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Tasty Time at Barcelona Tapas

New Orleans restaurants - Barcelona Tapas

Years ago, too many too recall now, I lived in Seville, Spain, the place I got my start in teaching English as a second language. Living in Spain, especially southern Spain, Andalucia to be exact, was revelatory for me. I mean it was eye-opening, I mean it expanded my horizons in so many ways that I am still affected by it to this day. They say that you must travel to foreign countries, even live in a foreign country to break you out of the mold of your familiar and sometimes restrictive surroundings.

The thing about Seville though was there was a real familiarity about it, I mean there was something that was akin to New Orleans in it, the food culture, the history, the architecture, the neighborhoods, the music … ah yes, the music! The Flamenco! Ay, yai yai. They have a style of Flamenco singing called Cante Jondo which in its improvisatory style is akin to Blues, although sounds nothing like it.

Not only that the French Quarter in New Orleans should really be called the Spanish Quarter since the architecture, with its patios with interior fountains and gardens, the balconies with it’s grill work, is all of southern Spain. Walking through the old quarter of Seville, the Barrio de Santa Cruz where I lived, was very much like walking through the French Quarter. It had a similar feel.

To show you my then ignorance of Spanish food culture — I thought that we’d be eating beans, tortillas and hot sauce! Ha. I was so wrong. What I got exposed to almost immediately in Spain were tapas, these little dishes of delightful, simple, inexpensive food served at bars, sometimes free with your beer or wine that would encourage you to drink more. They would serve jamon seranno, salad, shrimp, potato salad, croquettas, olives, bread and other little tasty appetizer type things served individually on a little plate. You could actually have a nice meal just by getting several tapas. And they were pretty healthy too.

When I came back to the states I found that I really missed the tapas. I thought it was such a good and simple idea that I wondered why local bars didn’t include them in their bar menus. Then these tapas restaurants started to show up but the thing about them was the price on the each tapas plate was ridiculous. It was as if they didn’t the tapas idea of inexpensive little tastes of good food at all.

A few blocks from my house in the Riverbend area, Xavier Laurentino has opened up his own version of a tapas place and being from Spain, Barcelona to be exact, his tapas are authentic, made with the best ingredients and aren’t ridiculously priced. The chef is very talented and serves some of the best tapas I’ve ever had.

We ordered about 14 plates for the four of us and our favorites were the lamb chops — succulent, juicy, tender — an incredibly tender squid steak — never seen it served like this, bomba — a fried round potatoey thingy with meat, and well, I don’t remember the rest but they were all good and worth ordering again.

While the others ordered wine I got fino, a very dry type of Sherry that I learned how to drink in Spain. Most bars or restaurants in the States don’t serve it, never heard of it. No, it’s not like Dry Sack or what you are used to drinking as Sherry, those are too sweet. Your first sip of fino will make your lips curl.

It took me weeks of drinking fino daily to get me to the point that I actually preferred it over your typical Sherry. In fact in Spain most people drink fino, that sweet Sherry they export to less, ahem, discerning tastes. So sitting there with my fino and these incredible tapas engaged in conversation with friends was almost like being back in Spain.

Ah, Spain, next to New Orleans, my favorite place in the world. All that was missing was a talented Flamenco guitarist. But Chef Xavier, an authentic Spaniard in the full sense of the word, spent quite a while talking with us at our table, so if you can’t have a live guitarist then a live talented Spanish chef is close enough.

Barcelona Tapas Cafe on Urbanspoon


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Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Food, New Orleans History, New Orleans Restaurants.

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  1. Marilou says

    Hello.This post was very interesting, most especially since I was searching for thoughts on this area last

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