Look on any hip restaurant menu right now and you will most likely see some kind of cheese course, charcuterie or "tapas" plate. I will take a savoury meat and cheese plate over dessert any day. People appreciate savouring a good cheese or piece of cured meat. I think it stems from the increased attention and appreciation to where food comes from. Sometimes I make a "plate" of food for lunch with assorted meats, cheeses, vegetables, hummus, pickles, etc. that I find in the fridge. For entertaining, you can't go wrong with an elevated version of that with fresh olives, nice cheeses, crackers and crusty bread. Espuna Tapas Essentials were kind enough to send me a few selections from their Tapas Essentials line to sample.
Espuna launched the collection in Ontario and Quebec in December. Their line of authentic Spanish tapas and cured meats includes 15 varieties of tapas, some of which are ready-to-serve and heat-to-serve. The Spanish company is family-owned dating back to 1947. Espuna sent me chorizo salami and original salami, as well as original salami canitas, chorizo canitas and salami canitas. For the salamis, they recommended slicing and serving in a small bowl with mini toasts or bread sticks. When you have beautiful products, it is imperative to plate them equally as nice, and this is something I struggle with sometimes. I cut up the some of the meats into smaller pieces and served with olives, cheese and crackers.
The Spanish term "tapas" actually used to mean "cover" or "lid" which was a slice of meat or bread that covered your wine to keep it free of dust. Now, it refers to light meals, small plates or an appetizer served with drinks. I usually know which cheeses to buy if I want to make a nice cheese plate, however, I never know which types of cured meats are the "right" ones to impress people. It is a whole new territory of snacking that I enjoyed exploring.
Normally, I am not a big fan of chorizo. I find it too spicy and overpowering. The Espuna chorizo was quite mild and had a nice, deep red colour. I was expecting the canitas to taste like "pepperettes." They are obviously much nicer than those and pack a lot of flavour punch for such thin sticks. I did prefer the salami canitas over the chorizo canitas. Like most cured meats, they can be salty, so I find I need to only eat a few at a time or balance it all out with cheese or something neutral. One thing I did love--which I'm not sure if I was supposed to do--is cut up the meats to use in cooking. I used some of them on a homemade pizza and more in a quiche. I almost preferred the tapas cooked and warmed. Just goes to show how versatile they are and how many ways you can serve them.
Last weekend we had friends staying for the weekend, so it was the perfect time to bring out some tapas, drink some wine and sit by the fireplace. As much as I love having people come to visit, I wonder how people with Airbnb's host people all the time. From cooking to cleaning and organizing things to do, it is fun, but sometimes tiring. Along with some relaxing, movie watching and chatting, we made time to check out some Ottawa hot spots because no trip is complete without checking out some local food. I bought a half dozen donuts from Suzy Q donuts and some bread from Art Is In Bakery beforehand. Then we went back to Art Is In to stock up on more supplies (i.e croissants and bread).
One of those local hot spots that I have wanted to go to forever was House of Targ. It is a bar, live music venue and pinball and classic arcade. You would think that kind of place would be hopping on Friday and Saturday nights (and it usually is) and would not expect it to be a happening hangout on a Sunday morning. They also do Sunday brunch along with arcade games. I didn't know what to expect as I had never been there before, so at first I was a little hesitant taking friends there for Sunday brunch. I was relieved that so many other people--especially families--were loving the vibe and the brunch. House of Targ's food speciality is perogies and the brunch came with some of the delicious perogies as well as kolbassa sausage (photo from Instagram).
I have this knack for taking people to weird and wonderful places when they are in town. Thankfully it was a big hit. That night we went for dinner at Two Six Ate for half-price bottles of wine and shared a feast of chicken confit poutine, foie burgers, pasta and more. We had a few dinners at home cooked by yours truly, including chicken drumsticks, sesame noodle salad and an Asian-inspired green salad. Seriously, if you stay at my house, you will be fed well.
Disclosure: I received free samples of Espuna Tapas Essentials for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.