I want to mimic and reproduce that same quality and consistency with my food.”

Back in Cayman at Anchor & Den, Rodriguez says the aim is to replicate the simplicity, yet flavor-packed dishes of Spain’s cuisine, while respecting the age-old traditions behind each dish.

“I had so many ideas as to what we could offer for tapas night, but I wanted to keep it authentic and respect the traditions of such a large foodie country,” she said. “In Spain, they use only the best ingredients. That’s their secret. I don’t want to play too much with the traditional dishes. For me, it’s about the quality of ingredients and showcasing them, creating simple dishes with the power of flavor.”

Standout dishes during Rodrigeuz’s visit to Barcelona were “pulpo a la gallega,” boiled octopus with potatoes and olive oil; “patatas bravas,” white potatoes fried in oil and served with a warm spicy tomato sauce or aioli; “boquerones,” vinegar-cured anchovies; and “Bomba,” deep fried meat-filled mashed potato balls garnished with a pimento sauce and aioli. Indeed, many of these dishes, or their key ingredients, are featured on the tapas menu.

During a recent visit, my dining guests and I enjoyed a selection of some of the restaurant’s most popular tapas dishes to date. Our favorites were the “pulpo a la gallega,” Galician-style octopus, and the “pimientos del piquillo rellenos de queso idiazabal,” seared piquillo peppers stuffed with idiazabal cheese.

In addition to the hot tapas dishes is a large selection of charcuterie and cheeses. These are a must. The meats have been imported specially from different regional areas of Spain by the team at Anchor & Den. The star of the show, the Jamon Imberico, is sliced expertly in front of diners. Enjoy it with toasted bread and olives and a good glug of that all-important sangria.

For dessert options, there’s almond cake, a traditional cake typically made with almonds, orange and lemon zest which originates from the north of Spain.

Adding an authentic vibe to the night are local Spanish guitar players Nathan Herrera and Glen Scott, accompanied by DJ Eden Hurlston.

Rodriguez added that she is excited to see the tapas night grow in popularity each week, helping to create a little slice of Spain here in the Caribbean.

“For me tapas night is just as much about the food as the people who come together and share it.”

Indeed it is.