The first time I told my friends that I was going to a Tapas restaurant for a class assignment, they thought I had said I was going to a topless restaurant for a class assignment. How embarrassing. However, I can’t blame them because tapas dining is something that I had never even heard of until it was discussed in my Food and Travel Writing class. There was an article in the food section of The New York Times that showed all of these exquisite, tiny dishes that were served at a restaurant in NYC. It made me think that you would just go into a restaurant and tell the waiter “I’ll be dining tapas tonight” (not topless!) and they would proceed to bring you course after course of small delectable treats to please.
Unfortunately, I have come to learn that that is not how tapas dining works, but it still seems like it will be an experience. My first tapas experience will be at the restaurant Fandango in downtown Kalamazoo: a corner shop with two walls of windows. I looked up there menu and saw various dishes such as paella, mahi mahi, and something called lollipop lamb. Fandango seems to be taking up with its tapas dining, the Spanish influence behind it, also serving “patatas bravas” and “rojio chicken.” I’m excited by trying this Spanish cuisine because, even though I know it won’t be the same, it’s like a pre-food tourism before my hopeful excursion to Spain this spring.
When I called the restaurant, a buoyant male voice answered and was happy to answer my questions about Fandango. He told me that tapas dining is an experience meant to be shared with other people and consists of people ordering multiple entrées off the menu to be able to try various things. He also was happy to inform me that my planned time of arrival at 6:30 on a Saturday is the perfect time to arrive before the place gets hopping. I really like that guy. I hope the whole place is like him.
The menu and the service I have experienced so far have reminded me of our various talks about food is only one aspect of the experience. I will forever associate the happy, bubbly secretary with the restaurant, even though I haven’t gone there yet. As Lucy Long puts it in her essay “Culinary Tourism”: our expectations will shape the interchange…enactment of such tourism involves at least two actors, real or imagined, the host and the guest, the producer and the consumer” (Long 32). I hope that the place is as happy and upbeat as that man has made me imagine; and that goes for the food too. I’m expecting explosions of tastes that I’ve never had, and service that is off the charts. Maybe I’m setting myself up for failure, but that man’s voice has really gone a long way in boosting my expectation.
Being someone who is usually very reserved in food choice, I’ve never eaten seafood, or tried any other ethnic food than Chinese and taco bell, I hope to push my boundaries, perhaps break them. I also hope that this experience will be a prequel to the food I hope to have in Spain. Here’s to hoping. Bring on the tapas!