The painful, wonderful joy of Spain’s best tapas bars

As a poor college student backpacking through Europe, one of the more painful ordeals I experienced was exercising enough self-restraint at Spain’s delicious tapas bars to not eat myself into even worse poverty.

The temptation was nearly irresistible. Let me set the stage for you: after a full day of walking for miles and taking in the sights, I’d find myself in an aged and weathered pub in the early evening, hunched over the bar and staring at dozens of small plates loaded up with the most tantalizing, bite-sized morsels–each of which pleaded seductively for me to wolf it down.

These compact, culinary masterpieces were dollops of perfection bursting with rich and addictive flavors that threatened to bleed my money belt dry. And, at a couple of bucks a pop, this was a very likely scenario considering that it would have taken a few dozen to satiate my appetite.

I’m looking forward to returning to Spain one day now that I have a real job and with it, the freedom to eat as many damn tapas as I please. In the meantime, I’m going to file away a wonderful Travel & Leisure article I recently came across featuring 36 of the very best tapas bars in San Sebastián, Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid. And then one day, I’m going to eat my way through Spain.

Holiday readiness: A lesson in sparkling wine from around the globe and calamari

I was on the quest for a Christmas present for my dad when I came across this wonderful lesson on sparkling wines and cooking calamari from the Culinary Institute of America. Located in the Hudson Valley in Hyde Park, just outside of Poughkeepsie, New York, this is one of the best cooking schools in the world. I’ve eaten at the American Bounty Restaurant there a couple of times. Bliss.

This video starts out with an in depth, but breezy run through of sparkling wines from around the world that are affordable and popular–perfect to search out for holiday cheer. The range is from Italy to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There’s also a demonstration on how to safely open sparkling wine without putting someone’s eye out or losing all the bubbles. After that, John Fisher, an associate professor at the institute shows the best way to pan fry calamari to go with the sparkling wine. Oh, even more bliss. Here is the recipe for the calamari from the Culinary’s Web site. It doesn’t look that hard to make, and it tastes so good.