November 30, 2012

More Madrid

As if tapas, paella, Mercado de San Miguel, vibrant city streets, and historic palaces were not enough, we discovered even more in the amazing city of Madrid! When we were planning our trip to Spain, Jonathan insisted that we spent at least four days in this city. I am glad he did, Madrid far exceeded my expectations!

That said, I want to share more of my experiences in the capital of Spain. What else did we do? Went shopping and ate more food, of course! On a sunny day, we headed to the Chueca and Salamanca districts of Madrid. These neighborhoods are both filled with shops and cafes, but they are very different.

We began in Chueca. This district has narrow streets, old architecture, a more edgy feel, and is home to more small shops and local businesses. (There are many international brands there too along Calle de Fuencarral, including Camper, my favorite shoe store.) The best part about shopping here is that it is that it is home to another Madrid market - Mercado San Anton. The day we were shopping Chueca, we stopped at this market for lunch.

This market is sells more groceries and ingredients than Mercado de San Miguel. The first floor has stalls selling cheeses, vegetables, spices, seafood, meats, and baked goods. The second floor has stalls selling a variety of different tapas and the third floor is a restaurant. We began our market adventure and lunch on the first floor. There were a million ingredients we wanted to buy to bring home. Unfortunately, the only thing we could bring home was photographs...

Moving up to the second floor, we picked out a few tapas to share and found a place at the counter to eat our lunch. We tried a variety of different seafood dishes and some cider. In northern Spain hard cider is a common beverage for lunch or dinner. It is mild, not sweet, and slightly bubbly. It is not as delicate or high in alcohol as wine, but not as heavy or carbonated as beer. It’s perfect with a few tapas.

The first was bacalao al pil pil. This is a very traditional Spanish dish made from salted dried cod. This fish is not native to Spain, but is integral to its cuisine. Before cooking the dried, cured fish has to be rehydrated for over twenty-four hours. The consistency and taste of the bacalao is so moist and delicate it seems like fresh fish. The pil pil sauce is made creating an emulsion of olive oil and the liquid and gelatin that come out of the fish during cooking. It is light, creamy, and delicious.

Next we tried cured tuna. This was served on a piece of toast with an almond and olive oil. One thing I learned to love about Spain during our trip was the amount of detail they put into even the smallest bites of food. Each dish - no matter how big or small - is a perfect combination of flavors and this tuna on toast was no exception. The flavor of the cured fish was very mild and slightly salty. Adding the sweetness and nuttiness of the almond and olive oil made it perfect!

I do envy the Spaniards who live near Mercado San Anton or Mercado de San Miguel. (I have a secret dream that I’d like to live in an apartment upstairs from one of them!)

But, moving on... After lunch we walked from Chueca, along the wide boulevards and past the statue of Christof Colon (Christopher Columbus) to the trendy neighborhood of Salamanca. This is home to designer shops, cafes, and El Cortes Ingles (Spain’s most fashionable department store). Along the way we stopped at Cacao Sampaka for a some hot chocolate. (And to wait for the shops to reopen after siesta.)

Spanish hot chocolate is decadent! It is rich, thick, and creamy - and the chocolate I had at Cocoa Sampaka was the best I had in Spain. It was definitely made with very high quality chocolate and was a perfect siesta snack. Before leaving, we went to the beautiful boutique attached to the cafe to buy a couple of chocolate bars to bring home!

Shopping, wandering the streets, tasting tapas, and having some wonderful hot chocolate was an excellent way to spend our last day in Spain. And while, I truly didn’t want to leave, we had other places to discover. And I know I’ll be back to Madrid soon!

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