Tapas craze hits St. Augustine

Photo by Charlotte Cudd
Sangria’s is a tapas restaruant located at Hypolita St. and St. George St. Tapas are essentially appetizers.

By Alison McCauslin

If Spanish isn’t your first — or even second — language, you probably wouldn’t know what they are. These edible mysteries are growing more and more popular across the country, and several St. Augustine establishments are making the most of it.

What exactly are tapas? In basic terms they’d be labeled as appetizers. “Tapas” is the Spanish word for “cover,” and there are two explanations concerning how the term came about.

One version says that a piece of bread was placed over wine to protect it from fruit flies and people started stacking snacks on top of the covering.

The other version is that tavern owners discovered the smell and taste of mature cheese covered that of cheap wine. Either way, the tradition has been passed through time as well as cultures to become the fad it is today.

Have Flagler students caught on to this fad? To an extent.

“I’ve been to Sangria’s to get a glass of wine,” said senior Stephanie Kauffman. “But I didn’t actually know they had tapas.”

Like most students, she had a vague idea of what tapas were but not enough to go out specifically for them. Several other students agreed, but felt tapas aren’t necessarily something that students would crave. As one senior stated, “It’s more of a social thing.”

To examine this social phenomenon, Sangria’s is a good place to start, considering it is nearby and has an accesible tapas menu.

There is also Cafe Spain and The Tasting Room that serve tapas, and a new tapas restaurant is opening on Anastasia Boulevard to add to the options around town.

What exactly sparked this trend?

“Celebrities,” said Adriana Sicari, a Flagler senior and waitress at Sangria’s. She went on to explain that celebrities were so enthusiastic over tapas in New York and Los Angeles that the trend caught and spread. Tapas at Sangria’s, however, aren’t just cheese and bread. The menu includes crab cakes, organic salsa and chips, bruschetta, spanakopita, and sushi, and that’s not including desserts. As Chef Robert Nutter said, “Not your ordinary tapas.”

Having been a chef for 20 years, Nutter knows variety is the spice of life. Fussy eaters might not care for these tapas, but more adventurous diners will enjoy them.

For instance, the black bean and sweet potato burrito fingers are an appealing combination of sweet and seasoned that you will not find at other places. And the pumpkin cheesecake was in fact “very tasty” as promised by the menu. Nutter emphasized that customers won’t get “frou-frou” food because no small portions are served. As opposed to other countries, tapas in the U.S. are typically larger portions and meant as meals as well as for sharing.

Considering the lack of knowledge of tapas amongst Flagler students, curiosity and the desire to try them has increased.

As Laura Higley, a junior at Flagler, put it, “I’ve never really heard of them, but I like to try new things.” Many students who haven’t tried or even heard of tapas echo this sentiment when they discover them.

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