How to Order Tapas

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Spanish tapas have long been famous as an original and unique culinary option. However, ordering small amounts of several different dishes creates certain difficulties that are not present with more traditional options. Therefore, you should consider several steps before ordering.

Think like a team. Since tapas are a series of little dishes, they are often shared, family style, among the group. Therefore, it is best if you decide what you would like as a group. Try to get everyone to contribute and don't let one person run the show.

Mix it up. One of the benefits of family style dining is the opportunity to try a little bit of everything. Try a series of dishes that run the range from seafood to salad, from fresh vegetables to finely cooked meat. Give your palate a range of flavors to sample and enjoy.

Take advantage of the things that Spanish cuisine is famous for. Spanish cuisine, particularly tapas, is renowned for using the freshest ingredients. This is especially true of certain specialties that feature different kinds of seafood. Spanish ham is also a delicacy.

Be adventurous. Take chances. Order something you've never had before. Order octopus or squid, if only to see what it tastes like. If you're in Spain, order something even if you don't know what it is. A tapas dinner can be more than a meal, it can be an adventure.

Draw it out. Order your courses gradually; you don't want all your food to come at once. Begin by ordering fewer dishes than you'll eventually eat. Tapas are not a food that should be hurried. Once you've eaten the first few dishes, decide what else you want to eat. This way, you'll have a better idea of the types of dishes you like and what you'd like to continue with.

Enjoy. Sit around with a group of friends and spend a couple of hours over dinner. Order a couple pitchers of Sangria or a bottle or two of a nice Spanish red wine. A tapas dinner is an event, so enjoy it. Appreciate everything: the food, the drink and above all else, the company.

Tips & Warnings

  • If possible, eat tapas in Spain. Some tapas restaurants in America are great, but there is nothing like sitting outside at a small Spanish café and eating several amazingly fresh courses of tapas.
  • Wherever you are, choose small tapas restaurants over large ones. They tend to have a better atmosphere and, usually, better food.
  • Remember, tapas are free in many Spanish bars. They won't be large, but if you know where to look and act like a local many places will give free dishes of something small like chorizo or olives.
  • Be aware of any health issues that you and your party have. For example, if someone is allergic to shellfish, make sure your waiter knows about it.

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