We are back in the United States for a few months enjoying some beautiful spring weather. I’m also finally catching up on our most recent trip to Frederick Maryland over the winter holidays. The town of Frederick is dear to us and we visit annually to spend time with family and friends. We packed as much as we could into a few short days, eating at our favorite restaurants, discovering new and interesting haunts, and just breathing in the holiday season in the historic downtown.
As usual, there were memorable meals and new experiences that we want to share, including an afternoon of delicious tapas and wine at a Spanish restaurant in Frederick: Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar.
We met up with our friends DG & Mo for lunch downtown. We had not seen each other for ages, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Experience has taught us that good wine and tapas to share are perfect to accompany a long conversation. Having recently ended our two years of living in Spain, it could be risky for us to go to a Spanish restaurant anywhere else. We have pretty high expectations, but Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar did an outstanding job of living up to our Spanish experience.
Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar has been in business on Market Street for a long time. For years it has been our go-to place on Sundays because it is one of the few restaurants serving something other than breakfast. While they do have a popular brunch menu on weekends, they also serve their regular menu of tapas at 11am everyday, even during Sunday brunch. If you are one of us that doesn’t want to have to eat breakfast after noon on Sundays, you’ll appreciate how rare this is.
Isabella’s has a large menu. Vegetables, cheeses, meats, seafood—there are ample tapas in each category. If small plates aren’t your thing, there are also full size entrees available and they make paella daily.
The wine list provided plenty of wines by the glass or bottle at what we thought were reasonable prices, including a good selection of Spanish wines. There was also a lengthy list of daily specials that we took advantage of, including the wine of the day which was an excellent food friendly Spanish Granacha for $20 a bottle.
We put together a table of tapas that would make any Spaniard happy. Our server thoughtfully brought the plates out at a good pace, one or two at a time, allowing for long sustained nibbling and conversation among friends. Just like a real Spanish lunch (which, by the way, often last 3 to 4 hours).
We began with delicately fried squash blossoms with Manchego cheese and a sweet rose jam. From the daily specials menu, these were a nice surprise on a cold November day.
Next we bumped up the flavors and ensured our vegetable intake with a plate of Bruselas: crispy brussels sprouts lightly tossed in a fig vinaigrette with Manchego cheese, walnuts and serrano ham.
The Berenjena Rellena de Carne was a grilled eggplant halve stuffed with cumin-seasoned beef and a zesty tomato sauce. I know this meal is about sharing, but one of these to myself with a glass of red wine would make a perfect lunch.
I bet my husband might say the same thing about the Costillita. Braised short ribs, fork tender and falling apart, over mashed potatoes covered with a mushroom demi glace.
And then there is the tapa that is loved by all – Datiles Rellenos: bacon wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo sausage sitting on goat cheese cream. Sweet, salty, soft, crunchy. It’s the tapa that hits all the taste buds.
Of course there is always room for pork belly. Panza de cerdo, a fat chunk of pork belly served on creamy blue cheese grits with plum sangria reduction, was the final touch to squeeze into our own bellies.
We were really starting to miss Spanish food and long leisurely lunches. Thanks to Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar for proving to us that we don’t have to fly across the Atlantic ocean to recreate those special meals.
Isabella’s Taverna & Tapas Bar
44 N Market St, Frederick, MD 21701