The Spanish word tapas means "to cover," and some say tapas started with Spanish barkeepers resting bread and meat on top of the glasses in which they were serving libations.
Although not everyone agrees with that story, it's the most popular explanation, and chef Adam Donnelly and his partner Carolina Konrad, of Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant, are willing to go along with it.
To put it simply, it's food for bars.
But Winnipeg is a long way from Spain. Why would a chef from Winnipeg want to do tapas here?
Because once you've trained as a chef, travel is the best way to broaden your horizons.
"The reason why we chose tapas is that we were living in London and we were visiting tapas restaurants. We loved the idea of going to places where we could try so many different dishes and sit and talk about it. We just fell in love with it," says Donnelly.
Donnelly and Konrad realized that there was nothing similar in Winnipeg. They saw a great opportunity when the building at 484 Stradbrook Ave. became available in Osborne village. They secured the property, renovated it and opened the restaurant about one year ago.
Konrad explains what to expect from dining tapas-style.
"It's small plates that you're meant to share. You come in knowing that you're going to try new things and that you're going to share with everyone, and talk about your experience," she says.
She says the ideal group size is generally from four to six, and she recommends planning for two to three dishes per person at the table.
Because tapas is a very casual style, the dishes can come out at different times, which means the time spent at the table can be as long or as short as your schedule allows.
"You can order all at once or spend a long time ordering and trying new foods all evening. It's very diverse, where you can have as much or as little as you like," says Konrad.
Tapas dishes will often consist of charcuterie (dried cured meats) usually served with bread or jam or pickles. There will also be a variety of other little samples of vegetables, cheeses and other tasty little things.
One of the challenges of running a tapas restaurant is providing as much in-house prepared food as possible.
"We try and do as many of the sausages as we can and we make all our own pâtés and terrines and we make our own mustards," says Donnelly. "We always have two or three that we make on the menu board, and we try to change the menu about every two months to keep everyone interested."
And although tapas is food for bars, it can be a great theme for a party, because when planned properly, the hosts can sit and enjoy time with their guests. If fact, it would be a great way to spend an evening at home on New Year's Eve, and Donnelly and Konrad have shared some good advice on how to do just that.
How to plan a tapas party
The key is to keep it really simple for yourself so you can join your guests. Because tapas-style dining is focused on providing good food and drink to spur conversation, there are usually only one, two or three components on each plate. The most important thing is to choose the best ingredients, and a variety of them, prepared simply so that it's easy to replenish the plates on the fly.
Be sure to have plenty of toothpicks and small skewers, little plates, napkins, cutlery, and wine glasses on hand. It's nice to change things up if dishes or utensils get too messy. Seat yourselves comfortably in a way that allows you to share.
For food, you will need meats and cheeses, good bread, good olive oil, olives and pickles, tins of fish -- anything you can stick on a small skewer. That helps to keep it as finger food. You can start by serving cold tapas, which you can prepare ahead, and then move to hot dishes if you choose to serve them.
The Spanish like a Fino sherry, dry or medium dry. Coffee with brandy is a good way to finish. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, quite economically priced, which is served at celebrations. It is traditional to start your meal with the cava.
Here is a suggested menu from chef Adam Donnelly and his partner Carolina Konrad.
Each plate is a description of the kinds of things you can serve at your own party. You can contact Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant at www.segoviatapasbar.com or call 477-6500 for information. They do not normally take reservations but are doing so for New Year's Eve.
Pan con tomate: Rub grilled bread with a clove of garlic and then spread with a smashed tomato. Drizzle with olive oil.
Chorizo with gala apples: Chorizo is a sausage made with paprika which Donnelly says is available at La Grotta market at 1360 Taylor Ave. Slice the sausage and sauté with cubed gala apples and sherry vinegar.
Patatas Bravas: This is chunky cut potato that is deep-fried or roasted and then tossed in any spicy tomato sauce.
Russian Salad stuffed piquillo peppers: The recipes are below. This is Spanish potato salad stuffed into the peppers.
Gildas: These are found in every tapas bar in Spain. This is a skewer that always holds olives, peppers and anchovy or sardine.
Quail eggs with paprika sea salt: Hard-boil the quails eggs, peel halfway down and then dip one end in a smoky paprika salt. They can be found in many specialty food stores.
Melon wrapped with Serrano ham: You can get this ham from De Luca's or La Grotta. Wrap it around cantaloupe cubes with a toothpick and then add a bit of olive oil on top.
Manchego cheese with quince preserve: Typical Spanish cheese with a fruit preserve topping.
Mixed olives in orange and thyme: A variety of olives tossed in olive oil and thyme. An amazing combination.
Russian Salad Stuffed Piquillo Peppers
This recipe will make a large quantity so feel free to cut it in half. Alternatively, tapas-style dining is a great way to use up leftovers, so you could make this salad as a side for a regular meal and use the leftovers to stuff the peppers for tapas.
6 egg yolks
1 l (4 cups) canola oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard
Juice of half a lemon
30 ml (2 tbsp) minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine egg yolks, lemon juice and minced garlic.
Place the ingredients in a Kitchenaid- type mixer using the whip attachment. Blend the ingredients.
Mix at high speed adding the canola oil slowly in a constant stream to form an emulsion, until it thickens like mayonnaise.
If the aioli starts to get really thick, add a splash of hot water to thin it out.
3 large potatoes
1 brown onion
325 ml (11/2 cups) of peas
250 ml (1 cup) of aioli
250 ml (1 cup) chopped olives
1 jar of piquillo peppers (enough for 2 for each guest)
Boil the potatoes until cooked through, for around 30 minutes. Hard-boil eggs for about seven minutes once the water has come to a boil.
Once the potatoes and eggs are cooled and peeled, cut into a large dice.
Dice up the onion, carrot and olives and set aside.
Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl (except the piquillo peppers), mix, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the mixture into the piquillo peppers and serve at room temperature.