Thursday April 13, 2006

Tapas y Tintos

tintos party scene

Ok, I’ll be honest – I stumbled onto this place, which is a couple of blocks from my apartment, semi-randomly, not even really knowing what tapas were. So yes, tapas are a Spanish dining thing: imagine ordering a bunch of scrumptious appetizers for your table instead of regular dinner and you’ve sort of got it. It’s all about sharing, trying new tastes, and a more relaxed, social approach to eating. You can see why it’s big in Miami, yes?

So anyway, Tapas y Tintos [but don’t click – you’ll only cause yourself unneeded Flash-loading stress] has a reputation (I find out subsequent) as the best tapas joint in the county, so it’s no surprise I was impressed. We ordered a “Popeye y Olivia” (garbanzo beans + spinich), a shrimp thing in olive oil with prodigious amounts of garlic-clove-halves, and a goat cheese with marinara sauce, a great bottle of wine (all the bread you can eat is part of the deal) and paid about $75, even after bumping the obligatory 15% tip up a bit. The garbanzo beans were eh, the shrimp was tasty, the goat cheese was an unexpected star, and the wine made everything drift by slowly and with a relaxed ease.

Now, we’d gotten there early, but by the time we left it was obvious what a scene this place is. Outside, the seats are comfy wicker, suitable for relaxing and Española people-watching. Inside, the atmosphere is more intense, and a lot of the seating seemed to be stool-style around a coffee-table type thing – maybe fun, but maybe also less comfortable. Apparently Tapas y Tintos has live music, and is semi-clubby on weekend nights, so this is obviously all part of the fun.

More reading about tapas here, here, and here. Any other tapas places worth checking out?

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  1. manola b    Thu Apr 13, 01:03 PM #  

    OK, now Alesh, you got me going AND salivating. I used to be regular at T & T until I decided to become a recluse. (I even celebrated a bday at T & T!)

    Everytime I’d show my mug I was treated like family. And it is indeed (or used to be) a family-run business. Father cooks. Son bartends and runs the place, along with a friend. Damn, I don’t remember their names, but they are a riot. And it does get clubby. Way into the wee hours.

    I can tell you that T & T is probably the closest thing in Miami to an authentic Spanish ‘tapeo’ joint. Macarena around the corner is far more touristy.

    As I’m about to spend two prodigous and glorious weeks in Spain, let me tell you all about tapas.

    The idea of the tapa is that the little piece of bread with a little somethin’ somethin’ on it was used to cover (tapar) a glass of sherry (jerez).

    The Spanish are amazing snackers. There is an opportunity to nibble and drink just about everywhere 24/7.

    The goat cheese you had I hope was direct from northern Spain (Cabrales). ‘Cabra’ means goat. My grandfather, whom I never met and whose birthplace I will be visiting (bring out violins and kleenex) is from smack dab the land of Spanish goat cheese.

    Next time, I suggest you sample these classic tapas: the stuffed pimientos de piquillo, ensalada rusa (glorified potato salad) and the jamón serrano and manchego cheese platter. (OMG, manchego cheese is like cheese orgasm.)

    As well, try a slice of spanish tortilla de patatas con cebolla (potatoes and onion).

    I particularly love a salad at T & T served with mussels in the half-shell. Not a typical tapas dish, but particularly well done at T & T.

    To satisfy a sweet tooth, try the queso de tetilla with preserved fruit. ‘Tetilla’ is Spanish for small tit. Yes, the cheese is shaped like a tit. It’s a very ‘sex on the beach’ dessert.

    Now as much as I love T & T, try Casa Juancho on Calle Ocho. It’s less hip with a far more formal, older crowd, but the bar serves great tapas. I’d suggest going on a weekday to avoid the tacky Latin music in the lounge area on the weekends (unless you’re into that sort of thing). Champigñones al Ajillo (mushrooms sautéed in garlic) come with a delicious sauce to be mopped up with bread.

    Also try Casa Panza further east on Calle Ocho. Lot more fun, flamenco show and decorated in the style of las cuevas gitanas (gypsy caves) ... tapas not remarkable but more typical Spanish atmosphere.

    Also, throw your own tapas party by shopping at … or just skip over to Publix and get a pre-made tortilla española in the deli section. Toss it with a little olive oil in a skillet. Divine!

    OK, I just gained ten pounds writing this post. Too bad I’m not wandering around in Madrid. This would call for a caña (6 oz. beer, served cold).

  2. John    Thu Apr 13, 03:10 PM #  

    (Haven’t been to T&T so I’m not speaking of them in particular here.) I’m sure the food is cool at some tapas spots but what sucks is how tapas get lost in translation on the greedy, pretentious beach.

    In my poverty I think I lived entirely off of tapas, maria cookies and pity meals living as a student in Alicante.

    The idea was that the drinks were cheap (even for Spaniards, not that I hung out with many) and the little tapas were dirt cheap, so you could get rid of hunger while chillin’ with your fellow poor asses until you got a buzz and stood on a stool (to get your point across to someone who caught your eye).

    At $75 all of us would have starved to death and been lonely.

    I’m going to play entertainer and try Manola’s idea this weekend.

  3. cubitabella    Wed Apr 19, 01:22 PM #  

    Oh man.. I really feel like going to T & T right now!
    Here in NY we have pretty good everything, including tapas, but for some reason those tapitas sounded awesome.
    One of my favorite memories from Spain is eating papas alioli and a calimocho in one of Granada’s tapas places.