Homemade Spanish food hits Hollywood

A Los Angeles food stand and catering company offering traditional Spanish cuisine has become a Hollywood star and now counts Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Katherine Bigelow and Lena Headey among its loyal customers.

Homemade Spanish food hits Hollywood
Stars and directors now have Spanish delicacies and dishes delivered to their homes and movie sets by Carmen Ruiz. Photo: Españolita Foods

Carmen Ruiz de Huidobro moved to the United States from Spain to work as an art director but changed her career course after having a baby.

The company she founded, Españolita Foods, has gone on to become an unexpected smash hit in 'tinseltown'.

Speaking to Spanish daily ABC she said, "It all started five years ago with a paella I ordered that turned out to be very mediocre."

She added: "I found that Spanish food was very poorly represented in California."

"One one hand you have restaurants with Latin American cooks who make everything hot and spicy or Americans who love our country but don't know how to simply interpret our flavours."

In her opinion, "There wasn't anywhere normal, unpretentious and open to everyone that showed how we eat in Spain."

On her company website, she writes: "The way in which I believed Españolita could be introduced was by embracing California's love for seasonal and fresh food, that I also remembered from my childhood summers in Mallorca, Spain."

The Españolita Foods and Imports stand in the Farmer's Market of Studio City has become extremely popular.

"The reception has been wonderful," says Carmen.

Meanwhile, her catering service now supplies movie director Paul Thomas Anderson at home every week plus the office of Steven Spielberg at Dreamworks.

Other acclaimed directors such as Paul Ross and Katherine Bigelow visit her stand to buy gourmet Spanish delicacies and Game of Thrones star Lena Heady  both visits and orders Bellota ham to be delivered to her on-set.

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Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

The Local's Esme Fox, a long-term Barcelona resident, shares some of her favourite city bars that serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

Spain is of course celebrated for its tapas, small plates of food, designed for sharing and consisting of favourites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers) and croquetas (croquettes of different varieties such as ham or mushrooms). 

One theory is that tapas were invented in order to cover your wine or beer glass, so that flies and other bugs wouldn’t fly in. The barman would give customers a piece of bread topped with jamón (ham) or queso (cheese) in order to act as a lid or in Spanish ‘tapa’, hence the name tapas.

Although most cities in Spain no longer serve free tapas when you buy a drink, there are still some cities where you are guaranteed a free snack. This is still true in the southern cities of Granada, Almería and Jaén, in León and Segovia, as well as a few others dotted around the country.

Despite this, you can still find the odd bar serving the old-fashioned free tapa in some of Spain’s largest and most expensive cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

So, next time you’re in the Catalan capital, save some money by visiting one of these bars, where you’ll still get served a free tapa along with your drink.  

READ ALSO: Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Keep in mind, you won’t be served a free drink if you just order a coffee and sometimes not with a soft drink either, it’s usually when you buy a glass of beer or wine.

Ca’l Chusco

This small traditional bar in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta offers one free tapa every time you order a drink. It’s usually something small and simple, but if you’re still hungry then you can always order one of their delicious paellas or plates or seafood too. 

This cute and contemporary little tapas joint, situated on the edge of Gracia, is so popular that it often gets very crowded, so get here early if you want a spot at the bar. It costs around €2-4 for a drink and a small tapas dish, which you can choose from a large selection. There’s everything from croquetas and hummus to small sausages.

Pappa e Citti

It’s not just authentic Spanish bars offering free tapas in Barcleona, at traditional Sardinian restaurant Pappa e Citti in the barrio of Gracia, they offer it too. Be aware that free tapas with your drink is only served between 6-9pm. Small tapas offerings may have an Italian twist or maybe something simple like a piece of bread topped with cream cheese and caramelised onions.

La Xula Taperia

In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, this modern and stylish bar offers the closest thing to a Granadino-style free plate of tapas. Rather than just a small piece of bread topped with an ingredient, their free offerings include meatballs, anchovies or even ensaladilla rusa (Russian potato salad).

Casa Arana

Located in the heart of the Sant Andreu neighbourhood, not far from the metro stop of the same name, Casa Arana is a small local barrio bar. As well as the regular drinks on offer, they make their own beer in either tostada (toasted) or rubia (pale) varieties, which is served in a tall glass and looks like an ice cream sundae. The free tapa served with your drink is typically a piece of baguette topped with a simple ingredient such as jamón, chistorra (cured sausage) or cheese.

Cassette Bar

This tapas and cocktail bar located in the heart of Raval has a decidedly 80s themed vibe and name to match. They have been serving free tapas for the past 14 years – something typical like piece of bread and tomato topped with a slice of tortilla (Spanish omelette).