The Canary Islands are closer to Marrakesh than Madrid, but they belong to Spain. Taste the flavors of Iberia and the Canaries at Tasca Casa Pepe with a patio overlooking a North Bay Village marina. Nibble on a cheese board or tiny sausages flamed in brandy with a glass of crisp albariño as boats bob at the dock.
Owner "Pepe" Jose Ramon Lopez is Cuban with Galician roots. He went into construction and worked for 25 years in Tenerife, the largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands.
The conquering Spanish called the archipelago Canaria for the fierce wild dogs they encountered. Many New World expeditions, including Columbus’, stopped in the Canaries for food and water.
Pepe met Cuban-born manager Leo Gonzalez and Spanish chef Javiar Luis in Tenerife. They relocated to Miami and opened Tasca six months ago.
The menu includes grilled meats and paella, but tapas can make a meal. Papas arrugados con mojo Canary (wrinkled potatoes) bring soft spuds boiled in seawater with cilantro sauce and red pepper dip. There’s also piquillo peppers stuffed with salt cod, shrimp in garlic and pan tumaca (toasted bread rubbed with tomato and draped in Serrano ham).
Octopus is dipped in boiling water three times to tenderize, sliced and served dusted in paprika Galician-style. Pan-seared scallops come with spicy calima sauce (“dust from Africa”) made from ground peanuts and almonds with paprika and olive oil.
Tarta Santiago (almond cake) stenciled with the cross of St. James makes a sweet end with Canarian barraquito, espresso spiked with an aromatic liqueur and topped in milk foam.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who can be reached at email@example.com.