Magnifico! Beyond tapas at Tapella
EAT’S EASY - Ernest Reynoso Gala (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2012 - 12:00am

Spanish cuisine forms an integral part of the culture of this beautiful country, showcasing its vast gastronomic traditions and history, a passage to its rich natural resources and unique customs.

As an old Spanish proverb says, “The belly rules the mind.”

The Spanish coastlines consist of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, where seafood is abundant and diverse, a source so great that the variety of its dishes indeed displays the expanse of its cuisine. In the north, fish is often cooked in stew with vegetables, while the south prefers frying. Olive seeds were brought in by Phoenicians, which helped Spain become the largest producer of olive oil in the world, a key ingredient in any Spanish dish. Its African and Arab neighbors brought in spices, bitter lemon, oranges, and sweet extracts to flavor their pastries. They also influenced the creation of churros and freixuelos or honey fritters, a combination of sugar, candied almonds, almond paste and nougat.

The central section is filled with plains and large herds of cattle, a haven for endless supply of carne or meat. The south is abundant source of vegetation, where fresh produce like fruits, grapes, bell peppers and olives grow in profusion.

The weather in Spain is legendary, always sunny and beautiful, which guarantees good harvest all throughout the year. Spain is also a top producer of wines with vineyards in every region. Fortified wine called sherry is also one of its top produce, with its distinct color of mahogany to topaz and unequaled scent. 

It was on my bucket list to visit Spain and eat Spanish food, and fortunately I was able to cross that out of my list when I took a gastronomic tour around this amazing country. Every hotel, restaurant and tapas bar was a culinary education, an indulgence of the festive lifestyle. When I returned back to the Philippines I still craved the steak, jamon Serrano, bacalao, gazpachos (cold vegetable soup).

Yes, recently Spain has been in the forefront of Novo, molecular gastronomy cuisine with the likes of Ferran Adria, Joan Roca, and Daniel Garcia leading the pack, but I still crave the home-cooked, hearty, traditional, Spanish cuisines that grandmothers passed down to the next generations. Then I came across Tapella at Greenbelt 5, and with their new menu it instantly gave me flashbacks of the Spanish dishes I was longing for. 

Traditional cuisine starts with Pan y Vino or bread with wine. Highly recommended is the Entrepanes de Carilladas or veal cheeks stew on crusty bread combined with wine or the house sangria. It is simply a memorable experience. Waiters scurry back and forth with great plates of delicious-smelling tapas. The hot tapas or the Plato de Pintxos Calientes has the best of everything, from calamares to chorizo, croquetas béchamel, sobresada de quezo manchego, purusalda, tigres, champi, and pollo moruno. For soup, the Gazpacho Andaluz or cold tomato vegetable soup with vinegar has a kick and a refreshing contrast to the warm weather similar to the hot summers in Spain.  Egg lovers will surely delight in the Tortilla Abierta con Chorizo, an open-faced omelet with real Spanish chorizo, which is an appetizing and a full meal in itself.

Familiar with the famous paella negra?  This time, it is black squid pasta called Fideua Negra. The fine wheat noodle pasta is cooked with lemon and added with bite-sized squids and shrimps. For culinary innovation, the Gambas Mikel, a spinoff the Fideua Negra, has shrimps enveloped in blank ink batter then dipped in aioli, a lip-smacking dish that is guaranteed to be devoured by all diners.

For surf and turf, the Mar y Montaña is a plateful of grilled steaks and prawns served with French beans, carrots, zucchinis, potato gratin, and béarnaise sauce, a perfectly cooked dish and a platter that is worth all the fuss. Still, the Arroz Sobrassada or Spanish Chorizo Paella is one of the best in town and has an extensive range of flavors. For the sweet-tooth the arroz con leche or rice pudding cooked in lemon zest and milk provide dessert excellence.   With an elegant surrounding and a new menu, chef Alexandra G. Cacho’s culinary masterpieces make Tapella an A-list destination and an enriching affair.

* * *

 Tapella at Ground Level of Greenbelt 5.  For inquiries and reservations, call 757-2710 or 856-0473.

For recipes and schedule of classes visit www.sylviareynosogala.com or www.facebook.com/Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary or call 671-4489 or 98.

 

0PT ALEXANDRA G ARROZ SOBRASSADA FIDEUA NEGRA LEFT MARGIN SPANISH TAPELLA
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