Tapas can be as simple as small plates of store-bought olives, anchovies, fried almonds, chorizo slices, and piquillo peppers passed around with pre-dinner drinks.

Or they can make up a whole colorful meal or buffet of small dishes.

At Spanish bars, tapas are usually served consecutively, each on its own plate, and I always urge my friends to try one tapa after another, rather than mix all the flavors and dishes on one plate.

Any tapas party should begin with a trip to the local market for Spanish cheeses, olives, almonds, anchovies, and dry-cured chorizo or good salami. Then pick a few tapas recipes, a salad, empanadas, perhaps a meatball dish and Ole!