While lunching with my friend Julian Serrano, famed executive chef of Picasso restaurant in Las Vegas, we discussed a range of food-related things — the dangerous profession of crab catching (don’t go there), where to purchase the best cauliflower, and how the American palate has changed over the last decade. In addition, we talked about a shift in Californians’ approach to eating: we love to snack. And this new trend is making tapas a regional hit.
Julian’s roots hail from Spain, where, as he so enthusiastically described, the march from work in the bustling commerce to home in the packaged neighborhoods is more like a rolling stroll through the streets of city central. As he explained, the walk home each evening most often includes a few moments of drink and conversation in the local bars sprinkled throughout the city. Each bar serving a simple plate of tapas (snacks), a bit of potato, an olive, a small piece of dried meat and a glass of Tinto or Rosado.
“Each bar serves their own type of tapas”, Julian said. “No two alike…..” He continues with his observation of the current eating trend. People don’t want the bread on their table. They don’t want the big portions. They DO however want to sample and try a variety of dishes, many splitting their entrees or ordering multiple items to share with everyone at a table.
Of course, I was thrilled to hear his account of what he sees happening in fine dining. This is a load and clear dinner bell to me that we can enjoy great tasting food and still have a healthy, enjoyable experience. Just like Tiffany’s has said for year: good things come in small packages. So is true for your taste buds.
Renowned French Laundry chef Thomas Keller has made his whole career on the ‘three bite’ approach; the palate is never as stimulated as it is in the first three bites. Chef Keller prepares each dish with that palate-party in mind, inviting our taste buds to jump and gyrates in unabashed mouthwatering bliss.
Bistro Elan in Palo Alto makes this tapas trend easy by offering the most delectable tiny plates on the appetizer menu. More and more restaurants, although they may not call it tapas, are packing their appetizer menus with a full meal experience, no doubt providing you with a more than satisfying meal, in a tapas kind of a way.
Tapas style snacks at home are a great use for leftovers; you just need a punch of flavor to re-invent them. My secret ingredient is a great tasting pesto or herb infused quick sauce. They go superb with most any meat, poultry, fish, vegetable, as a sandwich spread, or a flavor enhancer to soups. Enjoy, and remember, a little goes a long way.
Herb and Caper Pesto
1 bunch fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups)
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon course mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
Sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns (white, green, black)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until well blended. Store in fridge for 1 week.