party tips

Every great tapas spread includes a few easy-to-assemble dishes, an assortment of cured meats, olives, nuts and other simple items you can find at well-stocked delicatessens and specialty shops, such as the Spanish Table in Berkeley and Mill Valley, or online at www.spanishtable.com or www.tienda.com. Among the easy must-haves:

  • Bowls of olives -- plus a dish for the pits

  • Marcona almonds -- served plain or dusted with Maldon or another flake salt and chopped fresh rosemary

  • Padron peppers -- fried in olive oil over high heat, then served hot, sprinkled with salt

  • Cured meats -- thinly sliced Spanish chorizo and jamon serrano or, if you're feeling flush, the very expensive and very fine Jamon Iberico

  • Cheeses -- manchego and other Spanish cheeses, served with fresh figs, a fruit conserve or membrillo, a quince paste. Want to be clever? Run small skewers through squares of manchego, membrillo and jamon serrano to make easy pintxos.

    -- J. Burrell, Staff