We arrived back in Madrid on a rather, at least the time quiet late Sunday afternoon. In spite of really enjoying Seville we were pooped....and headed home the next day. Just as on our arrival, we stayed near Atocha Station at the AC Carlton in walking distance to the train station and bus to the airport.
We decided on something close by and the front desk folks recommended a steakhouse named El Rincon Asturiano II which was close by.
We walked in....there was a grill near the doorway and was met with quizzical looks. The folks asked if we had reservations and we said no, so they whisked us down the block to another El Rincon Asturiano II??? Go figure. Though this place looked a lot more, well, local....with a bar set-up.
We were told to return in 15 minutes and a table would be made ready. So we took a stroll and returned and they indeed had a table ready.
Like I said before; El Rincon is basically a steakhouse who raise their own cattle from the region of Asturias in Northwest Spain. We decided to order a couple of items that the Missus was interested in and try out one of the "smaller" steaks.
Things started out with a gratis chorizo wrapped in pastry.
The Missus wanted the mushroom with jamon - Setas asturianas con jamon iberico.
A rather simple, but satisfying dish....the jamon added a nice saltiness to things.
Seeing it on the menu; the Missus had to get the callos.
This was a meat lover's version of Callos Madrilenos (tripe stewed in the style of Madrid ). It was quite thick, though very mild in flavor, the tripe quite tender, the morcilla - blood sausage, was fairly bland. It was nice and hearty, but the Missus still preferred the version from Posada de la Villa.
I wanted to try the beef and went with a smaller portion of Solomillo a la plancha, basically sirloin, "en su punto"; medium rare. Which it was.
Well, perhaps more "poco hecho" (rare) as it was "vivo, que muja".....alive and still mooing! The steak had all characteristics of grass fed beef; an intense beefiness, with a chewy, toothsome texture. It was nicely salted without much else, which I enjoyed.
The chips were quite routine.
The Missus had a couple of glasses of wine; I had a couple of beers.
Quite a restrained last meal in Spain....but we wanted it that way.
El Rincon Asturiano Calle Delicias 26 Madrid, Spain
Along the way we passed a very peaceful demonstration.
And the Missus got to see what might be Her favorite landmark in Madrid; the Tio Pepe sign at night.
Unfortunately, our go to for jamon; Ferpal was closed. Luckily, we had a "plan B". The department store, El Cortes Ingles was open....just like Japan, there's a market/food area in the basement. One of the gourmet stores sells "5J" Jamon Bellotta Pata Negra and we picked up a pack of single use olive oil as well.
We wandered about the square....you never know what you'll see here. Like the guy I call the "Electric Cowboy". All lit up and shining brightly. I was a bit concerned that the drizzle was going to turn him into the "Electrocuted Cowboy", but he was safe on this evening.
We walked back to our hotel...passing familiar sights, like the "Vertical Garden" on Caxia Forum Square. All lit up brightly at night.
Things seemed so familiar now.....
As, unfortunately were the international gates at Madrid-Barajas Airport. But, having been through here before, we were "saved by the jamon" again!
It was on the trip back from Seoul and Japan that the Missus told me She wanted to head back out ASAP.....in February to be exact.....crazy. I wasn't going to have a whole lot of vacation time and finally decided that Andalucia; super hot in the summer, would be nice during the winter. We'd be book-ending our travels with single nights in Madrid. I booked a Junior Suite at the AC Carlton which is a short 5-10 minute walk from Atocha Station. The suite wasn't that much more expensive than a regular room and I figured our chances of being able to check in early during the slow season would be good and it was. We were able to check in at 10am.
Even though I've flown extensively over the years, I've never been able to sleep on flights unless in First/Business. It was no different this time. We were both fairly pooped and since lunch starts late in Madrid....well, all of Spain we had time to take a nap.
Trying to figure out what to have for lunch was a snap for the Missus....She really enjoyed Restaurante Badila during our previous visit. So we were back at this small, but quite busy "menu del dia" (menu of the day) place. It was a nice, now familiar walk to Tirso de Molina, then down the side street to the restaurant.
Badila is one of those places that you really don't stumble upon. Menu del Dia is a great way to have a filling and economical lunch. You get three courses and a beverage for a single price.
