The importance of this social event has its clearest example in the south of Spain. If we ask one of the food lovers who live in these latitudes: “hey, where would be a good place to eat?” Surely the answer is the address of some tapas bar in the area.
Before entering into matter and to justify the name of these great snacks, we will refer to the word tapa which means in its first meaning, according to the RAE (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language): 1. f. Piece that closes the upper part of boxes or containers.
The origin of this custom has several versions but we choose the one that is typical for the area of Cadiz, the place with the most history and tradition of our old Europe. The waiter was asked for a glass of wine and in order to cover it (so flies or sand grains would not fall into it) a piece of cheese, a little ham or sausage on a plate would be put on the glass. All of the very traditional foods, which we have preserved and eaten for hundreds of years, have been an…
Curiously enough, this most Spanish of all dishes, which is practically a byword for “Spanishness”, is neither Spanish, nor is it known as “paella” here in Spain! The original recipe is lost in the mists of time, but scholars now believe that the dish was brought to Iberia by the Phoenicians, long before the birth of Christ.
If you wish to discuss paella with a Spaniard, please refer to it as “arroz” (rice), because that’s the name by which we know it. Though the most famous version hales from Valencia, paella is regarded as a local specialty in just about every corner of Spain.
To find the best locally produced products we popped into Marquez Tienda on Carrera Espinel, right next door to Restaurant Casa Ortega, and just around the corner from Plaza de Socorro, Ronda’s main square.
The Serranía de Ronda, as a small part of Andalucía is blessed with many hundreds of local artisans producing everything from wines, cheeses, honey, specialist meat goods, olive oil, bottled chestnuts, quince jams, and non-edible goods such as olive oil hand creams, soaps, leather goods, and ceramics.
Marquez is conveniently located for tourists, who probably comprise the bulk of their customers, though Rondeños looking for specialist items not found in supermarkets can often be found entering the store, in fact many phone ahead and place their orders.
Close to home Ronda is known for the wines certified as originating from the district, and Marquez proudly display the certificate awarded to José Antonio Itarte of Cortijo Los Aguillares for their Gold Medal win at Mondial du Pinot Noir, switzerland in 2009.
Other notable wines on the shelves at Marquez include some of the Serranía’s best petit verdot varieties such as the 2006 private reserve Principe Alfonso de Hohenlohe or the 2005 Ándalus, both of which are considered excellent representatives of their type.
Locally produced meats from Benaojan and Arriate are readily available, legs of jamón hang from the ceiling, twists of chorizo too. And in the refrigerator look out for Zurrapa de Lomo, a type of local paté made from pork loin fat and lard which is salted, and usually spread on toast for breakfast.
No leg of jamón would be complete without queso curado, so be prepared to buy this as well. A favourite serving in many tapas bars is jomón y queso, quite simply thinly sliced pieces of cured ham off the bone, and triangles of Spanish cured cheese. Queso curado isn’t anything like cheese from northern nations, it is much harder and greasier, and definitely not creamy, but it’s a local specialty that grows on you very quickly.
Desserts aren’t forgotten, jars of quince or chestnuts in their juices or water are available, as is honey from Grazalema or Guirlache from Valencía. in fact the complete tapas dinner and wine is stocked from Marquez, and if you’re staying in Ronda without cooking facilities, Marquez should be on your list of specialtly stores to visit.
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