When it comes to food, wine and conviviality, the Spanish seem to have it all figured out. Increased attention to Spanish grape varietals such as Albariño, Garanacha and Tempranillo have put more and more Spanish wine producers on the global map. Celebrity chef José Andrés' popular PBS television show Made in Spain has tempted the palates of curious foodies from coast to coast.
One of Spain's favorite culinary pastimes, eating tapas -- or small, saucer-sized portions of food, usually accompanied by sherry, aperitifs or cocktails -- has slowly made its way into mainstream American culinary circles.
To experience tapas at its best, tour the streets of Seville, which boast more than 4,000 tapas bars -- roughly 1 for every 200 locals.
To keep logistics simple, this tapas-bar-hopping itinerary is limited to the Barrio Santa Cruz, or the areas surrounding the centrally located Catedral de Sevilla, Giralda and Alcázar.
Please keep in mind the spirit of tapas-bar-hopping is rather impromptu and revolves around walking, talking, eating and drinking, so serendipitous straying from Travel Channel's plan of attack is encouraged.
Located just north of Santa Cruz and across from the Murillo Gardens, Bar Modesto is widely regarded as one of the city's best tapas bars. The terrace is a bit touristy; cozy up to the counter inside for bite-sized delights. The emphasis is on seafood; try the fritadura modesto -- tempura-style fried strips of onions, green and red peppers, topped with plump, breaded prawns.
Mesón Cinco Jotas
Brought to you by Grupo Osborne, Spain's largest family-owned wine producer, Mesón Cinco Jotas is renowned for its pricey Iberian jamón (ham). The free-range pigs are fed a diet primarily of acorns, then cured for an extended period of time, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth, fat-flecked meat. Paired with Manchego cheese, it's pure nirvana.
Originally a Moorish bathhouse, this is one of Seville's most famous bars. The selection of tapas is expansive; be sure to try the espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas) or patatas a la importancia (fried potatoes stuffed with ham and cheese). Soak up cathedral views from the in-demand outdoor seating area.
On the site of a former prison and west of the cathedral, this teeny tiny bar holds no more than 20 people. Its tapas are more elaborate than most -- try the eggplant layered with salmon, cod and langoustine or the foie gras mousse. They also serve an excellent selection of sherries.
For a low-key and very local experience, swing by Casa Romón. One of the city's older establishments, this tapas bar is famed for its tostadas rubbed with tomato with cured jamón, caña de lomo (cured pork tenderloin) and delicious fried bacalao (salt cod).
Chorizo: smoked pork sausage
Frituras: fried dishes
Jamón Iberico: prized ham made from acorn-fed, black-footed pigs
Jamón: Spanish cured ham
Lomo: air-dried loin of pork
Migas: fried breadcrumbs
Navajas: razor clams
Pan con tomate: crusty bread, rubbed with tomato and garlic, then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt
Patatas bravas: crispy wedges of potato, topped with aioli
Pisto: stew of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini
Revuelta: scrambled eggs
Salchichon: cured pork sausage
Tortilla Español: Spanish omelette with potato and onion
Txpirones: baby squid
Tapas Etiquette 101
-- Tapas are typically displayed under glass or on top of the bar.
-- Most bars push larger portions called raciones (dinner-plate-sized); ask for the smaller tapas portions.
-- Eating and drinking is usually cheapest at the counter (barra).
-- You may pay a little more to eat sitting at a table (mesa) and still more for an outdoor table (terraza).
-- Speak up or you'll never be served. Por favor (please) grabs the guy's attention.
-- Don't worry about settling up until you're ready to leave. To get the bill, ask, "La cuenta?"