Tuesday, July 10, 2012

7/9/12 - Flashback! Culinary Adventures in Madrid

The Picture and the Frame had a show last night, but aside from that, I didn't do much of note. Actually, I tried Domino's new gluten-free pizza, and I have to admit, it was pretty good. I'm kind of excited about the prospect of being able to order pizza again, not that I ever did it much, but it's nice to have the option.

I also visited Jessie and Baby Grey. Always good to see my bestie and pinch that baby's fat little cheeks!

That's about it for July 9th, so we're going to flashback to April and my wonderful trip to Spain where I would still be if life was fair. I started out in London, where I met up with the lovely Ms. Sarah Fuller. We hopped a nice cheap flight to Madrid, where we spent 3 days, then we took a day trip to Toledo, and then a night train to Barcelona for the next 3 days. It was too short, but then it always is, I find. Still, in that painfully brief trip, we did so much I think I may have to reserve this post for Madrid alone. Okay, narrowing it down further: our culinary adventures in Madrid. Que Rico!

Things to know about eating in Spain:
1)You can get fresh squeezed orange juice pretty much everywhere.
2)You can eat breakfast in a bar
3)You will pay more to eat at a table than the bar, and even more to sit outside
4)You will pay absurdly higher prices for breakfast if you eat it after 9.
5)You must like olives, cheese, ham, and seafood, or at least one of those things, or you will starve.

6)Contrary to popular belief, it's not that hard to eat vegetarian. There are a number of really good veg places!
7)If you're gluten-free (like me), pack Gluten-zyme. You will need it.

I'm positively besotted with the Mercado de San Miguel. 
We went there at least twice, so I'm giving it a lot of play here.

                 Yummy olives, sangria, and vermouth on ice

Mmm, Sangria...

More olives! With cheese and with pickles. Piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese 

Sweets of every description

The biggest shrimp you've ever seen!

I had the best fresh mozzarella EVER there. EVER!
Mine had blueberry jam and lemon zest.                       Sarah's had rocket, balsamic glaze, and olive oil.

When in Spain, you really gotta go native with their eating habits, which is a little tough to adjust to as an American who eats breakfast. Still, I think I like how they do things better. And when in Spain, you must eat tapas. No need to do it all in one place either. Madrid has tons of awesome tapas bars, the smaller offerings are right on top of the bar (under glass), and there's usually larger raciones that can be ordered from an elusive paper menu. You just wander from one to the next, having a drink and a tapa or 2 in each. The only hazard is that it can be easier to order drinks than food, since they're not big on menus and sometimes you can't get close enough to the bar to see what they have out. Sarah and I found this out the hard way on our first tapas crawl.
The first night we had a sedate dinner at a lovely vegetarian restaurant, but the next night we were ready for adventure, so with Rick Steves on my smart phone, we set out for Cava Baja.
The first stop: Txakolina Pintxoteca Madrilena. We had a glass of Txakoli at this bustling little Basque spot, but it was tough to get a look at the food, so we decided we'd eat at the next spot. I did get a good look at a pintxo covered in "gulas," which I later discovered are baby eels. No gracias.

The next stop was Taberna Tempranillo, which was my favorite spot of the evening. They had an excellent wine list, and I liked wine I had so much, I had 2 glasses. Do I remember what it was? No.

 We looked at the menu for a little too long before we finally settled on something. It's a good thing they give you a free bite with each glass of wine.
Perfect! Sarah eats the gluten, I eat the meat.
Possibly the only substantial thing we ate all night.
This is where it starts to get hazy. We went to at least 2 more bars, and I'm pretty sure we didn't eat anything else.

Tropical themed, full of kids.

 The above glasses of wine were the straws that broke the camel's backs. The next picture is the last thing we (kind of) remember before waking up in our beds in the morning.

We let ourselves sleep in a bit. Nothing opens til 10 anyway. We found a bar, and paid too much for the following breakfast. I had one of the inumerable tortilla espanolas consumed on this trip (not a particularly notable example), a green tea, and an orange juice. It set me back about 15 Euros. If we had been there an hour earlier, it would have been less than half that. They're tricky, those Spaniards. We were just too hungover to keep looking.

After vowing not to let any of this happen again, we set off to sight-see.

Conveniently located near the Palacio Real, is the famous Cafe de Oriente. We stopped in for a late lunch. Sarah had the tortilla espanola, and a very expensive Diet Coke.

I could kick myself for not photographing my cream of squash soup. It was beautiful and delicious, garnished with crispy bits of serrano ham. One of the best things I ate the whole trip.

That night we decided to rein it in a bit, and perhaps eat a bit more than we drank for dinner. We went upscale and grown up near Plaza Santa Ana. We started at Vinoteca Barbechera, which was a very hip wine bar with interesting, upscale tapas, and a great atmosphere. It was also the only place we went all day that was warm enough for me to take off, not only my coat and scarf, but also my sweater.
Check out the foreign currency under the glass table-top

 On the left we have sauteed leeks with a brie-like cheese, and on the left creamed spinach with an aged goat cheese, both on amazing bread.

The next stop was Gonzalez, a wine and cheese shop that offers table service tapas. It's a funny thing in Spain, almost every business seems to also incorporate some sort of cafe. I love it. We had to wait a bit for one of the marble tables in the market area. We had a glass of wine and some olives in the bar/hallway, while we perused the menu.

These don't look like much, but hot damn, they were good. Clockwise from the top we have goat cheese with honey, queso fundido with quince paste, and in the front, tapenade.

 I like this lil' senorita
 And this one too!
In case you were wondering where to get canned lamb trotters or quail escabeche, they have it at Gonzalez.

Another gastronomic highlight, and something you must try (but probably only once) are churros. We went to Chocolateria San Gines, where they fry them to order. These are not like Mexican churros. They're long and thin, with no cinnamon or sugar. They're served with hot chocolate, which is really more like pudding. You dip the churros in the chocolate, and purr with delight.

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