Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A small plate of Spain por favor

It's been one week, time for a reunion of team Spain, time to eat! We meet at Roast in the Book Cadillac for their infamous happy hour. Monday is the day, chefs are off, and it's practically the only day you can get a seat in the bar. I'm early. Really. I'm early because I had to be at school at 4:00 pm to pick up Wyatt if you must know and yes he came with me to the bar. We are being European (and they let me). If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you want your kid to be civilized, bring him with you, he's on the team, he loves this, be a good example (it's 4:30-6:00pm, doable). Roast has fantastic small portion bar food for $3 and $4 apiece. It's Detroit's best answer to tapas, small plates, and it's as we were, a week ago in Spain.

We all agree this tapas thing needs more play here. You get to try all sorts of things, which is like eating off other people's plates (my bad, but everybody else's food always looks and tastes better right?). Not unlike sushi in Japanese cuisine, but more bang for the buck. You're hanging at the bar (and behaving remember) It's all very social, which is good when you are community-building, and the whole food-on-the-bar-help-yourself, which is so make-yourself-at-home, so thoroughly delighted our team. Ok, even if the food-safety nazis won't clear eggs and fish sitting out, you adapt, and the beauty of the whole deal is the sharing part. The key is simplicity, affordability and "good produce" as the Spaniards say. If you follow their style of smaller wine and beer portions along with the eating, it's easier to keep yourself in check too(and drive your kid home).

We started our trip in small Spanish towns and a typical bar might have a half-dozen things out to choose from…Until we got to the bigger town of San Sebastian. I came undone when we walked to the historic section of town in this already beautiful old seaside place and into the first tapas bar. The whole long bar surface was covered with like 30 or more different things. We are by the sea, it's seafood fantasyland. The pigs, goats and sheep are just up the mountain, it's sausage fest, cheese wonderment. Dave is hot on those white anchovies and baby eels. I might never have gotten over the visual if not for his zeal (gee those eel babies? they look like worms, white worms).

So here's the best bite: a slice of baguette, a schmear of aioli (olive oil and garlic whipped like mayonnaise), white anchovies, a bit of grilled tuna, pickled pepper slices or better yet, the tiny green ones (both on the mild side) and the baby eels on top. All pulled out of the sea 100 yards away, maybe this morning's catch or yesterdays, and put on these slices of fresh bread with other yummy bits and now looking like mini artists' palettes.

Seems fishy? (bummer for you) Have some sausage, look here's 20. The fattier and more saturated, the better it melts in your mouth. You are walking everywhere, you'll burn it off. Molly loves the croquettes, fritters with creamy centers of chicken, mushroom or seafood. I made everybody try my lightly batter-fried eggplant slice on baguette with pickled peppers atop the aioli with roasted red bell pepper, nirvana. The kabobs, it's a party for your mouth, maybe half a hard-boiled egg, then an olive, a little shrimp, a slice of pepper, yum! pretty! 10 different varieties! Really need familiar? Have a fritatta slice; it's a farmer's omelette. Choose one with mushrooms or ham, sliced potatoes, goat or sheep's milk cheese.

It's all in the "produce" remember? It tastes good not because it's fussed over but because it's fresh and it's fresh because it's from down the street, or just over the mountain. And I just saw the sheep grazing so I don't need to look for the stamp that says "grass fed" and because it's communal, you can bet whomever raised them is on a first-name basis here. That simple omelette tastes like a new invention. Right, fresh eggs, organic for sure, trust me, we know the chicken, she's lives close by, the egg was still warm when she handed it to me on the way over. And another thing, at $3.50 a gallon, do I need to go carbon hoof-print crazy on you? Best thing, these bar-top masterpieces, all fresh and fancy sounding? $4 each tops, many were less, lots were filling. It's for everyone! You can bring your team, bring your kids, fun in every bite. I think we have room for some of that.

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