The moment I took the first bite of a delicious tapa in the País Vasco, I stopped missing home and began loving Spain. It was also the ambiance: a crowded bilingual café – or better said, bar – with a great friend on independent travel, tucked into a narrow European street with Christmas lights hung above our heads.
So when I began to realize that on my very own street here in Zaragoza one could find a grand variety of tapas, and that even more awaited us in El Tubo, the major tapas section of Zaragoza, just a few minutes walk in the other direction, I had to invite some friends to go tapa-ing with me last Saturday night.
Our first stop was “El Fuelle“, a couple blocks down my street, where the star tapas are more like little meals: migas con uvas, literally “crumbs with grapes” but actually stir-friend bread with paprika that is incredibly delicious, and patatas asadas, or baked potatoes, which are served with a delicious sauce that was surprisingly spicy. After searching for bursting-with-flavorful food here in Spain, I was worried I’d have to content myself with the ethnic restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona; but this salsa picante was just as spicy as any Indian restaurant in Madrid, and authentically Spanish as well!! I even had to buy a mosto – grape juice – to wash it down.
Next we wandered to a Basque pintxos bar on Calle Don Jaime. I chose a cute tomato-shaped pepper stuffed with cream cheese and sitting atop a slice of baguette – absolutely delightful!! The tapas here were inexpensive and various, and true to the name, just like the ones we’d seen in San Sebastian.
My host mother had also recommended a place in the Plaza de Santa Cruz, so we headed there next. We tried not to let the fried pig snout scare us, and it’s a good thing we didn’t run away, because my sauteed mushrooms with roquefort were wonderful (and vegetarian)! The bar displayed a few rounds of cheese with a sign boasting that it was “perhaps the second-best cheese in the world”.
Our next and final stop was the Cervecería Mayor, a few yards from my door. There we sampled a delicious pizza-like flatbread topped with roasted vegetables, goat cheese, and rosemary – to die for!!
Seeing as we were so close to my apartment, I invited everyone up (with prior collaboration with my host mother, of course) to finish the panettone which a friend of my host mother’s had given us the other night. He had also taught me how to prepare it in the authentically Italian tradition (which he learned while working in an Italian restaurant in London for a year), so before long the kitchen was warmed up and smelling of cinnamon and cloves and the dash of whisky which adds the winning touch to the spiced milk poured over the round of panettone. A delicious end to a wonderfully fun evening!
Also, in exceedingly exciting news, I woke up this morning and found a note on the breakfast table: “Mira la terraza” – look at the terrace! I peeked out and found it covered with a thin blanket of snow. How beautiful – and very rare for Zaragoza.