Determining what to order is the toughest part. Of course the Missus and I share everything, which made this a fun lunch.
Our two primeros were the Judias Verdes (Green Beans) with Potatoes and simple, but very tasty braised beans and potato dish that could have used a bit more salt.
I went with the Calamar Encebollado con Arroz. While the rice was terrible, the amazingly tender braised squid, along with the caramelized onions, which added a wonderful savory-sweet component was a revelation.
The Missus always hesitates when ordering squid, but this changed Her mind about it. The salt was perfect; there was a hint of garlic, a very tasty dish.
Of course the Missus got the Rabo de Toro Estofado - the braised oxtails.
Perfect texture, nice beefy flavor along with the tender connective tissue.
I basically got what I ordered the last time the estofado in a white sauce; this time it was Carrillado - pork cheek, and the stewing liquid was sherry based (Amontillado).
Of course, the dry, unfortified sherry was used for the sauce, which was very tasty. More on Jerez in a future post.
This came with a pile of "chips" which was more than we could finish. We each had a glass of "tinto" as our drink and "café solo" for dessert as we both really wanted to head back to the room and nap after this meal.
Restaurante Badila Calle San Pedro Martir 6 Madrid, Spain
We needed the caffeine as there were a couple of things we needed to do and headed up to one of the Missus's favorite spots in Madrid; Puerta del Sol....of course She needed to take a photo of the Tio Pepe sign.....
Of course, this being February, it was a bit colder than when we were here last......dipping into the mid-low thirties at night......
First stop was the El Cortes Ingles department store. I was able to get most of my Renfe (Spain's train operator) tickets online. However, we had a side trip to one of the White Hill Towns and after fruitlessly trying to get tickets online, I contacted the town's Tourist Bureau and found out that train tickets aren't released for that destination until a week before. El Cortes Ingles has a travel agency and the folks are very nice, unlike many of the ticket agents in Atocha. So we got our tickets......there will be more on this later as there was a bit of a mix-up.
Next stop....well, we'd have to keep our strength up during our ride to Granada the next day; so we headed back to Ferpal. I'm really not good a languages....but I know "cien (100) gram, Jamon Bellota Pata Negra para llevar (to go)". I went through this whole thing in previous posts.......if you're in Spain, do yourself a favor, find a good "cutter" and get the really good stuff; like the "5-J" Jamon Bellota (raised on acorns) pata negra (black pig).
It is claimed that the fat of jamon bellota is over 55% oleic acid.....actually making it rather healthy. I'll say this, the good stuff starts sweating almost immediately after being sliced.
The flavor is a balanced slightly salty and "sweet", the texture is luxurious, when sliced (by hand of course) well, it almost melts in your mouth.
Ferpal Calle del Arenal 7 Madrid, Spain
We spent the rest of the time visiting those other familiar places.
Leaving time for yet another short nap before dinner. Folks eat late in Spain, even later in Madrid. The sunset at 620pm kind of threw me off and we both wondered if this would affect when folks have dinner....it didn't. Instead of waiting until 830 to eat, we decided to head back to Metro Bistro which opens at 7pm. We managed to snag the last table in the bar area that was available without reservations.
The menu was basically unchanged from our previous visit, which suited us well as there were a couple of dishes that we really enjoyed.
The Missus really enjoyed the Cava (sparkling wine) we had here last time so we started with that.
Lunch was still lingering with us, so we ended up only ordering three dishes, two of them starters. The only item we hadn't had before was the Foie Gras.
The guava reduction really added a nice touch....the portion size was quite huge and perhaps this might have been too much of a good thing....I know, this from the guy who had foie gras three times a day in France.
The Missus didn't order the Roasted Mushroom topped with 65 Degree Egg.....and I wondered why. So I ordered it.
And the Missus is glad I did...even though it takes 20 minutes to make. This was even better than what we had last time. The earthy mushroom flavors came through so well; this time around we could make out the celery flavors in the sauce, which added a nice palate cleansing, almost salty component to the dish.
And then there's the egg.......
Need I say more?
The Beef Tartar was just as good as before.
