The Best Tapas of All

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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

This past weekend I went to Basque Country in Northern Spain with some friends. Famous not only for its mountains, The Northern Way of the Camino, its obscure language and rich history but also for some of the most incredible food in the country, if not the world. Some of the most famous chefs in Spain come from Pais Basco so you can imagine I was jumping up and down at the prospect of heading there.

We stayed in Bilbao and visited the Guggenheim before heading out on a mini tapas crawl I planned with the help of yelp, lonely planet, Rick Steves and Google maps. The first place was a bust, the second had perfectly cooked skewers of meat and the third was an absolute gold mine of deliciousness. The terrace and restaurant were bustling so we settled for standing room at the edge of the bar and chatted in Spanish to one of the servers. We watched wide eyed and drooling as plate after plate passed bye and others came back practically licked clean. The main dishes ranged from 12 euro to 30 but after sampling their 3.50 euro tapas… I can’t even imagine how incredible the big plates are.

Phototastic-2014-11-24-14-06-08my best friends and the best tapas

First we ordered wine and beer for the three of us, followed by patatas bravas, tapa txipi encebollada, tapa mozzarella, and tapa huevo + foie gras. We honestly had no idea what we were about to get but the bread was served on the side and the potatoes fried separately so it was safe for this happy little celiac.

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tapa mozzarella

The patatas bravas – a staple all over Spain – were the best we’ve ever had and the swooning started immediately. Then we dove into the txipi encebollada (calamari? scuttle fish? octopus? The verdict is still out…) with caramelized onions and collectively let out an audible gasp – it was that good. The tapa mozzarella turned out to be fresh mozza in a pool of pesto with sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts and salad on top. Incredible. And last but not least was the most interesting and sweetest of the tapa trio, the potato puree with egg, foie gras and mushrooms. Served in a tiny pan yet rich enough for me and my two best friends to get our share of, it was, if not my favorite, an experience on its own.

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tapa huevo + foie gras

We raved so much about these glorious tapas that we took our other friend back the next night (she missed our crawl due to homework and a headache) and ordered almost all the same things with the edition of some mystery tapas. One was pork neck and was so tender and juicy and served with asparagus that we all had to order our own instead of share. The other meat tapa remains an enigma but was one of my favorites. A small portion of meat with gravy served on potato puree, it was like eating Christmas dinner made by one of the best chefs in Spain.

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pork neck!

Dessert was chocolate mousse that may (or may not?) have contained a gluten-filled wafer cookie in the bottom. While it was fantastic (of course) I’d recommend my fellow celiac’s steer clear of that specific dessert. We finally left after oohing and aahing all over again right at closing time, thanking our same waiter friend from the night before and basically dancing out onto the street.ย 
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happy celiac in Spain chowing down on tapas and red wine

If you ever, ever find yourself in Bilbao, I am telling you La Vina del Ensanche is a life-changing meal.


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