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Thursday, March 14, 2013

IT WAS Valentine’s Day and we were invited by Analu Trebol to try the new restaurant of her sons Jamete and Gino which serves tapas. In town was Mila Beirotte with her son Mark and wife Jennifer and their two kids Alex and Kobe. Dolly Dacanay, one of our dearest friends of Analu, who is Barcelona-based, was also an honoree of the small get-together.

After a year of being in mourning black, it was time to be reunited with vibrant colors. What would be more suitable for the occasion than Valentine red, which is actually my favorite color?

The evening proved interesting with Jennifer, a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep apnea, expounding on the illness. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Lately, I discovered that so many friends seem to have this illness.


Mila Beirotte, of course, is always a joy to be with because she is a reservoir of jokes. Mila is a distant cousin but her relationship with the family is close to an immediate member.

With all the arrangements in place, we all headed for the new Lopue’s Art District and onto Txacho owned by Analu’s two sons Gino, Jamete and his wife Kaila, Fean Trebol, Karla Parsons, David Lopez and Alex Goikoetxea.

Txacho is a tapas bar and we were served endless servings of tapas. Believe me, it did not take long for the waiters to replenish the plates because they were consumed almost instantly after being served.

What are tapas? When I was in Barcelona, after Dolly would leave her office, we would usually drop by some resto and have tapas con vino. Spain has very different eating hours compared to us. Dinner is usually served between 9 and 11 p.m. (sometimes as late as midnight).

There is much significant time left between work and dinner. So, most Spaniards often go "bar hopping" and eat tapas during this break. Lunch is also served rather late in Spain between 2 and 4 p.m. In my home, we have acquired this habit of serving lunch at about this time.

A bar or a small local restaurant in Spain can have eight to 12 different kinds of tapas. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, chilies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and sometimes in plentiful amounts of olive oil.

One or more of the choices is seafood (mariscos), usually 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 seasonings. It is rare to see a tapas selection without one or more types of olives and one or more types of bread. They are made available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.

Tapas evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Most of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Romans, who introduced the olive and irrigation methods.

The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, maize (corn) and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's microclimates.

So tapas is actually a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks. They may be cold or warm. In select bars in Spain, tapas has advanced into an entire and sometimes sophisticated cuisine. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.

Also, in some countries, it is customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas. And it goes with either wine, some beer or whatever cocktail is your pleasure (or poison?). So if you look at it, tapas is really a very social thing.

Well, we do not anymore have to dream of going to Madrid or Barcelona to enjoy tapas. Right here in Bacolod, we have Txacho where a wide variety of tapas is served.

There is salsa verde, mixed olives, tortilla de patatas, croquetas (which was really delicious), homemade hamon Serrano, gambas, paella, patatas bravas, stuffed piquillo peppers (another to die for), callos, baguio tomato salad, artichoke cheese dip, boquerones and lentejas.

The menu grows as the owners try more recipes weekly. There are Basque partners so the taste is quite authentic. Dolly who resides in Barcelona assured the owners that the tapas she tasted was very much like the ones served in the bars she would frequent. The only thing that shocked her was that we chill our wines. This is a no-no in España, even for the summer. But that’s how most of us like our wine.

If you want a change of cuisine or instead of a merienda sena, try tapas at Txacho.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 15, 2013.


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