The only real difference was the little bottle with the dropper that was delivered to our table with the dish. We were told it was a spicy chili oil. Not wanting to mess up the dish, I tasted the chili oil, which wasn't very spicy and quite bitter. It really brought nothing to the dish in my opinion so I had the Missus try it....same verdict....pass on the spicy oil.
A full "all in" for the beef tartare...refreshing, the mustard seed and minced capers really harmonize the flavor of the dish...the foie gras adding a nice creamy component, the micro greens the touch of bitterness......you can mix and match and get a totally different experience with every bite.
Service was much improved from our previous visit and just as friendly. The young man who served us was pleasantly surprised to find that we were from the States...he's born and raised in Madrid, but spent several years in New York City. Overall a very nice meal which put us in a great frame of mind....we were back in Spain.
We had just returned from Seoul and Japan, almost the very next day as a matter of fact, when the Missus told me, "let's go somewhere in February". The planning window and time was short so we decided to revisit what has become my second favorite destination.
Starting in a very familiar spot.
With only a single day we stuck to some familiar places and are glad we did.
The next morning we headed out before the sun rose.......which isn't too impressive, since the it rises at about 820 am this time of the year. We watched the sun slowly make its way up from the train window.
With jamon in hand of course.
And after switching mid way to a bus ended up at our current destination. Once the greatest city in Spain, things are different here. There's a magnificent Moorish Palace on a hill.
Things are quite different from anywhere else we've been to in this country.
People here are especially warm, friendly, and as you see the views spectacular.
Tons of history.....a Moorish Quarter and a Gypsy Quarter.
The city is proud of its history and still keep with the tradition of free tapas with every drink. The Missus was especially fond of two particular wine bars here.
Of course man cannot live by tapas alone.....which is totally untrue, we did a have few regular sit down meals.
It's time to head out to our next stop in a few hours. We'll miss this place.
There's rain in forecast.......we're hoping to keep dry.
It was our last evening in Madrid and we were feeling a bit, well, sad. The city was definitely much better the second time around. During our first pass through Madrid, we thought it, hot, loud, gritty, somewhat dirty....the second time around we took to the city, it seemed so vibrant, alive, for some reason it reminded me of China. Folks really seemed to have a good time and enjoy life. Perhaps it was the apartment right on Tirso de Molina, where we took such watching folks out socializing. At 630 in the evening, most folks weren't even thinking about eating.
Instead of having the obvious (tapas) for dinner, we decided to go with another recommendation from Emilio, a rather new (at the time), modern-fusion place named Metro Bistro. We even dropped by during lunch to make reservations for dinner.
They even started dinner service at the ungodly hour of 7pm! Our reservations were for 8pm and we were happy to not be the first customers of the evening.
The interior is quite modern, the staff, very nice, friendly, though some of the folks were somewhat eccentric and the service was a bit spotty as the pacing seemed a bit off.
Things started off quite nicely as we were brought a nice aperitif, a celery based cocktail that was like a celery mojito. Very nice, quite refreshing.
The menu itself was quite interesting, classic dishes with fusion-y touches. Braised butterfish with ponzu, Sweet and sour IberianPork, Salmorejo with Olive Oil "Ice Cream", stuff like that.
The bread was nice and made even better by the nice herb butters provided.
We started things off with Metro Bistro's take on the classic Catalan roasted vegetable dish, Escalibada (9,40 €). This version was topped with cold smoked eel, which added a nice savory-smokey flavor to the dish.
We were less impressed with the vegetables which were underseasoned and could have used a bit of color.....the vegetables were basically limp and flavorless.
The Steak Tartare (19 €) however, was excellent.
The wonderfully tender beef, which was rather lean was bolstered by having minced foie gras mixed in. The minced capers and more so the mustard seed gave the dish zest and a nice finish. The egg yolk added even more velvety texture, possibly overkill. The micro greens balanced out things with a touch of bitter and a nice crunchy texture. This was really, really, good.
What was delici-yoso was the wonderfully Roasted Mushroom topped with 65 Degree Egg (10,80 €).
