Manhattan Summer Treats, By Mara L.

It just occurs to me that, now that summer is nearly here, I should add a word of caution to my culinary musings about the virtues of Mediterranean cooking. I am just reminded that some of my friends here came back in shock from trips to Spain, and they came rather close to putting the blame on me: Why hadn’t I told them that any normal health-conscious Manhattanite is entirely lost there?

Copyright 2007 Jens Haas

The story goes that fried food and red-meat-overeating are American preoccupations, but in fact, Spain is all frittata and jamon (that’s tortilla and, as people here would say, prosciutto from Serrano). Not to forget tons of mayonnaise. One of my classmates actually was Spanish and she used to eat whole jars of Mayonnaise, but let’s not even think about that. Paella all too often swims in heavy yellow olive oil. And so on. (It’s somewhat better at the key touristy seaside places, during high-season, but who wants to be there?)

So, it is best to travel to Spain via Italy, get a suitcase full of Grancereale (see my previous entry), and consider yourself on a diet of fruit and nut. That’s by the way also my strong recommendation for anyone from Manhattan traveling to more remote places in Greece.

However, I have a somewhat more appealing suggestion for those who don’t want to travel quite that far, and want to give Spanish food a try. There’s one thing that needs to be said in favor of it: If consumed with style, and that means, with fino—that’s how you refer to the dry sherry you drink in bars—bar food is a whole way of life. And such a charming one! And even better, if the tapas (that’s how the Spanish call the tiny dishes) are somewhat modernized. For that, I recommend venturing to Brooklyn’s tapas bar Zipi Zape. It’s an entirely fun, colorful place, where you can have a delicious bite of quail or a nicely lemonized shrimp in the middle of the afternoon, enjoy café con leche or a sip of fino, and feel like, this year, you almost don’t need this trip to Europe.

Coming up: Where Not To Go In Italy (Or: Who Hates Their Tourists Most…)