|What are Tapas and Mezes?
As our name implies, we specialize in tapa and meze dishes from the Mediterranean.
So, what exactly are tapas and mezes, and what's the
difference between them?
Tapa means a little small plate you put on top of a drink. Tapa means "lid" or "cover" in Spanish. According to legend, the tapa tradition began
when Castile's King Alfonso the Wise recovered from an illness by drinking wine and nibbling small dishes between meals. After regaining his
health, the king ordered taverns to serve their guests food along with wine, and the tapas became a kind of loophole in the law to allow drinkers
to imbibe alcohol.
The original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This
was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry.
In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. (sometimes as late as 12 midnight), leaving significant time between work and dinner.
Therefore, Spaniards often go "bar hopping" (Spanish: Ir de tapas) and eat tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. Since
lunch is usually served between 1 and 3 p.m., another common time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before lunch
proper at home.
It is very common for a bar or a small local restaurant to have 8 to 12 different kinds of tapas in warming trays with glass partitions covering
the food. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, chilies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and sometimes in plentiful amounts
of olive oil.
Tapas are served across the Western Mediterranean in countries such as Spain, Morocco, Italy and France.
Mezes are a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs as the arak, ouzo, raki or
different wines, similar to the tapas of Spain or finger foods.
The word and usage of Meze, a word with its roots in antiquity, came to Greece from Turkey. A Meze is not a meal course like an appetizer
(although meze dishes can be served as appetizers), but rather a dish, hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty, that is served, alone or
with other mezethes, as a separate eating experience.
The purpose of the meze is two-fold: to complement and enhance the taste of the drink (wines, ouzo, raki, etc.), and to provide the backdrop
for a social gathering. Unlike appetizers which are intended to whet the appetite for the meal to come, it is common for groups of family and
friends to gather or go out for mezethes, share several of these delightful dishes, a drink, conversation, and laughter.
The little plates are shared by everyone at the table, which not only provides a wonderful variety of flavor and texture sensations, but also
creates the kind of happy, convivial (perhaps noisy) atmosphere for which Eastern Mediterraneans are well known.
There are many dishes traditionally served as mezethes, however there's a great deal of flexibility in what's included on the table, depending
on personal preference. Eastern Mediterranean restaurants often have a separate meze section of the menu, and dishes that might otherwise
be served as an appetizer, a salad, or even a small portion of a main dish can be included. Mezethes are great choices for parties and
Mezes is often a meal in its own right. There are vegetarian, meat or fish mezes. Groups of dishes arrive at the table about 4 or 5 at a time
(usually between five and ten different groups). There is a set pattern to the dishes, typically olives, tahini, salad and yoghurt will be
followed by dishes with vegetables and eggs, then small meat or fish dishes alongside special accompaniments, and finally, more substantial
dishes such as whole fish or meat stews and grills. Different establishments will offer different dishes, their own specialities,
but the pattern remains the same. Naturally the dishes served will reflect the seasons, for example in late autumn, snails will feature in
a meat meze.
As so much food is offered, it is not expected that every dish should be finished. People eat it together, serving each other etc. Eating meze
is a social event.
Mezes are served across the Eastern Mediterranean in countries such as Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Egypt.