Man, egg porn. The flavor of that egg was so pure, the yolk so rich and runny, you'd think it was the star of the dish. But for me, it was the intense, earthy flavors and meaty texture of the mushroom base and the crunchy and earthy fried trumpet mushrooms that really made this stand out for me. The Missus? Well, She's a big time egg lover.....'nuff said
The pseudo sousvidish Lamb Gigot (18€) was solid if not outstanding.
The truffle potatoes seemed a bit out of place in this dish and for some reason clashed with the gamey lamb. Still, eaten separately, each was tasty.
We had a nice Cava with dinner and the Missus destroyed the dessert.
In what ended up being the evening's entertainment, we watched one of the Server's struggle with opening a bottle of wine....first breaking the cork and then fiddling with whatever was left, pushing the cork into the bottle. He should have just quit and gotten a fresh bottle. It was somewhat painful watching him struggle.....I felt like standing up and grabbing the bottle away from him.....it was like passing that accident scene....you just can't help but looky-loo. Still, we enjoyed our dinner. When the flavors and textures "clicked" it was really good. We found the prices to be not too bad. It was nice finding a place like this around tourist Plaza Mayor. We'd gladly return.
Metro Bistro Calle Imperial 3 Madrid, Spain
We picked up a nice bottle of Crianza on the way back to the apartment. Popping it open, we opened the window and watched the action below.....this is Tirso de Molina at 1030pm. Notice the kids playing......
Some folks are just starting to eat dinner....this was a Thursday mind you.....
At midnight, folks were just starting to eat at the place further down the block!
Talk about really knowing how to enjoy life! Of course, at 8am the place looks like a ghost town.
The next morning we walked the mile or so down to Atocha Station and caught the airport express. Remember the Jamon we bought at Ferpal? It came in real handy. The international gates at Madrid-Barajas Airport is like a cattle pen. There's no place to buy snacks, coffee....just vending machines. That package of Jamon Bellotta Pata Negra was sweating away in my bag. Man, it was delicious. Just looking at the photo makes me want to head back to Spain.
We really hadn't planned on getting Chocolate con Churros, even though it's a favorite breakfast for many. I'm just not a big fan of Churros....as we know it in SoCal. But Emilio, one of the owners of the apartment we were staying in really said that we should try the Chocolate con Churros (for some reason folks tend to call it Churros con Chocolate) at Maestro Churrero in Plaza de Jacinto Benavente, which was quite close to the apartment. So on our last morning in Madrid we headed over. We cracked up when we found the place; we'd passed it once at least everyday we were in Madrid. It really looked like some fast-food joint.
So, how did we like it? Well, the churros weren't overly sweet, but crisp, light, and reminded the Missus of youtiao for some reason. The chocolate was thick like pudding and not overly sweet either. The Missus enjoyed it much more than I did, so I'm thinking we may have this again if we're back in Spain.
Maestro Churrero Cafeteria Churreria Plaza De Jacinto Benavente 2 Madrid, Spain
After a nice stroll in the park we headed up Calle de las Huertas, then, somehow ended up on Calle Concepcion de Jeronima...and the intersection of Jeronima and Calle Toledo. The Missus immediately recognized the shop on the corner Calzados Lobo. this store specializes in espradilles; shoes and sandals and has been around since 1897. The Missus suddenly just "needed" some sandals. Though it looked pretty mellow from the exterior, it was packed......
I just tried to stay out of the way and hide in a corner while the Missus went about things.
Actually, the guy that helped the Missus was a total pro; the Missus told him Her size.....metric of course, which he brought, in addition to a size smaller, which he thought would fit Her better and did.
The Missus was quite happy, until She came upon Casa Hernanz....which claims to have been in business since 1845....check out the line.
Talk about buyers remorse. I didn't feel so bad though, as I really didn't want to stand in this line. As we walked around the streets near Puerta del Sol, the Missus reminded me of how boring my tastes are in clothes....so I ended up buying some bright, bright, blue loafers....I was actually going for the red; but even the Missus backed down on those.
And got some of the Jamon Iberico Pata Negra; the top of the line Jamon......as you'll see in a later post, even at 160 euros a kilo, this was worth much, much more.....
It was getting close to 1pm....early for lunch by Madrileno standards, but we were hungry. Emilio had recommended trying La Posada de la Villa, which, for some reason we had never seen during our visits to Calle Cava Baja.
