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On the tapas trail

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Everyone thinks they know tapas – the little nibbles served up in bars – yet nothing can prepare you for the variety available on their home soil. If all you’ve ever encountered is deep-fried squid and spicy potatoes, then a treat awaits. That’s not even to say that those dishes aren’t authentic – but the truth is that your first beachfront plate of Andalucían calamari or patatas bravas in back-street Barcelona really make you sit up and take notice. The proper way to eat tapas is to wander from one bar to another to sample a particular speciality, since the best bars tend to be known for just one or two dishes… and the locals wouldn’t dream of ordering anything else. So you might duck into one place for jamón serrano (cured ham), another for pulpo gallego (pot-cooked octopus), a third for pimientos de Padrón (small green peppers – about one in ten being fiery-hot), and then maybe on to a smoky old bar that serves just fino (dry sherry) from the barrel along with slices of mojama (dried, pressed roe). And that’s not counting the creative, new-wave bars where sculpted montaditos (canapés), yucca chips, samosas, sushi-fusion titbits or artisan-produced cheese and meat are all vying for your attention before you sit down later to the serious business of dinner.

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