At the University of Michigan chapter of Spoon, we recently did an incredible food crawl of Ann Arbor's most popular restaurants (you may have seen lived vicariously via the Spoon University snapchat). One of the restaurants we went to was Aventura, a Spanish-style tapas restaurant right here in America. I will be honest: this food crawl was my first real encounter with tapas. Still unsure if that's embarrassing, but ignorance is bliss right?
The food crawl was timed perfectly because I was getting ready to go to Spain to visit friends studying abroad, and I needed all the info I could get about Spanish culture. *Spoon tip: wouldn't necessarily recommend casually visiting a country where you know little to nothing about the culture or language, unless you're into baptism by fire.
So What Are Tapas Exactly?
Up until this point my only knowledge of tapas came from my ex's family reminiscing about how amazing the tapas were on a past trip to Spain—but they never actually told me what it was, so I was utterly clueless. I thought tapas were some tiny form of food you were supposed to share, so naturally I was opposed. Because who wants to share a tiny plate of food? Certainly not me.
To me, tapas just sounded like a bunch of expensive nonsense where you get barely any food and are hungry again in 15 minutes. Spoiler alert: I was incorrect. They're relatively cheap, especially when shared, and they're amazing. The goat cheese salads are literal ambrosia.
During the food crawl, we tried Patatas Bravas among other delightful Spanish delicacies, and the manager schooled us on Spanish Tapas culture. My negative view began to turn with a mouth full of patatas. When in Spain, I pretty much lived off of these, plus a lot of wine and café con leche. Essentially, they're like the Spanish version of french fries basically, but with a smoky paprika or hot sauce and aioli. If you're into the patatas, it is mandatory that you try also try other famous tapas like asparagus with romesco sauce, Spain's incredible Iberian ham, and pan y tomatoes (bread and tomatoes).
Post Spain adventure, I can say confidently that I've never met a tapa I didn't like. If you're going any time soon, take my advice and try everything. You're in a new place, so open your mind and broaden your horizons. And eat some patatas for me.