This restaurant, built on the site of an inn which dates back to 1642 is full of character. From the somewhat formal, though still relaxed service, to the chairs, which have the names of famous customers carved in them.
Want to know who this dude was? Well you can find out here...... there's even some scandal involved!
The meal started rather inauspiciously. The croquettas didn't impress. The Revuelto de Esparragos was nice, the eggs fluffy, but the dish wasn't anything special.
The mushrooms were nice, the portion size amazingly large.
But it was the Callos Madrilenos, tripe stewed in the style of Madrid that really got us. The "stew" was thick and just coated your belly, rich and slightly gelatinous.
The texture of the tripe was perfect; not too chewy, but toothsome; the morcilla was fine, nothing special, but it just fit well in the dish. This was a nice, hearty dish. and while we were a bit afraid that the place would be a tourist trap, it was not. In fact, if we're ever in Madrid during the winter season, we might just stop in for the house specialty; the roasted kid lamb for two!
Posada de la Villa Calle de la Cava Baja 9 Nadrid, Spain
We had been told that the department store El Cortes Ingles had what they called the "Gourmet Experience". Having been to Japan, I wondered how this measures up to the "Depachika", so we headed to the Callao location to check it out.
There were some nice gourmet items, but we were looking for something to eat and the shops really didn't grab us.
They view though, it very nice.
So it was back down and around to Puerto del Sol, where I finally got a decent photo of Real Casa de Correos which used to be the Post Office Building and now houses the Regional Government of Madrid. The clock in the tower of the building officially chimes in the New Year.
As I noted in an earlier post, the Missus really wanted a photo of the Tio Pepe sign at night. Well, it was dusk (845pm) and still a bit too early, so we had some time to kill. So we made a loop back to Plaza Mayor.
Where the Chinese Massage/Reflexology folks were making a killing.
And then there was this weird "creature", the one to the left in the photo. It would site quietly, then jump up when some unsuspecting tourist walked by scaring the crap out of them. Strangely, folks liked taking their photo with the "thing".
Down through the corridor is Mercado de San Miguel.
The last time we walked by was during morning hours and the place wasn't open. On this evening it was quite busy.
We weren't tempted by the stuff here either as it seemed a bit too touristy for us.....
By now the sun had set (945pm) so we headed on back to Puerto del Sol. And finally! The Missus (well, at least I), got Her shot of the Tio Pepe sign!
So finally we decided to get something to eat. Nothing too heavy, but we knew we needed to get something. So back to "Emilio's list" and I found a recommendation. We headed back toward the La Latina area. Instead of heading to the busy Calle Cava Baja, we went one street over to Calle del Almendro and a place simply named Almendro 13.
The scene here was totally different from Calle Cava Baja. Much more chill, quiet, laid back, and local.
We were greeted with a smile and they found a small corner table for us in the corner which was perfect. The Missus got the house white Vina Almendro 13, which you drank from Caña sized glasses and I got a beer. The Huevos Rotos was the dish Emilio recommended we get here. It was good thing we saw an entire portion (racione) come out. It looked like it could feed a family of four! We ordered a media racione, which was still more than enough for us.
If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know that the Missus loves Her eggs.....She can easily put away 6 a day if left to Her own devices. The eggs were fabulous, rich orange in color, yolks creamy, the yolks so flavorful. Why do potatoes in places like Spain or Peru taste so much better? I didn't dwell on that too much, I just enjoyed the potato-y goodness. The jamon was thick sliced as if from the ends, thus nice and salty, adding some toothsomeness to the dish. Just what we needed on this evening.....I don't recall the prices, but we got away really cheap on this evening.
We wanted something simple and got exactly that.
Taberna Almendro 13 Calle del Almendro 13 Madrid, Spain
I'm going to do a few posts out of chronological order. We did visit the South of France following our stay in San Sebastian, then ended back up in Madrid. The city, the first time around just didn't impress us much we'd walked around a bit, eaten some decent, but not outstanding meals and were just a bit underwhelmed. The rather griminess and grittiness of the city along with the heat and such had not impressed much on us. This was to change soon enough. This time around, we were staying at an apartment right on Plaza de Tirso de Molina a very busy square in Madrid. It meant a walk of over a mile from Atocha Station, which wasn't so bad. You'd think that being in the middle of the crowds would make things worse; but the opposite was true. First off, the apartment we were staying at. Not just the view of the plaza.....
