October 26, 2012

Perfect Paella in Madrid

When we are not traveling, my husband Jonathan often cooks on Sunday afternoons. Those are some of my favorite days...

While in Madrid we had the opportunity to eat paella at La Barraca, a restaurant famous for this rice dish. (I was skeptical as to whether it would live up to it's hype.) We arrived early for our reservation and were seated in one of the simple, homey dining rooms. We ordered our meal, paella (of course), and settled in to enjoy the atmosphere.

For appetizers I ordered salad and Jonathan ordered tripe. My salad was simple and Jonathan enjoyed his tripe. We ordered the house red wine - a very good Rioja for €13 a bottle. (That was definitely the bargain of the meal!)

Finally our paella arrived! The version we ordered was seafood with clams, mussels, shrimp, prawns, and langoustine. I don't know quite how to describe it... To say it was delicious would be true, but also woefully inadequate. It was definitely the best paella I have ever eaten. The rice was fragrant, the seafood was wonderful, and the dish paired perfectly with the wine. Yes, it was perfect paella and therefore the perfect meal!

October 17, 2012

Madrid and Tapas Culture

We arrived in Madrid on a warm fall day. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. After checking into our hotel and taking a brief siesta, we hit the streets. Our hotel is near Puerto del Sol in the Old City and we began our exploration there. From there we walked along Calle Gran Via admiring the architecture and window shopping. It was a Saturday afternoon and the streets were packed with people - walking, sitting at cafes, enjoying the city of Madrid.

After a while dinnertime brought us indoors for tapas. Guided by my two of my husband, Jonathan's, fraternity brothers who live in Madrid, we began at an unassuming local cafe on Calle del Carmen. Inside groups of people were relaxing and talking over small plates of food. There we tried some of the classics - patatas bravas, tortilla, fried calamari, and jamon - all served with wine from Rioja. The tapas and wine were very good and we enjoyed the atmosphere. Tables all around us where filled with Madrileños eating tapas with friends and family.

From there we crossed Plaza del Sol and entered the maze of streets on the other side. This neighborhood is tightly packed with small tapas bars and cafes serving traditional tapas and often focusing on a single speciality. We went to Museo del Vino for pulpo (octopus) served with potatoes and paprika, tripe, and Spanish wine (of course). From there we continued to La Casa del Abuelo, a tiny (standing room only) serving various shrimp tapas and their own wine.

We ended the evening with churros con chocolat at Chocolateria San Gines. To eat this treat you dip the cruncky churros in the extremely thick hot chocolate. This dessert is rich and delicious beyond explanation...

My first impressions of Madrid are that the people are friendly and vibrant. The atmosphere is relaxed - this is a place where the experience is important. And the food and wine are delicious - yes, Spain is all about the food!