Tapas style bites are on the rise
While taste and presentation are essential for an overall great dining experience, there’s more than taste that brings food to life to catapult it into an unforgettable experience.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in the tradition of Spanish tapas: festive appetizers enjoyed with drinks, and always focused on togetherness and sharing.
“How do I describe tapas? Tapas is a totally different mindset to eating and enjoying food,” Amanda Patterson, owner/operator of Madrid Tapas Restaurant and Wine Bar in Green Bay, says. “I advise go in with an open mind.”
“I love the concept of small plates because I love the idea of ordering a bunch of food for your table and all trying a little of what everyone has,” Janel Abel Megna, co-owner of 313 Dodge in Kaukauna, says. “It opens up the table for conversation about the food and creates a shared experience among the diners.”
“I chose it simply because I really like the idea of small wine bars having more of those “noshy” types of bites,” Matt Gloede, owner/general manager of Santé Wine Bar & Bistro Neenah, adds. “We have so many clients who come over after or stop here before dinner.”
Traditional tapas come in a few forms: cosas de picar (“things to nibble”), cazuelas (“little dishes”) and pinchos (requiring a utensil, like toothpicks, to serve).
Some popular variations include their Goat Cheese Toast, toasted bread with their housemade mix: goat cheese, arugula, prosciutto and lime zest.
The Gorgonzola Baguette boasts poached pears in wine and a variety of baking and fall-driven spices–a lot of baking spices topped with blue cheese crumbles and a red wine reduction sauce and a little bit of honey.
“That’s been on our menu since day 1 and probably won’t leave,” Gloede says. “One of my favorite things on the menu are our deviled eggs, which are pickled in pickled beets and then our house yolk mix—lots of dijon mustard, which is kind of spicy. Then prosciutto salt.
“We just added an Apple Bruschetta: baby brie on a toasted baguette with apples, which are also baked, with my jalapeno jam and dusted with fresh cinnamon. Really simple but everyone loves it.”
“It’s sharable. You get to taste a bunch of new things,” Gloede says. “We hear people say ‘Oh I’ve never heard of this’ or ‘This is really interesting. Especially with tapas and small plates, people get to try a bunch of different things and they get to venture out of their comfort zone. It’s less expensive per plate so you get to do those nibbles.”
Megna describes 313 Dodge’s Asiago Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms as “roasted mushrooms with a little balsamic vinegar stuffed with a super cheesy filling of cream cheese and asiago with Italian sausage. They’d come out perfect with a little golden crisp on top and were super delicious!
“Another one that I really loved were these Cheddar Biscuit Sliders with pimento cheese, ham and spicy pickles. The biscuits were amazing (especially right out of the oven) and we’d fill them with housemade pimento spread, thick cut ham from Haen Meats and arugula and then top the whole slider with some spicy pickles.”
If you picked up on the past tense, you’re right. All three restaurants’ menus change seasonally or when the mood strikes.
“I do choose the plates for the season—fall/winter will host some solid comfort food options and spring/summer are normally all about whatever vegetable is in season,” Megna says.
Tapas and small plates are snack portions, but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to grab dinner later. Patterson suggests guests “order in waves” by mixing and matching tapas to build a meal. She says eating in this staggered style prohibits getting full too quickly.
“Ideally you and a few of your mates build your meal à la carte,” she says. “No rules. You can always order more.”
The dishes are delicious, but the charm of tapas and small plates is more than satiating hunger. It’s celebrating togetherness and sharing in life’s moments.
In Patterson’s words, “Sit back, relax!”
Santé Wine Bar & Bistro’s
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Start by slicing your baguette on an angle, to your desired amount of pieces.
3. Slice the brie cheese thin as well as the granny smith and place a strip of cheese on every crostini, followed by a piece or two of the apple atop the brie.
4. Bake the bruschetta for 5-7 minutes, until warm and toasted.
5. Place on a serving plate, drizzle with jalapeno jam, and grate fresh cinnamon atop the bruschetta.