churros con chocolat (fried doughnuts w/chocolate), Churrería la Fama, Zaragoza — the best way to start the day
Our introduction to Spanish food was, shall we say, challenging. On our first night in Barcelona we visited an amazing tapas joint (Quimet i Quimet) recommended by Anthony Bourdain, but our positive experience in the city ended there. We ended up eating a lot of jamón ibérico y queso (iberian ham and cheese) and had a horrid taste of paella. So when we arrived in Madrid (our third city) we decided to take a tapas foodie tour of the city. It was one of our favorite nights of the trip (despite the protests that prohibited us from getting a sweet taste of sherry at a bar blocked off by barricades). We met up with our guide, Kay, from Madrid Food Tour and another honeymooning couple from New Jersey for a night of savory (albeit sometimes bizarre) food and authentic Spanish refreshments. Here’s a look at some of our favorite comida from the trip, with a highlight on our incredible experience in Madrid that kicked it off.
the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid was by far my favorite meal of the trip. we were first introduced to it on our food tour, where we tried all kinds of tapas, sipped champagne and just stared (jaws to the floor) at some of the really weird treats. (clockwise) i hated olives … until i tried the ones from campo real. // the salmorejo (tomato cream soup with ham) became a staple throughout our journey through other parts of Spain. // the percebes, a.k.a barnacles, were quite a sight, but we were not brave enough for a taste test. // we wanted to try the chicharrón (fried pork skins), but after oysters, croquetas and lots of other delicacies we were just too full.
this was the last stop on our Madrid Food Tour and it did not disappoint. not only did the bartender at Casa Toni treat the two newlywed couples to a bottle (yes, a bottle) of some delicious raisin-flavored liquor i can’t quite name, but the food was incredible … and scary. if you had told me i would try mollejas (a.k.a. sweetbread, a.k.a lamb throat glands) on my honeymoon, i would have smacked you. but it was one of my favorite dishes during the entire trip. the pimientos al padrón (green peppers in olive oil and sea salt) were, as our guide Kay put it, like playing Russian roulette. rumor has it there is at least one horrifyingly hot one in each serving (Kay got it). When Chris and I ordered these in Granada I got FIVE hot ones on one plate and he almost had to call an ambulance. no seriously. i couldn’t breath.
gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) // brochetas de cordero (lamb skewers), Bar Patanchon, Seville
above is a panoramic shot of Quimet i Quimet in Barcelona (below is the food). this was the place we found out about through Anthony Bourdain and, as you can imagine, it did not disappoint. we were really intimidated since it was our first night in Spain, it’s standing room only, the bar tenders don’t speak English and we couldn’t understand the menu (we were picturing Seinfeld … NO SOUP FOR YOU!), but we took a leap of faith. it was quite the culinary experience.
top: setas pâté (mushroom pâté) // salmón y huevos (salmon and eggs) // bottom: assorted quesos (cheeses) — yes, one of them looks like jello, but it was pretty tasty.
marzipan (a hungarian favorite) and chocolate, Santo Tomé, Toledo
calamares, Casa Juanico, Zaragosa
Just to recap for those of you headed to Spain, here are a few of the restaurants we recommend:
Barcelona: Quimet i Quimet (tapas) // Zaragoza: Churrería la Fama (chocolate churros); Casa Juanico (tapas) // Madrid: Mercado de San Miguel (everything!); Casa Toni (tapas); Cuevas Sesamo (sangria w/ vermouth); Casa Labra (cod croquettes: croquetas de bacalao) // Granada: Tetería As-Sirat (tea and crêpes); Bar Poe, where the tapas are free with every drink (tapas w/Portuguese flavor) // Seville: Catalina (tapas); Bar Patanchon (tapas)