Well, better late than never. I've been back from California wine country for four weeks now and am finally getting around to sharing one of the best tapas experiences I've ever had. Travel + Leisure named Bravas Bar de Tapas "one of the top 20 tapas restaurants in the U.S." and, after dining there, I'm on board with that assessment. I've eaten a lot of tapas and the only places that rival Bravas (in my experience) are The Iberian Pig in Atlanta and Cúrate in Asheville.
First of all, the resto is stupidly adorable (as are most in the Napa/Sonoma area). Small, cozy, pork-scented and convivial, UD and I were salivating from the moment we walked in.
Although we had rezzies, there was a short wait for our table when we arrived so we snagged a couple of seats at the bar. When it immediately became apparent that we'd been blessed with a madly skilled and attentive bartender, we decided to remain there for the duration of our meal.
The tapas menu was so ridiculous in its indulgence factor that it was really tough to drill down to our final selections. We started with a pair of bocadillo offerings: juicy duck meatballs with tomato sofrito and green olive tapenade...
...and (Mommy's fave) foie gras, crispy Serrano ham and "backyard marmalade". Honestly, if I had to choose only one thing to eat for the rest of my life, this would probably be it. Tender, earthy, salty, chewy, sweet...every component was there in these little buns of decadence. The best $12 I ever spent.
We nibbled on some caramelized on the outside-creamy on the inside patatas bravas with spicy tomato sauce and aioli while we pondered our next move. These aren't your daddy's french fries.
Underdog seemed to have a Labrador Retriever-esque fascination with a crispy pig ears and anchovy vinaigrette offering, so I snorted some smelling salts, acquiesced and even tasted one. Emboldened by sangria, I found it tasty (skeevy factor notwithstanding) with a flavor and texture not unlike the pork "cracklins" mom used to put in our cornbread when I was growing up in Tennessee.
My second favorite taste sensation of the evening was the Dungeness Crab Fideua...a riff on paella with toasted vermicelli standing in for the rice. This sexy little skillet was crammed with both crab and flavor. Good gawd!
For dessert, my beloved opted for the Straus Family Organic Soft-Serve with his topping selection. We don't remember what that topping was due to the fact that copious amounts of sangria had been consumed by the time it arrived. We only remember that it was remarkable.
My "Tapas 24" (chocolate mousse quenelles spiked with tangerine oil and sea salt, then garnished with walnut crisp), will never be forgotten. It was luxe, dense, intensely chocolaty, and delightfully scented with citrus. The sprinkling of salt crystals beautifully offset its sweetness. This is the ultimate grown-up chocolate dessert.
Bravas Bar de Tapas is one of the finest dining destinations in California wine country. The price structure is astonishingly moderate, with most small plates priced at under $10. Service is unpretentious and superb. A must-do in Healdsburg.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.