No matter where you are in Spain, there are tapas for you. In the Basque region, the Northwest, they call them pintxos. There, they might include crispy fried ham and potato croquetas or a toothpick-studded anchovy twirled around an olive and a pickled pepper. In Madrid, choose from sizzling snails and shrimp, salt cod fritters called bacalo and a spot that just does cheese and wine, thanks, and you can eat and drink yours at a streetside table.
If you can’t be in Spain, consider a DIY ronda, or tapas crawl, which can encompass up to 5 bars in a night. Sizzle garlic in a pan, and you’re most of the way there. Although it might sound like a lot of work, it doesn’t need to be: One tapas plate can simply be sliced cured meat, for sharing, or a nutty plate of Idiazabal, slicked with olive oil, with ripped bread on the side. Here are a few ways to conjure Spain right now.
1. The Drinks
In Northwest Spain, you’re likely drinking sidra, the fizzy, bracing Spanish cider that is often poured from afar, as seen here. Or Txakolina, an equally fizzy, very refreshing wine also from that region. Elsewhere it’s sangria, Rioja or Albariño, or maybe tinto de Verano (red wine mixed with lemon soda). Vermouth has become increasingly popular in recent years; just look for the good stuff.
Just three ingredients, folks. That’s all you need, really, for these crazy-good, crazy easy little appetizers called pintxos Gilda. Fun fact: They’re inspired by Rita Hayworth’s character in the movie “Gilda,” an American flick that was a hit in Madrid right after World War II. They’re a little spicy and a little salty, just like Rita.
Oh, jeez. Slow-cooked, low-heat, crispy-edged potatoes are the sort of baking you can handle right now: The oven is only set to 200 degrees. These babies are one-bite love affairs brimming with paprika and heat. You serve them with tomato sauce spiked with aioli, but you could easily serve them with a dollop of high-quality mayo, and no one would complain. Make more patatas bravas than you think you need.
Even outside the most modest tourist stops in the most remote portions of Spain, you can typically get your hands on some hard cheese drizzled with oil with a hunk of bread, or a platter of sizzling chorizo slices or rumpled sheets of jamón. Look for Jamón Serrano. We have some as part of our epic European charcuterie collection, and you should remember that tapas—i.e. dinner—can be as easy as bread, olive oil and olives, cured pork, and cheese.
Let there be croquetas! These are packed with classic Spanish flavors you know and love, like Manchego and chorizo, garlic and pimentón. They’re a tiny bit of work, yes, but that garlic-herb aioli you made to go alongside is just as good with the patatas bravas you whipped up! Bonus: People will think you’re a god.
Break out the ramekins; it’s time for flan. That most Spanish of desserts is especially popular in Barcelona, but you’ll find it everywhere. It’s such a gorgeous way to signify the “end” of your tapas crawl around your neighborhood—your dinner table—and folks will appreciate the extra effort.