But the set-up as well with good A/C....quite important as the temps would be in the 90's until 9-10pm...no wonder dinner was eaten so late. But the double paned windows minimized the sound of the lively square below.
As a big bonus, one of the owners; Emilio apparently loved to eat. While checking in, I mentioned his great list of restaurants....then, just by luck, we started talking about Jamon....not Jamon Iberico....but Jamon Bellota, and the importance of how the jamon is sliced. We were in like Flynn! He asked us to stow our luggage, then walked us to his favorite local eatery..."nothing fancy, but very good, local style food"! It would turn out to be just the kind of place we'd been looking for. It was right down the side street, but there was no way we'd have found Restaurante Badila without him. Emilio introduced us to the owner....they found us a table in the packed little restaurant, which featured "menu del dia".....a menu of items available for the day.
The little place was packed.....all locals, looking for a good lunch at decent prices. The deal was a soup or salad, a main, dessert, and drinks (which included a glass of wine on weekends) for a set price. This would turn out to be one of our favorite meals of the trip....even without foie gras!
The wonderful "taste of sunshine" from the ripe tomatoes, the grassy-peppery flavor of the olive oil...it was refreshing on such a hot day and had that "aaah" factor to it. Smooth and creamy, onion for pungency, the jamon for a bit of salty-savory flavor. Man, this was so good......it left an indelible mark on me.
And provided in salad was just perfect for such a hot day.
The Huevos con Chorizo was probably the most mundane dish of the day.
But since the Missus loves eggs, this really didn't disappoint either.
The Estofado Carne was also delicious and quite different from what I thought I'd get.
The beef was so flavorful and tender, the sauce almost like a light béchamel.........this was delicious.
And there was dessert....which the Missus enjoyed.
No, there were no Michelin stars here. Just honest good food, the type locals like to eat. It really made our day and we started seeing Madrid in a different way. We started understanding things. A good meal can do that. In fact, I'm looking forward to returning someday soon. To the simple restaurant down a side street......
Restaurante Badila Calle San Pedro Martir 6 Madrid, Spain
Emilio had left us to our own devices once he found us seats in Badila. We had the keys to the apartment and a list of places to eat and the rest was up to us.
It was getting fairly warm so we did the Spanish thing....it was siesta time!
There were actually quite a few people waiting to get into the museum, but the line moved fast......and heck, it was free (between 7 and 9pm).
As I've mentioned before, I really don't know much about art. But this trip has really given me a greater appreciation of it. I was truly moved by viewing Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. One artist I do know of is Joan Miró whose works I recall seeing at the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu. I've always enjoyed his somewhat whimsical and almost playful works. So of course I enjoyed viewing his works here. Next time we're in Barcelona, we'll make sure to visit his museum.
There was of course, works by Dali, Diego Rivera, and many more, like this work named Un Mundo (The World) by Angeles Santos.
There was one particular work that I wanted to see. I'd mentioned gaining a real appreciation of the work of Picasso, then being moved by his painting and the story of the Bombing of Guernica. So the main reason for really wanting to visit was to view Guernica by Picasso. Just viewing a photo of the painting inspired us to visit the city. The painting is huge....much larger than I expected. The size creates a greater impact...the vignettes...the stories each part of the work tells.
Museo Reina Sofía Calle Santa Isabel 52 Madrid, Spain
Days were fairly long during this part of the year. It was past 8 when we left the museum but as is the way in Madrid, things seemed to just be getting started.
And as is the way in large cities. There are thousands of little scenes. In this one, the older man slowly makes his move......
And in the end, got a peck on the cheek and a slap on the shoulder.......
We'd already had a pretty full day. It was pretty hot after lunch and we were stuffed full of orejas.
The one great thing about our apartment was that it was easy to black out the entire place. And the A/C worked really well.
Also, the apartment was located basically across the street and a block or two from the Prado Museum. The Missus had really enjoyed visiting the previous day. Plus....it was free! She had wanted to return.
