Well kids, all the leaves are gone. And yet we’re still flush from the weekend’s Indian Summer (seventy degrees for our 20 person tailgate on Saturday) and the shock that, at this mid-November-in-Iowa juncture, it’s still warm enough to throw on tights and shorts. Our Halloween pumpkins may not have attracted any trick-or-treaters (!!!) but they did rot, rather than freeze, so let’s be thankful for small blessings.
Where have the last three weeks taken you? I’ve been a smidge busy with starting two jobs in as many weeks and I’ll tell you all about my board-folding, un-deux-trois adventures in due course but today we’re going to talk about food.
I have a soft spot for tapas restaurants. I could happily nosh on their bite-sized, twice-the-taste offerings every day. Not everyone shared this passion, though. See: my birthday restaurant from two years ago, Sala (of the honeyed, baked goat cheese!) on the Bowery shutting its doors. At least we’ve found a fantastic sub out here.
Devotay has fast topped my list of favorite Iowa City restaurants, for several reasons. Obviously, one is the ambiance — low lights, real and fake candles, mismatched chairs, twisted ceiling cloths and most of all, twinkle lights lining the waist-to-ceiling paned windows. (Can someone say little owl?) It’s understated and lovely, and those windows always fools me into thinking we’re in a much bigger and — forgive me — more cosmopolitan city.
Another reason is the zucchini tapas. Easily the best preparation of this vegetable I’ve ever tasted. They’re cut lengthwise, served grilled and juicy and piping hot with an accompanying dollop of the lightest aioli. If I ever cook a suitable approximation of it, I will pass it on and take credit for changing your lives. But in the meantime, I keep hoping to be banished to a desert island and allowed to take only one food, because friends! this would be it.
The rest of the tapas menu is largely a hit, too. In recent visits we’ve been delighted by their crispy mozzarella, chevre, and asiago quesadilla, oozing plate of baked chevre and caramelized onions, and tiny mussels sauteed in white wine. On the weaker end, the grilled calamari and salsa mojo isn’t enough of a twist on the usual fried calamari with some cocktail sauce.
The Devotay paella is a delicious, balanced mix of chorizo, chicken, shrimp and mussels with the usual saffron rice studded with peas and tomatoes. The flavors were a little floppy when we first went, but now they’ve been consistently wow every time. Sure, the restaurant offers a few other main course options like braised lamb, pork loin, a daily preparation of beef and fish, as well as a handful of sandwiches. And I can’t speak to those entrees since I’ve never had them — but why would I? Do the right thing. Follow a round of tapas with a shared serving of their house paella and red sangria. You may be a little disappointed when you leave to find yourself in Iowa City, not the coast of Spain — but at least you get to come back. Again and again.