It is hard to believe that just last week I returned after spending two blissful weeks in Barcelona. Our hotel was on the edge of the city overlooking the beaches of the Mediterranean. The art and the architecture were amazing and served as a great pastime to keep us busy between meals.

Oh, that’s right… the meals!

Tapas – a caterer’s inspiration. Hundreds of ideas on small plates and passed hors d’oeuvres combined with the energy of a bustling Tapas restaurant creates the excitement that foodies love. We enjoyed every imaginable croquette (a mixture of meat or veggie formed into small ovals dipped in bread crumbs and then deep fried), roasted eggplant atop crostini with a dab of Romesco, grilled spring onions with fried potatoes, whole shrimp- grilled to perfection, mussels escabeche, cod every which way and gazpacho served in wine glasses. (see photos)

The dining schedule is quite different than ours. Imagine lunch served between 2pm and 4pm while dinner doesn’t open until 8:30pm. Only the early birds show up at 8:30pm while 10pm is the prime time to dine! The dinner menus helped me understand true Mediterranean food; plates of warm beans, delicious salads, roasted meats, paellas and the delicious flavor of warm olive oil. The meal ended on a sweet note with creamy custards for dessert while still savoring delicious local wines.

Last but not least, I will always remember Barcelona as the place I began my love affair with anchovies. Whether marinated, served warm, cold or fried they were a whole new experience. Lots of ideas to include in this year’s seasonal menus…

Pat Christofolo is the owner and CEO of Artisan by Santa Barbara Catering, servicing the greater Phoenix area. Please visit our full website for contact information and media inquires.