So after waking from a restorative nap, we were (well She was), ready to head off.
And off into the bright Madrid late afternoon.....
Before heading into the Prado Museum, the Missus wanted to check out San Jerónimo el Real, the Catholic Church right above the museum. This is all that remains of a monastery that stood next to Buen Retiro Palace.
The feature of the church I enjoyed the most were the beautiful stained glass windows.
The visit to the Prado was just as interesting as the previous day. I got to see that beautiful work by Velasquez again. And in addition, there was a special exhibition of works by Picasso.
To be perfectly honest, I'm below a neophyte when it comes to art. I do enjoy the work of Joan Miró, but that's about it. Having only seen the later work of Picasso, I really could not understand or relate to his work. There were several early works of Picasso in the museum. I thought they were really well done, I'd only seen his later Cubist work, but was really impressed at his early work. We were headed to Barcelona next, so we would make it a point to visit the Picasso Museum.
After our visit, we headed back to the Missus's favorite spot in Madrid; Puerta del Sol.
We decided to find a place close by. I had this place on my "Calle de la Victoria" list.
This being quite early for dinner in Madrid (815 pm), the place was empty except for one other group.
The girls working here were very nice....though everyone seemed really friendly in Madrid. I had a caña and the Missus a tinto. Man, the potatoes we really tasty; the aioli had a ton of garlic in it and the tubers were nice and waxy.
This place served Galician style food; so of course I wanted the Pulpo a Feira, but the Missus wasn't sold. So I went with the Pulpo and Camarones. The whole thing is served in a pan submerged in olive oil.
This was like getting your French fries served in its cooking oil.......anyway; the shrimp were really tiny like cocktail shrimp, but had nice flavor. The octopus didn't do well, it was very tough. The olive oil tasted ok as we dipped our bread into it. Though next time I'll go with the Pulpo a Feira.
La Pulperia de Victoria La Victoria 2 Madrid, Spain
We decided to cut our losses and find someplace to grab a another light bite on the way back to the apartment. As we passed La Oreja de Jaime, he was cooking and saw us through the window. He smiled and waved at us telling to come back in...... He's such a character, how could we refuse?
This time we sat at the bar and noticed all of the funny stuff on the wall. Like the calendar photo of Jaime with a wig and sunglasses on....and the plastic ears (orejas) hanging on the wine bottles. The place really reflects the owner....it has character.
Now, the Missus had seen something on the menu that I didn't know. So of course She was fascinated. Mollejas. We asked what mollejas were and Jaime grabbed the part of his neck under the jawbone. The thymus gland....mollejas de cordero; goat sweetbreads. Based on our previous experience here; we knew portions would be fairly large....but sweetbreads, that's rich stuff, there's no way you'd get a huge plate of that, right? Wrong. After ordering it, Jaime went to the tray of what almost looked like gizzards and grabbed handful after handful of the stuff. The Missus and I looked at each other in stunned amazement. This went on the flat top, with a good amount of oil. Man, Jaime is not shy about the sea salt either. After achieving a nice char from the griddle, an application of a slightly spicy and smoky sauce was applied. The stuff he puts on patatas bravas and we were served this huge plate of mollejas.
The first, say 12 bites were really good, if a bit too salty. But man, after a while, it's just too much of a good thing. The texture, or should I say combination of textures keeps your interest. There are those creamy pieces, but also of texture of the surrounding tissue, some crunch, some fat, some sinew.
It's always fun to try something new. It's even more fun having it at a place like La Oreja de Jaime.
La Oreja de Jaime Calle de La Cruz 12 Madrid, Spain
Sun had set and we headed back to Puerto del Sol. It was 930 and things were just starting up in Madrid.
We dropped by the market in the basement of El Cortes Ingles and got some yogurt for the next morning. It would be our breakfast before heading off to Barcelona.
We walked down the back streets parallel to Calle Atocha. Past the many bars, the squares, the folks and families just heading out to dinner at 10pm.
The wonderful folks at Estancias con Arte had left us a basket of "stuffs", including orange juice, which would come in handy for breakfast. They also left us a bottle of wine (such a nice touch!), which we enjoyed while doing our "pre-packing" for the next morning.
