While you wait: Bashir's has tapas, too

Since Dish's visit to Belmont's soon-to-open Spanish eatery, Mas, last week, we can't control our craving for tapas. By virtue of size alone, these tasty little dishes seem the perfect antidote to holiday indulgences (and indigestion).

Come to think of it, the very idea of plates loaded with poultry, potatoes, and pecan pie makes us want to Priceline it on over to Madrid 'til 2003. Fortunately, there are ways for tapas aficionados to get their fix, right here in Charlottesville.

For Mediterranean tapas, head to the new golden-hued, lantern-lit Bashir's, where Friday night is always tapas night.

Though he features traditional Spanish tapas– mussels with vinegar, garlic mushrooms, chorizo– Bashir also taps his native North Africa as well as Italy and Greece for inspiration.

Dish knocked our way in last Friday at around 5 (doors open at 6:30) to find the chef from Algiers putting the finishing touches on cakes of shredded phyllo dough filled with walnuts and almonds. In the kitchen, Bashir's three smiling graces (including wife, Kathy) were busy stuffing empanadas with spinach, chopping tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella, spicing up lamb and pork, and tossing shrimp with garlic.

Dish wanted to know, if you're only going to serve dinner two nights a week (Saturday boasts a prix-fixe menu from one country), why tapas?

"Because dinner doesn't need to be so formal." Bashir explains. "Tapas, like kemia in North Africa, means having a drink, tasting a little of this, a little of that. On Saturday, we bring out the tablecloths, but Friday is for fun, for tapas."

Okay, since tapas are synonymous with informality, there is no "official" menu. Instead, you just enjoy the sampling of flavorful dishes that come your way (a complete meal, not including wine or beer, costs around $11), or simply request "vegetarian, please" or "heavy-on-the-shellfish."

As the aromas continued their intoxicating dance, and the promise of live jazz music became real, we really wished we had made a reservation. Alas, all 50 seats were taken days– if not weeks– ago.

Lucky for us, the place with the most flavors per square foot, the Main Street Market, was still open. Why not host a tapas night of our own? Dish popped into Feast!, and picked up chunks of several Spanish cheeses (fragrant Manchego with rosemary, salty Valdeon blue, nutty Mahon), a quarter-pound of jamon Serrano, some Marcona almonds and a bottle of their best Rioja. We grabbed a bag of fresh shrimp at Seafood @ West Main next door and went home to enjoy the wait for "more."


Project H2Over : Glass is back

 Thanks to Mother Nature's recent bounty, diners won't have to pay extra for water anymore– unless, of course, they choose to do so. Reservoir levels safely surpassed the 85 percent mark, so on Monday, November 18, the City lifted its mandatory usage restrictions. Albemarle County followed suit two days later. Local restaurants involved in Project H20 have likewise decided it is finally time to return to tap water, ceramic plates, and pint glasses.

"Though the drought is still a significant concern to us, we are confident about returning to glass," says Blue Light Grill's kitchen manager, Mike Ketola.

So why was he sipping soda from a plastic cup? "Leftovers," he explained with a grin. Actually, like many local eateries, Blue Light will continue its efforts to conserve wherever possible: "We'll still use plastic for employees and serve [tap] water only on request." In addition, Blue Light plans to continue it recent practice of thawing frozen items in the cooler, instead of under running water.

How do the diners feel about the return to civilized tableware? Apparently, they couldn't be happier. So here's to more dreary days of cold, wet, delicious rain. Did you hear the clink?

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