In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. (sometimes as late as 12 midnight), leaving significant time between work and dinner. Therefore, Spaniards often go “bar hopping” (Spanish: Ir de tapas) and eat tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. Since lunch is usually served between 1 and 3 p.m., another cormmon time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before lunch proper at home.
It is very common for a bar or a small local restaurant to have 8 to 112 different kinds of tapas in warming trays with glass partitions covering the food. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, chilies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and sometimes in plentiful arnounts of olive oil. Often one or more of the choices is seafood (mariscos), often including anchovies, sardines or mackerel in olive oil, squid or others in a tomato based sauce, sometimes with the addition of red or green peppers or other seasoning. It is rare to see a tapas selection not include one or more types of olives, such as manzanilla or arbequina olives. One or more types of bread are usually available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.
In Madrid, León, Asturias, Extremadura, and in parts of Andalusia, when you go to a bar and order a drink, you will often get a tapa for free. This happens mostly in the province of Jaén, Granada, Almería but it is not very common in the rest of Andalusia, where you generally have to pay for both the drink and the tapa. Sometimes, especially in Northern Spain, they’re also called pinchos (spelled pintxos in Basque) in Navarre, the Basque Country, Cantabria and in some provinces like Salamanca. They’re called that because many of them have a pincho, or toothpick, through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the bread it has been attached to and to keep track of the number of tapas the customer has eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shape or size toothpicks. Tapa price ranges from 1.50 to 2.00 euros. Another name for them is banderillas (diminutive of bandera “flag”), in part because some of them resemble the colorful spears used in bullfighting.
In Andalusia, tapas can be “upgraded” to bigger portions, equivalent to half a dish (media ración) or a whole one (ración). This is generally more economical when a tapa is being ordered by more than one person. The portions are usually shared by diners, and a meal made up of raciones resembles a Middle Eastern mezze or Chinese dim sum.
In the Mediterranean diet it is typical to begin the food with succulent starters to open up the appetite.
For those looking for entertainment to make an event or special occasion.
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