What do the Baltimore Ravens, Michigan (football) Wolverines, Montreal Canadiens have in common? Two different countries. Two different sports. Three different cities. Three different teams. The answer? The fans of all three have been known to break into the chant: “Olé, Olé, Olé”.
“The word ‘olé’ itself, being a Spanish interjection thought to be of Arabic origin, or derived from the Germanic in the Iberian Peninsula, from which it also derives the English “Hello” and the neighbour Portuguese “Olá”, mostly associated with the bullfighting of last centuries, but also with the sports after the 19th century. It was chanted when individuals seemed to rise above themselves in performance…. It is also used by supporters of the University of California, Santa Barbara's Gaucho intercollegiate sports teams, particularly the basketball, soccer, cross-country, and track programs, and led to the creation of a mascot, simply named Olé” (wikipedia.org).
So what does this have to do with anything? Does anyone even care? Well, today I am writing about a Spanish tapas restaurant (Yes, in Lafayette, LA!)—Pamplona Tapas Bar & Restaurant—and I just thought it appropriate to begin with something Spanish.
In addition to the two interior dining rooms, Pamplona has a small sidewalk patio just large enough for four two-tops. It is from this patio that Pamplona, during the Festival International de Louisiane, sells tapas, small dishes of paella, and sangria to festival attendees.
I started with the Brandada de bacalao or salt cod and potato bites.
While I was eating my salt cod fritters, Chuck was attacking his bowl of Asturian Fabada with great gusto.
Still seething (perhaps that is too strong a word) from the menu change, I was at a loss as to my second selection. Finally, I chose the roasted beet and goat cheese salad.
I happen to love frisée as much as I did curly endive as a child. But an opposing view is presented at amateurgourmet.com: “No one looks at a coil of barbed wire and thinks, ‘I would like to eat that.’ Yet there are eaters among us who see a plate of frisée and think that very thought. Psychologists have a word for these people: masochists. How else to explain the inexplicable desire to consume razor-like stalks of pale green lettuce, each bite ravaging the inside of one’s mouth? It’s time for someone in the food world to stand up and expose frisée for what it really is: a sadistic trick of nature, seducing chefs and gardeners around the world with a hidden pheromone that creates the illusion that frisée is actually good to eat. I assure you, it’s not.” Well, yes it is. Especially when lightly dressed with a balsamic vinegar and oil dressing.
Chuck’s next item—the house-made Longoniza and Peppers—was listed under the tapas heading, but if “tapas are snacks, canapés or finger food” (spanishfood.about.com), this dish was way too large to be tapas.
If this wasn’t enough food, there is still one more item. Many of the reviews of Pamplona that I read indicated that you need to order the sangria and the fries. Well, I can’t drink sangria since it contains oranges and/or orange juice. But the fries, yes.
“…it was only a matter of time before top chefs found a way to make the most universal of comfort foods into a gastronomic luxury. And found it they have in duck fat fries. Although they may look and act like regular fries, duck fat fries are to the standard spud stick as Epoisse (Ed. Note: I had to look this one up. It is a French cheese and “…Epoisses is actually a French word meaning ‘completely worth the effort’—either that or ‘stinky but incredibly loveable’” [murrayscheese.com].) is to Velveeta.
“‘Our customers are absolutely addicted to them,’ says Rob Evans, owner of Duck Fat, a restaurant in Portland, Maine. ‘I went on a bender myself the first year we were open.’ In southwestern France — the homeland of foie gras — they’ve been frying potatoes in duck fat since the time of Charlemagne, or at least since Charles de Gaulle. But all of a sudden, everywhere from the Harrison in New York to the Blue Duck Tavern in DC to Baltimore’s Salt to San Francisco’s One Market, American chefs are converging on duck fat to make a French fry beyond which there is no greater French fry” (Daniel Duane at archive.mensjournal.com).
Well, did we chant "Olé, Olé, Olé" after lunch? No. Just Olé, Olé. And all because I am still mad about the menu change. Still, Pamplona Tapas Bar & Restaurant does earn 4.0 Addies.