Let's Talk Tapas

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By Heather, Culinary Intern

Hey! My name is Heather and I’m a special projects intern here at Together & Company. I spend my days combing through 20 years of creative ideas to find the freshest pieces of the menu for our clients today. The process is designed to refine Together & Company into the most incredible catering company we can be, starting with the most important piece of the catering puzzle: food.

Let me get something out of the way, I love my job picking through 1,001 menu items, ideas cultivated by a dozen minds over two decades and enjoyed by thousands of tummies across Ohio.

I love it because I LOVE FOOD.

So when the magnitude of this project starts to overshadow the vision, I go on a food meditation journey. Some people just call it lunch. I assume that if you’re following along with this blog you’re a food dork like me so embrace it and enjoy the ride. Here we go.

Think about how strange it must have been for the first person that ate a pineapple to find that the mundane spiked shell littering the beaches disguised a vibrant, luscious, thirst-quenching fruit. Consider how desperate the first person who squished a dirty root must’ve been and then how enthralled when she discovered the comforting delight of mashed potatoes. Not only does food give us something to puzzle over, it nourishes the body in a way that we universally need. Food erases boundaries, strengthens recognition of the cultures of the world, and fosters community around a table, grill, mat, bar, or a small piece of dirt. It invokes all five physical senses and then some (because of course those five senses bring their friends back for more). Food requires the creative brain, but still stimulates the analytic brain. It tells a story. It sets the mood. And it’s historically significant because of all those things. Food is staggeringly important.

Okay wake up, go get a snack to feed that rumbling belly, and join us when you’re ready.

As I was working at the life-changing stand-up desk, preparing to wrap up our discussion of Hors d’Oeuvres (#tbt to those Bombay Turkey Sliders from our #20yearsfresh bday celebration) with Tapas Plates, I stopped for just a minute to ask myself, “Self, what on earth is a Tapa?” Can you say Tapa? Is it only Tapas? As we discuss the category titled Tapas, are all the items within that category, collectively, Tapases?

From there I dove headfirst into the incredible world of food and culture and story, and I found a tiny, bite-sized treat.

The history of these Spanish goodies is light on fact but full of legends, like all the best things. If you go to Andalucía (the home of Tapas) and ask, you might hear that when King Alfonso X ‘el Sabio' (the Wise) of Spain was recovering from an illness, he received orders that he could only consume wine if it was accompanied by small amounts of food to keep up his strength. After the King healed, he passed along the wisdom by form of decree and no wine was to be served in the region without a small bite. El Sabio, indeed.

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Another, perhaps more practical, old tale is that the men frequenting taverns in Spain were tired of wine flies, insects, dust, and just general floaties in their barrel wine so they started covering their glass with a lid. Tapa (which you can use in its singular form) literally means a “cover” or “coaster” but in practice was originally a slice of bread or meat or a small plate with a tiny bite of food.

Choose your own legend, but tapas were always intended to accompany a drink (#turnt) and often consisted of jamón, tuna, chorizo, olives, or a piece of Tortilla de Patata. A tapa is now considered any food coming out of the kitchen on a small plate—designed, of course, to accompany a drink.

The verb for these sips and nibbles, tapear, is all about eating slow and social. Step One, get a group of friends. Step Two, together you visit various crowded tapas bars to open up the appetite with a little eating, a little drinking, and a lot of talking. Tapeo is a way to start enjoying food and good company before sitting down to your main meal. Honestly, the experience is just as important as the food when it comes to tapas. The point is to loosen up your heart, mind, and belly. It’s a point I can totally endorse. Tapeo for President.

Can you think of any better tradition to bring into your Together & Company event?! Whether it’s a wedding with all of your loved ones, a professional gathering, or a celebration of your favorite graduate, simple bites centered around drink-friendly flavors and communal conversation will make for the perfect accompaniment. After reading all about the wonder of tapas, I met with Chef to talk about some of his recommendations for you to make at home this summer. We asked our friend Taylor Lipovsky of Wine Trends to help us pair some wines that will make those dishes shine. Food + Drink + People = TAPAS PARTY! Just add the people and you’ve got a great party! Can I come?

Our suggestions for summer:

1. Dry-cured Spanish Serrano ham with quartered fig and a shaving of manchego cheese

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Because of the saltiness and dryness of the ham, this begs for a great sparkling wine. Cava makes the most sense here as Serrano and Manchego also originate from Spain. Juve y Camps ‘Brut Nature Cava’ would be a perfect fit for this and you will find it in most wine shops for $16.99.

2. A mild white anchovy and a sweet piquillo pepper on grilled sourdough bread

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This definitely calls for an Italian white wine. Verdicchio especially comes to mind, and there is a fantastic example from Casalfarneto that you’ll find for $14.99 in most wine shops. Casalfarneto ‘Verdicchio’ will work well because the wine has enough fruit to cut through the salinity of the anchovy, and there is just enough acidity to cut through the spiciness of the piquillo peppers.

3. Spicy Chorizo Arancini with a charred onion aioli / a traditional Italian risotto, cheese, and chorizo mixture fried and served with aioli for a modern twist

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This is a perfect pairing for a Barbera from Piemonte, Italy. Barbera has a purity of fruit that will match very well with the spicy chorizo. Vietti ‘Barbera d’Asti’ is a textbook example of this often overlooked varietal, and you will find it in many wine shops for $16.99.

From Taylor, Wine Trends:

“I have worked with Angela Petro and her staff for almost 7 years now, and it has been inspiring to see her dedication and passion for Together & Company. I have worked with Together & Company on several, great events over the years, and it’s refreshing to see a company take food seriously but also have fun doing it. Both of our approaches to food and wine have made this a great partnership. I look forward to partnering with Together & Company on more ventures that aim to make food and wine fun and approachable.”

Learn more about Tapas, Pintxos, and Spanish food (CAUTION: it’s addicting):

From Spain and Latin America based tour and adventure curators, Pura Aventura.

From tried-and-true language instruction company, Living Language.

From the self-proclaimed Queen of Tapas, Shawn Hennessey.