Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tapas Crawl!

A group of us recently decided to embark on a little tapas crawl in West Hartford. As a matter of convenience, we decided to stick a couple of places in the Center. The Hartford area is rich with Latin American cuisine, so the opportunities for Tapas Crawl II, III & IV are endless. You need to have goals people!

Cuvee – West Hartford, CT

The evening started off at Cuvee, a new wine and champagne room on Raymond Road. It was my second visit (see my previous post). Although it doesn’t offer a tapas menu in the traditional sense, they do have a nice selection of small plates and cocktails in one of the cozier places in town. To start off the evening, we ordered a goat cheese and onion tart, a vegetable sushi roll and hummus plate. The tart was the favorite, a wonderful combination of cheese and caramelized onions on a light buttery crust. The hummus was delicious and a great plate to nosh on while enjoying one of the many imaginative cocktails on the menu. While we did not try the actual sushi, the vegetable roll was a cool, refreshing accompaniment to the savory dishes. All and all, Cuvee is a perfect spot to meet up with girlfriends (guys, you’re outnumbered there) in a relaxing setting.

Barcelona – West Hartford, CT

We arrived at Barcelona approximately 30 minutes early, much to the chagrin of the “cranky” and most gracious host. Before I get into the food, let me say that the waitstaff was fantastic. Our two servers, Emily and oh-he-whose-name-we-did-not-catch were spirited and outgoing. Our tapas were brought out two or three at a time, which spaced our dinner out nicely. They really contributed to making our evening perfect!

Before you even try to approach the tapas menu, peruse the comprehensive wine list. This is the place to experiment and try something new! Spanish and South American wines are incredible in quality and value. The servers are very knowledgeable and after answering a few simple questions on your preferences, they will steer you in the right direction.

Now, the grub. While sipping our new favorite wines and enjoying hot, crusty bread, we ordered a smattering of tapas from the extensive menu. I will list them in the order of group preference (loyal followers…correct me if I’m wrong):

Lobster risotto – smooth, creamy loaded with lobster, asparagus and tomatoes
Pork Tenderloin – moist, flavorful pork with a cider glaze on a bed of squash – wow!!
Mushrooms and goat cheese – marriage made in heaven...nuff said.
Beef and Chicken Empanadas – fantastic smoky flavors
Potato Tortilla - layers of thinly sliced potato with chive crème fraiche
Chickpea and spinach casserole – lots of cumin and garlic - one of my favorites
Marinated Hearts of Palm – we’ll call this the “salad portion” of our crawl
Calamari – crispy, but a bit rubbery – perhaps they were sitting too long?

Once our plates were cleared, we did not want our tapas-fest to end, and there was still dessert to be had. Out came the flan; a rich custard with a caramel topping. It was downright perfect, and probably the best one I’ve had in the area. (like I spend my days eating the stuff) Not overly sweet, but with enough vanilla and caramel to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Barcelona has long been a favorite of mine. The menu begs you to experiment, share and soak up new flavors; whether you’re a group of friends or an intimate party of two. You will love it!

Cheers to new friendships and future food crawls!