Tapas – Spain’s take on the appetizer. They’re small and savory, and enjoyed best with Sangria.
Tapas Bravas is Austin’s tapas trailer. It resides permanently at 75 Rainey Street, and even though it’s only been open a month, people think it’s a pretty big deal. Get the scoop with the Roaming Hunger exclusive interview with Tapas Bravas chef, Jed Holdredge.
Roaming Hunger: What inspired you to open this food truck?
Jed Holdredge: I used to live in Spain and I found that in order to have real authentic Spanish food in Texas, I’d have to cook it myself. I had been teaching cooking classes and my friends had been begging me for years to open up a restaurant.
RH: So why did you opt for the food truck instead of a restaurant?
JH: I was able to start a food truck in two months whereas a brick and mortar restaurant would have taken about two years. I do plan to roll this into a brick and mortar restaurant but this was a fast, easy, inexpensive way to get things started.
RH: In Spain, you order a bunch of tapas at once, is that right?
JH: Exactly, it’s kind of like sushi, where you just keep ordering as you go. It’s definitely a social event. I try to structure my menu so that one person can go and get two or three things to make a meal, but people enjoy it the most when they bring groups of friends. You can hang out for a couple hours and order things to share.
RH: So how does this translate to a food truck? Since we all only have two hands, how can a group of friends go out and enjoy a bunch of tapas?
JH: We’ve got lots of tables. We’re in a shaded courtyard area. We’ve got twelve picnic tables that we line up back to back. We’ve only been open a month and already we’ve had four birthday parties. Our food truck is stationary; it doesn’t move. We’ve established our authority as a destination. Groups of friends who have read about us make a plan…they’re not just walking down the street.
RH: How have people responded to such a lavish menu?
JH: The patatas bravas is our signature dish and one of the more popular tapas in Spain, and then we have three or four other items that people almost always order. Those would be the croquettes, which is chicken and Serrano ham and onions and spices in a béchamel sauce, breaded and deep-fried. You almost have to try it to really comprehend it. It’s my number one favorite tapa I had in Spain. Another is the imported piquillo pepper stuffed with honey, goat cheese, and roasted pine nuts. That’s really popular. So we have some things that almost everyone wants, and then there are a couple things that aren’t as popular, but if I’m gonna call myself a tapas trailer, I have to serve them. It’s just not tapas without Spanish potato salad for example. In Spain it’s actually called Russian potato salad. It’s with peas and carrots and some other things.
JH: We’ve only been open for a month and this week we were invited to participate in the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. They do an annual Tour de Vin and it’s held at the W Hotel. I’m one of fifteen local chefs that’s been invited to participate. I’m the only food trailer in the group and I’m gonna be alongside some of the top chefs in town. So it’s an incredible offer, especially to be so new on the scene. There’s a huge established brick and mortar tapas restaurant in Austin that’s been open for fifteen or so years, and they asked me to represent Spain.
RH: Talk to me about some of your more ornate ingredients.
JH: The first thing that comes to mind is my rabbit terrine. I buy my rabbit from a local farmer who’s from France. I wasn’t sure how well it was going to appeal to people but it’s actually been popular. The quince preserve, something most people may not be too familiar with, pairs amazingly with the Spanish cheese. It’s almost the equivalent of having pears and grapes on your cheese plate. It gives that sweet, tart flavor.
JH: It’s definitely an education for a lot of customers, not only on ingredients, but on tapas alone. What I’ve found, especially in Austin – which every year is a more and more international and cosmopolitan town – is that we have so many people who have travelled or studied abroad in Spain and miss the cuisine. And with the Latino community in general, you have people who have been to Spain or their great grandparents came from Spain. And then there’s the ravenous local foodie scene that’s always looking for the next big thing.
RH: How does your Crema Catalana compare to the original?
JH: For me, mine is the original. The difference between Crema Catalana and crème brûlée is that crème brûlée is seasoned with vanilla but with my Crema Catalana, I steam the milk with lemon peel and cinnamon sticks so it infuses the flavors. It has the ever-so-subtle, but also noticeable flavor of the lemon and cinnamon, which really reflects Spain’s culinary history. When someone orders a Crema Catalana, I sprinkle the sugar on it and pull out my torch so they can be a part of that experience.
RH: What is the next step for Tapas Bravas?
JH: We are looking at a second truck next year and then the year after that, a brick and mortar restaurant.
by Sienna Mintz