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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More tapas action, this time Pamplona

(If you are reading this post on a RSS reader, you might want to click through to Chez Pim for the slideshow.

Here are some photos from another tapas crawl, this time Pamplona. Admittedly it wasn't such a successful one, so I'm afraid I might not have much to tell. It was something of a surprise, actually, since Pamplona is practically a stone's throw from San Sebastian, which has long ago staked the claim as the birthplace of tapas.

I should also admit though that we didn't give the town much of a chance. We didn't set out on the crawl until well after ten, which would have been a great time to begin had we been in San Sebastian or Barcelona, but, as it turns out, the denizens of Pamplona go to bed much earlier than their compatriots. We stopped first at a 'nouveau' tapas bar called Gaucho. The fares didn't look so good, but the bar came with such a good recommendation that we decided to pick a few things to try. We should have listened to our eyes and nose, actually, as we were even less impressed after tasting them.

Having consoled ourselves properly with a sherry and a beer or two, we set out to Calle San Nicolas to find other recommended places. Unfortunately, we found one place after another closed, or in the process of closing. The few remaining places were sparsely populated, and the food didn't look so good.

The persnickety French chef in our party wrinkled his nose at the empty rooms and all the tired-looking food on the counters, shaking his head, barely concealing the indescribable look on his face, and quickly stepped out. "Do you know how to tell a good tapas bar, Pim?", asked said chef. "You're asking me?", I mumbled, rolling my eyes. My foodie street cred assaulted, unprovoked no less, I was about to launch into a thesis on deconstructing tapas bars, he said, simply, "A good tapas bar is a full tapas bar".

Dude. I hate it when you are so right.

We finally settled on one that was more than decently populated. The food on the bar itself didn't look so great, but David noticed an interesting a la carte menu so - being the only one in our party not deaf and mute while in Spain - he ordered a few things for us to try. I was by then famished so I might not be such a good judge of quality at that point, but everything came out fresh, simply done, and quite delicious.

We had cured anchovies with a hefty dose of garlic, cuttlefish with caramelized onions, served with a sauce made of its ink, and a big plate of octopus with olive oil and pimente d'espalette. As food arrived, David, Julie and I grabbed our forks and attacked the plates right on the bar - comme il faut. The fastidious French chef piped up that we should go get a table and sit down properly. "At a tapas bar?", I asked, incredulous, my eyes rolling to the back of my head. Seriously.

Dude. I love it when you are so, so wrong.

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