Last week was the Utrera Tapas Festival. You may remember when Joe and I ventured out to the Moron Tapas Festival a few months ago with some friends. Utrera is a larger town just west of Moron and probably twice as large so it was fitting that their Tapas Festival was as well. Joe and I got there a little before 8 PM and the Zona de Tapa tent wasn’t open yet. We ventured into the Zona de Copa or beverage tent and were met with 5 full bars, hundreds of Spanish youth writhing to an ear-shattering remix of Amy Winehouse’s, Rehab and cigarette smoke that could fog an entire football stadium. We quickly left and took our places in line for the food tent.
We were the 2nd people through the doors and decided to eat and drink (well Joe was doing the beer drinking part) our way around the 12 restaurant stalls. The first stall, Bar Plata, wasn’t quite prepared with their dishes and were only offering one of their 4 options so we dove into a plate of Chicharron con Secreto (Secret recipe pork rinds). They weren’t great as you can imagine! For the most part I can read Spanish, especially when it comes to menu items but some things were indistinguishable. Now I can honestly say chicharron are pork rinds.
Stall #2, Onuba Tapas, was much better with Solomillo al Oporto (pork sirloin in a wine sauce). This pork loin was tender and juicy and served with roasted potatoes. It was definitely one of our favorites. Some friends we ran into ordered the Esparragos Fritos con Salmorejo (fried asparagus wrapped in salmorejo sausage and drizzled with a cheese sauce). We may have to try Onuba Tapas on our next trip to Utrera.
Onto Bar El Dialecto. Here we sampled 2, we were feeling brave. Usually one plate at each stall is plenty. The servings are the size of tea cup saucers and Joe and I each get about 3 – 4 small bites but once you get to that sixth stall you’re already stuffed, at this rate I was never going to make it the whole way around. We ordered Redondo de Ternera con Salsa Cava a la Naranja (round beef sirloin with orange champagne sauce) and Codorniz con Champinones con Salsa de Lambrusco (Quail with Mushroom and Lambrusco sauce). Both of these were delicious although the quail was served butterflied and a little hard to eat. I saw the Spanish picking the quail up and eating it like a drumstick as I gracefully tried to pry some meat off the little bones with my plastic fork, not wanting to get my hands dirty. It’s not that I was trying to be prim and proper, it’s that the napkin situation at these stalls is slim to none. What passes for napkins are really just thin sheets of tissue paper dispensed from small cardboard boxes. Note to self: bring roll of paper towel next time.
At this point I was getting full, I had consumed my portion of 4 small tapas plates, an orange Fanta and 2 mini bottles of water. Joe had had his portion of the food and 4 8-oz. Cruzcampos. My pace was slowing and I knew we would be here all night if I didn’t pick up the pace a little. Next stop – Bar Valero! I would have loved to have ordered the Berenjena con Salmorejo y Jamon (Fried Eggplant topped with salmorejo sausage and ham) but Joe is not an eggplant fan so we went with old faithful, Croquetas Caseras (Homemade Croquettes). These are some of our favorite tapas in Spain. Minced chicken, pork or tuna mixed with seasonings and cheese, then lightly breaded and deep fried. Soft and hot inside with a little crisp outside. I was glad the plate only held 2 as I couldn’t have eaten more than one.
At Bodega Dona Juana I ordered the San Roque con Salmorejo de Rucula (Bruschetta with Salmorejo sausage topped with a sauce of arugula and roquefort cheese). Joe sat this one out and I enjoyed every bite. Our friends sampled the Champinones con Queso Gratinado Ali-Oli y Corazon de Alcachofa (Mushrooms stuffed with garlic, artichoke hearts and baked with cheese). I should have ordered those since Joe wasn’t tasting anyway (he hates mushrooms and I love them).
A friend had already warned me to save room for Taberna La Liebre. She spoke of large shrimp skewers, garlic and eggplant. I ran right over and ordered Joe a beer and myself a Pincho de Langostino con Salsa Verde (Bruschetta with skewered shrimp drizzled with a green garlic sauce). The fact that I tasted garlic for 2 days afterward didn’t matter because these were so good. I was glad Joe doesn’t eat seafood, I would not want to have shared these with anyone.
At Bar Los Cabezones we ordered Carrillada Iberica con Chorizo (Iberian beef cheeks with garlic sausage). We knew what Carrillada was from the last Tapas Festival and we were not disappointed. Joe ate most of this plate of tender, fall off the bone, beef chunks in a slightly spicy and very garlicky broth. Yummo!
We skipped Meson Juanlu and just opted for another Cruzcampo and a water.
At El Rincon de Maria we ordered Trompetitos (maybe translated to little trumpets, these were basically small triangles of cheese and ham, almost like deep fried Cordon Bleu triangles). Very tasty but so hot we had to wait a while until we could bite into these without burning our mouths.
Casa Angel, Restaurante Dominguez and Restaurante Molina were a no go for me. Joe rounded out his bar tour and I saved a little room for ice cream we saw at a stall in the Zona Comercial.
I have always enjoyed food, sometimes spending exorbitant amounts on meals. It’s the taste, the memories, the experience, the company. These Tapas Festivals combine all of this. Living in Spain, walking through an enormous tent, eating tiny plates of mysterious yet delicious dishes off paper plates with tissue paper napkins while standing at an old wooden barrel. The din of Spanish spoken loudly over even louder European pop music. Cooing over the most fashionably dressed babies with even more fashionable mothers. Stretching my Spanish to try to converse successfully with the shop workers. Licking mouth-watering mint chocolate ice cream out of a chocolate covered cone while standing in awe of a donut the size of a tire. These are just some of the memories that make up our time here in Spain.