The restaurants of Granada, Spain are well known for their tradition of offering free tapas with beer or wine. We’ve heard that they will keep bringing them as long as you keep ordering, and that the food becomes more extravagant with each successive drink. We wondered…just how far will they go? We decided to see for ourselves.
Our challenge was to see how many rounds of free tapas a restaurant would bring us. Dedicating an entire evening to a single place goes against our usual routine, so we chose our restaurant carefully and returned to one of our favorites – El Pescaito de Carmela.
One of the things we love about this particular tapas bar is that they offer a wide variety of both red and white Spanish wines by the glass. During our tapas challenge, we asked the bartender to bring a different Spanish white wine each time; his choice. With each new glass of wine, we had no idea what the accompanying tapas would be. Perhaps our server knew better, as all of the wines he selected worked beautifully with the food. The kitchen had designed an itinerary of tapas to accompany each drink order.
Our first two wines were both Verdejo, a delightful Spanish varietal textured with flavors of citrus, melon, and apple. This wine is often blended with another white varietal to add acidity. In our case one of the wines we had was blended with Sauvignon Blanc.
Tapa #1: Sweet red peppers stuffed with cream cheese and seafood, drizzled with a balsamic glaze
Tapa #2: Ensaladilla Rusa (Russian salad), a version of potato salad that is very popular in Spain. El Pescaito de Carmela gives it their own touch by adding chopped shrimp.
Our third wine was made from the Godello varietal. This Spanish wine, typically hailing from Ribeiro, is lush like a chardonnay or viognier with notes of apples and pears.
Tapa #3: Crispy pastry horns filled with shrimp
Our last two glasses were different wines made from the Albariño grape. This varietal comes from Galicia in northwest Spain. These wines can be either rich, fruity and floral, or tart and citrusy with notes of minerality. Both styles are great with seafood.
Tapa #4: Boquerones Fritos (fried anchovies) accompanied by a tangy salad of fresh corn and tomatoes.
Tapa #5: Clams chopped and sautéed with garlic and olive oil
At this point, we had received five courses and were feeling a bit guilty for not paying for any of this delicious food. The seafood croquetas that we had been hoping for didn’t show up as freebies, so we ordered a couple. They were huge compared to the typical croquetas, but still crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I would love to know how they accomplish this.
After the croquetas, we threw in the towel. It was a successful challenge, since we were able to make an entire meal of free tapas in one sitting with each round better than the last; but I couldn’t help wondering what would have come next. If we really want to answer the question of how far they are willing to go, we’re going to have to work on our tapas stamina. We’ll start practicing right away.