Itâ€™s true that Spanish tapas are the most romantic of foods. The Swiss may have their fondues to share, but when it comes to Spanish cuisineâ€”hot or coldâ€”these diminutive servings of fish, meat or vegetables, prepared by capable hands, can turn ordinary outings into extraordinary experiences.
And thereâ€™s no place in Santa Fe with the same combination of charm and cuisine as El Farol. The tapas, bocadillos (grilled sandwiches) and entrÃ©es, which include perhaps the best seafood paella in town, are somehow made more delicious by the mural-covered walls and creaky wood floors. The pinchos morunos, Moroccan-style pork skewers with harissa, and gambas al ajillo, sautÃ©ed garlic shrimp with lime and Madeira, are classics. But they must share the limelight with aguacate, one half of a fried avocado with salsa cruda and lime crÃ©ma so tasty that it could cause your eyes to roll into the back of your head.
When you regain consciousness, perhaps a tapa fria will perk you up. Consider the escabeche (pickled carrots with garlic, oregano, orange and chile) or jamÃ³n Serrano (Spainâ€™s monumentally good salt-cured ham) with mustard. And because we are talking about experiences, no Spanish meal would be complete without Cabrales, a northern Spanish blue cheese, here laced with a touch of honey and almonds, and perhaps a touch of dry sherry to complement the ancient flavors.
When the meal is complete, the helpful staff will happily lead you to the bar areaâ€”if you donâ€™t happen to be sitting in it alreadyâ€”to enjoy a cocktail or two and dance off the calories to live music into the wee hours of the morning. (Gabe Gomez)