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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lifting the lid on tapas in Puerto de la Cruz

I popped the little green pepper into my mouth and let my taste buds savour its pleasant, slightly bitter flavour, made savoury by rock salt and olive oil; without warning, somebody thrust a white hot poker into my mouth and I lunged for the bottle of cool water to try to douse the inferno, whilst my friends collapsed in laughter. I'd just taken the metaphorical bullet in the game of culinary Russian roulette that masquerades as the tapas dish pimientos de padrón.

One of the joys of travel lies in exploring another country's cuisine and pimientos de padrón is one of an extensive range of tapas dishes that are popular on Tenerife, an island with an interesting gastronomic identity fashioned over the centuries by a mix of Spanish and South American influences with a soupcon of Guanche thrown in.

During September, Secret Tenerife highlighted the first Ruta Gastronómica in Puerto de la Cruz, a promotion of tapas and local ingredients; however, there's no need to wait until the second before sampling some of the delectable dishes in traditional and atmospheric restaurants and tascas around the town.

The intimate Tasca Muralla on Calle La Hoya is a cosy bijou bar where mojo verde (a local pesto-like sauce) adds a zing to a ration of mussels. At Tasquita de Min, beside the harbour, tables are at a premium on Sundays when Canarian families descend en masse and order frying pans filled with succulent lapas (limpets drizzled with olive oil, coriander and garlic). In El Rincon's beautiful courtyard, off Plaza del Charco, dark polished antique Canarian balconies and a towering palm tree overlook Bar Luis where a sizzling clay dish of gambas al ajillo, will get the juices flowing; beware, these prawns in garlic oil take an eternity to cool down and are guaranteed to scald if you eat one prematurely.

My favourite tapas restaurant is Cha’ Paula, an old Canarian townhouse with a bar where local fishermen play dominoes and curse the football, a dining room and an eclectically quaint courtyard; any one of which is ideal for indulging in some of the best tapas in Puerto. The first time I ate there, I was served by a Bobby Ball look-alike who insisted he was good friends with Tom Jones and told me that “the food’s great, but the service is crap,” only one of which was true. ‘Bobby Ball’ proceeded to serve up a feast including chipirones (delicious small tender squid); smoky cheese from El Hierro, chickpea stew; sausage of Teror (named after the village on Gran Canaria; although when the waiter set fire to it at the table, I felt it warranted another ‘r’); And, of course, pimientos de padrón, one in ten of which can be hot enough to blow the top of your head off; a characteristic which makes them popular with kids despite their verdure tones.

Ultimately, the tradition of ordering a selection of small dishes 'para picar' is appealing because of a combination of ingredients; it’s sociable, fun and for the price of a couple of main courses you get to try a whole selection of flavours; it’s a great way to savour the essence of Tenerife.

Click here to continue reading Eating out in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife

Copyright © 2007 Real Tenerife Island Drives. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of Real Tenerife Island Drives.

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