from Chapter 8

First Tastes of Spain

…Once more, I started checking out the restaurants in the harbor area. I stopped at Cervejeria Celtic where about 10 people sat at various tables under an unassuming enclosed canopy. Cervejaria Celtic doesn’t sound very Spanish, but centuries ago the Celts had a lot of influence in the region that you can still see today.

The tapas menu on the board outside looked interesting and the prices reasonable. I sat at a table facing the harbor. Two business men, deep in conversation, sat at one table smoking. At another table a couple sat across from each other holding hands. Several families sat on a stone wall, along the esplanade, drinking beer and watching the sun sink into the sky. When their beers were empty, one of them would return it to the Celtic and leave with another.

When the middle-aged waitress, dressed in black, arrived, I ordered a local Albariño and asked for a menu. The cool, crisp white wine accompanied me as I perused the restaurant’s tapas offerings. I settled on steamed mussels and Padron peppers. But, when the food arrived, massive portions heaped in serving bowls, my first thought was, “How am I going to eat all this?” But me being me, I knew that some way, somehow, I would find a way!

I later found out that there are three ways to order tapas: as a snack, half-portion, or full portion. I’m not sure which size I ordered, but it seemed to be definitely more than a snack.

For a nothing little place, the food surprised me. The mussels were large and plump with bright orange bellies. They tasted succulent and sweet, bursting with the flavor of the sea and white wine. I think these were the sweetest mussels I’ve ever eaten – even sweeter than when I would pick them off the rocks in New England. Then there came the Padron peppers. They are green and about the size of a small jalapeño pepper, but carry none of the fiery kick. The Spanish sauté them in olive until the skin blisters and serve them in a simple way sprinkled with sea salt. You eat them by holding the stem and biting off the fruit. It’s a great way to eat your vegetables.

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