Last week my job sent me to Chicago. Knowing that I would be busy with work, and also being fairly unfamiliar with the city, I didn't think I would be able to find any "deals." I simply told my friend E to take me out to a delicious meal, never mind the price (Hurray for per diems!) But, when we sat down in Ba Ba Reeba and I saw that they had "Pintxos" or bite sized tapas for $1.50, I knew I had to order them. And when I then tasted how delicious and versatile they were, I knew I would have to write about them. So, I must apologize for the quality of these pictures as I didn't have my camera on me and these are all from my iPhone.
Ba Ba Reeba is a raucous neighborhood place filled with people young and old, trendy hipsters, families, mature couples and everything in between. They have a huge menu that is entirely composed of tapas. While the tapas are primarily Spanish in nature, the variety and scope of the dishes shows that Chef Gabino Sotelino (say that out loud - it's fun!) is clearly knowledgeable of many different types of cuisine.
The first bite was Artisinal Spanish Cheese and Quince. The quince was sweet and soft without being gummy - a fantastic contrast to the harder, sharp cheese (that I'm guessing was a manchego). It was a simple exploration of contrasting flavors and textures - delectable!
Next I sampled the Mushroom and Rice Croqueta. Traditional croquetas can sometimes suffer from being overly greasy, but these were light and crunchy with a rich warm center, topped with a creamy cheese. The only flaw, if I had to find one, would be that they didn't have a very strong mushroom taste - more a cheesy, creamy, sort of flavor. But, I will never complain about cheesy creamy flavors:)
Then came the Short Rib Stuffed Piquillo Pepper. The roasted piquillo was sweet as a bell pepper. It draped over the juicy short ribs like a perky little cap and the entire thing perched atop a crunchy whole wheat toast bite. For $1.50, that's a pretty substantial mouthful!
Then came a spear of Serrano Ham, one of the most classical tapas out there. However, chef Sotelino has jazzed this one up with a tip from the islands: Caramelized Pineapple. Again we have that delicious combination of sweet and salty - classically addicting.
Our last little bite was a Goat Cheese Croqueta. They must raise these goats on a steady diet of lemonade, I can conceive of no other way they could make the cheese taste SO lemony!! It's almost like a cheesy, lemon mousse, though with enough salt to keep it firmly out of the dessert realm and in the mouthwatering appetizer realm.
$7.50 later, our meal was off to a fabulous start. Given my choice, I would literally have an entire meal composed entirely of small bites. Should you ever find yourself in Chicago, Ba Ba Reeba is well worth the trip!
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