How To Throw An Epic Tapas Party!

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Tapas are the quickest and easiest way I know of to take a dinner party from a classy but unremarkable affair to an exciting and culturally diverse event. As a dining option, tapas are interesting, tasty, healthy, and relatively inexpensive. And they look great, provided you have the right kind of tapas dishes to serve them up. In this post, I’ll go over what exactly tapas are, tell you some good tapas ideas you can serve at a dinner party, and fill you in on some of my very favorite tapas serveware sets.

About Tapas

Tapas are one of those foods most people have heard about, but most couldn’t actually describe. And that may be because they are more a type of cuisine than a specific kind of food. In this section, we’ll dive into where tapas come from, why they’re so popular, and how you can make the most of them at your dinner parties.

What are Tapas? (And What Is a Tapas Party?)

Tapas are small dishes of food that originated in Spain. Traditionally, four or five tapas are eaten to replace a main course in a meal. The smorgasbord of foods in a tapas spread are comparable to a charcuterie board. Although the foods in tapas are generally a bit heavier and more filling.

The three types of tapas are:

  • Cocas de picar – Literally, “things to nibble.” They might include nuts, olives, small peppers, or other finger foods.
  • Cazuelas – Cazuelas are Spanish terracotta bowls, which are the traditional vessels for preparing the sauce-based dishes like thick stews or meat in juices that make up this type of tapa.
  • Pinchos – Small bits of meatballs or cooked vegetables that are served on skewers or speared and eaten with toothpicks.

Of course, you can also serve tapas as before-meal aperitifs rather than as a replacement for the meal itself. In that case, the tapas are basically like appetizers. Whereas appetizers are usually eaten all at once, though, tapas are usually eaten little by little over a longer period of time.

What is the Meaning of “Tapas?”

Tapas is the Spanish word for “tops” or “lids.” Originally, tapas were included free when you ordered a drink at a bar or cafe. One tapa would be placed on a plate and put on top of the drinking glass so that the flies would not get at the drink while it was sitting on the table. Since the most popular alcoholic drink in Spain used to be a thick, sweet brandy that might attract bugs, it was a real concern. Of course, the tapa doubled as a nice little snack for the customer.

What are Some Typical Tapas Party Foods?

Since Spain is such an ancient and culturally diverse country, the types of tapas traditionally served in different parts of the country vary greatly. For example, coastal towns in Spain might have lots of seafood dishes, flatland towns might serve more beef, and mountain towns might go heavy on vegetables. However, the following tapas are some of the most popular throughout Spain, and, consequently, with people around the world cooking up tapas for their own dining tables.

  • Gambas al Ajillo – Prawns flash-fried in a spiced olive oil.
  • Chopitos – deep fried calamari.
  • Noodle dishes.
  • Chorizo al Vino – Chopped Spanish sausage cooked in wine.
  • Olives.
  • Ensaladilla de Rusa – Basically, potato salad.
  • Tortilla Española – Spanish potato omelet.
  • Jamon Iberico – Cured ham made from acorn-fed pigs.
  • Empanadas and other pastries.
  • Pimientos de Padron – A kind of Spanish pepper fried in olive oil.
  • Stewed meatballs.
  • Bread with jam.
  • Patatas Bravas – Thick-cut fried potatoes.
  • Shellfish in sauce.
  • Croquetas – Fritters with a crispy, crumbly fried shell that surrounds a filling of cheese, veggies, or fish.
  • Fresh cheese.

Serving Tapas

Tapas were traditionally served in their own individual dishes. Tapas cuisine has evolved as time has gone by and more of the world has adopted the culinary trend, though, so there are now lots of larger, sectioned-off dishes that are specifically meant for tapas. There are still more without the word “tapas” on the label that make excellent tapas serving dishes. The first step in serving tapas is to get ahold of several of those dishes – you might consider my recommendations below.

Second, prepare the individual tapas. Many tapas, especially those of the type cocas de picar, do not need to be cooked and can be arranged straight from the package onto the serving dish. The ones that require cooking are obviously a bit more work, but the good news is that tapas are generally very quick and easy to make compared to most other cuisines. If you are cooking tapas for lots of people, all the better; you can just cook a regular-sized portion of several meals and then divide them into smaller tapas-sized portions on the serving dishes.

Third, get some Spanish wine to serve with the tapas and some candles that will create a more interesting ambiance for the diners.

Fourth, when it finally comes time to serve the tapas, do not put them all out at once. Instead, bring out one tapa for each diner every 15-20 minutes to keep things interesting and make the experience last the whole evening. Of course, the Spanish wine should be flowing freely the whole time.

Tapas Party Serveware

Having beautiful tapas dishes that keep each mini-course separated helps create the classy, adventurous “fiesta” vibe that will make a tapas party a hit. Traditional tapas plates, serving trays, rustic wooden boards, ramekins, authentic tapas forks and picks, mini skewers, and teracotta dishes are all customary items that will bring your tapas table to life!

Go Tapas!

Tapas are an excellent way to inject some life and excitement into a dinner party that does not yet have any particular theme. Serving them will really impress your guests by showing them your international culinary flair, especially if you learn to pronounce the Spanish name for each dish correctly. So what are you waiting for? Get ahold of some of the tapas dishes and get cooking!

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