Topless? No–Tapas– in Amherst

Christine Barber-Just writes a restaurant column in Hampshire Life, published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and wrote a few weeks ago about a new tapas restaurant opening up in Amherst soon.

“Nation’s Restaurant News characterizes the small-plates trend as a ”revolution” that has been ”quietly gathering force since the mid-1980s.” But while small plates have been booming in big cities for quite some time, they are only just beginning to find footing in the Valley.

Even chefs like Deborah Snow of the BLUE HERON in Sunderland who serve both small plates and entrees say the balance is tipping toward small plates, thanks in part to changing lifestyles. ”We live our life literally in small bites,” she says ‘ computer bytes, news bites. ”We want a splash of this, a splash of that.”

No surprise, then, that when it comes to eating out, people are looking for more flavors and textures than ever before. Small plates satisfy that craving, says Snow, whose mini offerings range from $4.50 house-made french fries to $18 ”evening dim sum.” Small plates generate excitement ”because there’s a lot of parties in your mouth,” she says. ”With entrees, the first two bites are really exciting, then the party left, and now you’re just eating dinner.”

Small plates are here to stay, as far as Snow is concerned; she thinks of them not as a trend but as a fundamental change in the way we eat. That may be so, but back at Tabella, Emily Wadham and Adrian d’Errico’s experience offers a reality check. As they gear up to open their restaurant, they’ve been surprised to learn that plenty of people don’t even know what tapas are. ”Most of the people we’ve told have thought we said ‘topless,’ ” Wadham says. ”We definitely have had to do a lot of explaining.”