Always willing to spend our money on food above all else, Jordan and I made a reservation for a traditional Cocido Madrileño at Malacatin, a place recommended by a friend. The food was flavorful, rich, and resulted in one of our three experiences in unexpected extreme gluttony, also referred to by me as an incident in food terror. This occurs when you are faced with exquisitely prepared food which you are excited to eat and due to circumstances beyond your control, that food accumulates in terrifying quantities which you feel pressured to consume. The first incident occurred at Craigie on Main when a 3 course meal snowballed out of our control due to the generous addition of several free courses from to Jordan’s Boston chef connections. Second, at Bergamot in Cambridge in a similar chef to chef quid pro quo tale. Finally, Madrid. We showed up ready to try some traditional food, knowing little else. They had our name, knew we were coming, they were so prepared…we let them swaddle us in warm, vermouth lined ignorance while we teetered on the edge of a culinary eruption. The image of a blueberry Violet from Willy Wonka comes to mind except with a cloudy pork fat color. What we didn’t know was that we should have ordered only one meal for the two of us to share. We also didn’t know there was more than one course. Act 1, excitement! Olives, pickles, a pot of hot, rich pork broth served with pasta, a platter of silky chickpeas, potatoes and stewed cabbage and two loaves of thick crusty bread. Delicious, we dig in, happily. Act 2, we curiously cut into cubes of pork fat. I distribute one of these caloric cubes into my chickpea broth. Act 3, we nervously eye a platter of pigs trotters tiptoeing towards our table. Not far behind, a half chicken and a cured, boiled, pig part elbow each other for room on the remaining white patches of table cloth. We ask, ‘if we cannot eat all of this, can we bring it home?’ they say ‘no’. Act 4, afraid to twist or generally move my stuffed self I am horrified at the unexpected arrival of a platter of steamingly delicious chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and beef. The walls seem to be enclosing as our stomachs expand. Surrounded by pleased, prepared patrons, we piled the food on our plates, not wanting to waste, wishing for a life saver to-go container. Act 5, the homeward waddle, hilarity, confusion, defeat, a five hour nap, hoping to feel hungry again one day.
Tag Archives: madrid
4 Days in Madrid
We arrived in Spain via Madrid and had rented a room in an apartment in a funky neighborhood called Malasaña. Our place was right in Plaza San Idelfonso and we could walk everywhere in the city from there. Madrid felt lively and open, as if joining the pulse of the city was possible for an outsider. The tapas culture meant there were little bars every few feet and each one caught our eye. In Madrid, people drink cañas, which are super cheap, small glasses of beer. You always get a bit of food when you order a drink, which feels so special and exciting even if it is just potato chips. Central Spain lore is that the free tapa with drink tradition began ages ago when the field working peasants, forced with frugally choosing between a drink and food during their midday break, always chose to buy drinks. As a result, they were sluggish and famished during their afternoon work, inspiring local magistrates to require food to be served whenever a drink is ordered. In addition to beer and of course wine, we enjoyed drinking vermouth (vermut grifa) via taps that most bars had. They serve it on ice with a lemon or an orange slice. Word of advice, when you get to a bar and order a drink, wait before you order any food so that you can see what sort of free snack will come your way. Usually the first drink gets your something like potato chips, the second perhaps a plate of olives, and it just keeps building! The further off the beaten track we went (and the more old men hanging out in the bar as if it was their living room), the more substantial food we received as our tapa.
We walked through the beautiful Isidro Park and browsed the Prado museum where we saw approximately 1 million portrayals of Jesus from all the great artists, including one classic by Velasquez in which it appeared that saint what’s-his-name the hermit received a cheeseburger from a raven in the middle of nowhere. I dragged our jet-lagged behinds out of bed to catch an 11am walking tour, which thankfully was a great experience with an animated, funny guide. We started off one night sampling probably over-priced but enjoyable tapas at the San Miguel market. The highlight of the market was our first taste of goose mussels, which are dangerous to fish, expensive to buy and mind-blowingly flavorful. Often we just walked to get lost around the city, finding little tapas bars to freshen ourselves along the way. The food in Madrid came through every time: croquetas, salt cod creations, jamón, more jamón, moist Spanish tortilla glistening with olive oil, fragrant olive oil drizzled on garlic rubbed toast with grated tomato, olives olives and more olives….yum.
We ended our nights with a few more glasses of wine and vermouth at a little café down the street from our apartment called Café de la Luz. Well done, Madrid, well done.
A few recs for where to eat:
Casa Labra – Calle de Tetuán, 12: Croquetas, deep fried cod, mmmm
Mercado de San Miguel: tons to sample, try the goose mussels from Morris mariscos
San Gines for churros con chocolate – touristy but i’ll be damned if that wasn’t the chocolatey-est chocolate we found to dip our churros in!