The Spanish take eating very seriously. Each town, province, and region in Spain set aside different weeks throughout the year to host food festivals and gastronomic events to show off their culinary skills. Right now, from the 12th to the 29th of November (2015), Santiago de Compostela is holding its 8th annual Santiago(é)Tapas Contest, with 55 participating bars and over 100 tapas to try. A few of my North-American friends and I decided to check it out, so we grabbed our umbrellas and went for a delicious night out in the capital of Galicia. (Don’t know anything about Galicia? Check out this post!)
With so many different locations to choose from, the tapa crawl was divided into 5 convenient routes of about 11-15 bars each, all mapped in a little pincho passport that you get stamped at every stop. If you finish a full route or multiple routes, you can win an assortment of prizes, like artisanal cheeses, wine, Galician liqueurs, and more. However, if you eat as slowly and as socially as the Spanish do, finishing a full route in a night is nearly impossible (and gets expensive at 2€ a piece, caña not included.) Before leaving each bar you fill out a card to rate how much you liked the tapa. Here was our tapa crawl experience:
Route #2: Plaza de Cervantes
Bars Visited: 5 out of 14
Bar #1: Hervor & Fervor
Tapa: Panna Cotta de Castaña de Galicia e Chocolate
When we arrived, this bar was out of their other two featured tapas, so we started our night dessert first with this Galician-style panna cotta. The top layer was a rich chestnut-flavored pudding, garnished with a shelled chestnut, and the bottom layer was a very sweet chocolate cream. Although it tasted fine, we all agreed it was a little too sweet. I’m not very big on desserts to begin with, so I rate this tapa number 5 out of the 5 we tried, the least delicious.
Bar #2: La Bodeguilla de San Roque
Tapa: Fabas de Lourenzá con Mexillóns de Galicia e Crocante de Broa
Normally in Galicia, on any given day when you order a drink you get some kind of tapa for free, so as soon as we ordered our vinos, the waitress brought us peanuts, olives, bread, cheese, and chorizo before the main tapa even came out—oh, how I love Galicia! A little while later we were served these little bowls of mussels and white bean soap, sprinkled with paprika, and accompanied by a cute little side of toast. I had eaten this dish many times before since fabas are a staple food here in the northwest of Spain, but I liked the twist this bar put on the dish by adding seafood rather than sausage or cured meat. Still, I rate this tapa as number 4 out of the 5 since I eat fabas at least once a week with my boyfriend’s family.
Bar #3: Resas
Tapa: Xurelo con “Arrós Neghro”
Since the title said “with black rice,” we were all pretty shocked when this tapa was a crispy cracker served on the bottom of a bowl. It’s by far one of the “fanciest” foods I’ve eaten, like something they would make on a competitive-cooking show. Then again, this was a tapa competition, and this bar definitely brought originality. On top of the squid-ink-tinted rice cracker was a slice of mackerel with an ali-oli (garlic onion) foam, fresh chives, and three different house sauces made from milk and green and red pepper. It was both incredibly flavorful and unusually delicious all at the same time. I rate this tapa number 2 out of the 5, though, since it was very tiny and another tapa was even tastier.
Bar #4: Rey
Tapa: “O Noso Cocido”
The dish cocido is traditionally a type of chickpea and/or potato stew with vegetables and almost any kind of meat imaginable—pork, beef, chicken, chorizo, tongue, intestines—I’ve even tried it with chicken hearts. This bar changed it up by serving creamy puréed potatoes, minced chorizo, cheese wrapped in a rapini (broccoli) leaf, and a side of caldo (chicken broth). We thought the broth was supposed to be mixed with the cocido, but it was in fact a soup shot! I really enjoyed this tapa and chupito de caldo, so I rate it at number 3 of the 5 dishes.
Bar #5: Cervantes
Tapa: “Espetadiña Cervantes”
The last stop of our tapa crawl was a bar right across from the Plaza de Cervantes. Since the contest only runs until 23:00 at night, we ran out of time to go to any more. Although this may look like a simple club sandwich, we all agreed that it was by far the best tapa of the night. The pincho was made of toasted bread, a slice of marinated ham, goat cheese, tomato, lettuce, and ground blood sausage. It was served atop a cheesy, garlic potato purée—absolutely delicious! It was the number 1 best tapa out of the 5 we had on Saturday.
This event was very well organized and fun, with the only downside being that it can get a bit expensive paying 5€ at each bar. (We’re spoiled with the free tapas in Galicia!) My friends and I all left the last bar very satisfied that night as we headed out. Though our tapa crawl had come to an end, our night out had just begun! (This is Spain afterall!)