Getting to our train the next morning was a breeze. Atocha Station is basically 2 blocks (albeit good sized blocks) away.
One interesting note about Atocha Station. There's a tropical garden in the concourse of the train station. While the Missus was waiting for our morning espresso, I took a short little walk.
Madrid was interesting for us. I know it wasn't the Missus's favorite place; I think the heat, schedules, noise, crowds, and the mild grittiness of the city had caught us off guard. On our return trip however, something had changed, we had gained an appreciation for the liveliness of Madrid and embraced the late nights. But for now, we were off to Barcelona.
Morning in Madrid is pretty calm. I guess that happens when most folks end their day at midnight. We were in fact, quite pooped. We awoke, had like three cups of espresso a piece and slowly woke up. The Missus had our day pretty much planned by the time we left.
We of course started at the Missus's favorite location the previous day, Puerto del Sol.
Strangely, I don't have a day time photo of the building which faces the Tio Pepe sign and the statue of Charles III. It was the first Post Office in Madrid and is currently the Governor's Office. Right in front of the building's main doorway is this marker on the ground.
This is "Kilometer Zero", which represents the center of Spain. So I guess this is where we were supposed to start, right? A good part of these walks were distilled by the Missus from Rick Steves Guidebook to Spain. The Missus will often combine all the walks into a single long one. We headed left and up (down?) the street and through Calle de Postas, a street that's been around since medieval times. Some of the building here were quite striking.
Like the display on this Watch Shop named Antigua Relojeria, which has been around since 1880.
This little street leads right into Plaza Mayor.
Pop out of the plaza and you end up at the very popular Mercado de San Miguel. Though not open at this early hour.
We weaved through streets, past buildings until we came to this memorial. This statue marks the spot of an assassination attempt on newlyweds King Alfonso and Princess Victoria by Mateu Morral. The statue memorializes the 15 people killed in the assassination attempt. No the King and Queen were not killed.
Further down the street is Almudena Cathedral. Construction started in 1879 and the cathedral was consecrated in 1993.
That's a 114 years!
Right across from the Cathedral is the Royal Palace of Madrid.
We had thoughts of visiting, but the Missus was on a tight schedule here, so maybe next time. East of the Royal Palace is Plaza de Oriente. We saw Mounted Police getting ready for their shift when we arrived.
It's a very nice green space.....
The street we were walking on is named Calle Arenal.
By this time; we had almost circled back to Puerto del Sol and were in need of a break. Some espresso seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. There's a charcuterie and cheese shop named Ferpal (strangely, we didn't even read about it in the guidebook until later - though RS's recommendations are in our opinion somewhat suspect for our tastes) on the street.
What looks like a coffee counter takes up half the shop....and folks were lining up for their morning (late morning) fix. So we decided to join in. The staff at the counter are rather diner worthy. As in grumpy in a somewhat humorous way. You still get served and everything works fine....for some reason, it just reminds me of a diners here in the states.
While waiting to order our "caffe" I noticed a couple of items on signs. The first was a plate of Lomo Iberico Bellota for a mere 4 Euros, which of course we got.
The Missus actually enjoys the less salty, leaner, more meaty cured pork loin (lomo). This was a nice little brunch item for us. I also noticed something on the menu board behind the counter. Under the heading "Sandwichs". Yes, not "sandwiches", but "sandwichs", the "crema" category were the words "foie gras". For .9 Euros, basically a buck. I had to try this.....
It was a nice little half sandwich, with the crust sliced off, just like mom would make. This was basically a light foie gras mousse. It was quite tasty and filling which we enjoyed it with our "caffe".
Ferpal Calle del Arenal 7 Madrid, Spain
We took a short shopping bread at El Cortes Ingles, the huge multi-floor department store. There's a supermarket in the basement of all El Cortes Ingles as far as I can tell.
The next leg of the walk was up Madrid's version of Broadway; Gran Via.
An interesting study in early 20th century architecture, what makes the street even more interesting is that the buildings were built in groups starting in 1910 and ending in the 1950's. So buildings on blocks were built around the same time.
At the end we took a break at Plaza de Espana and watched these dogs having a great time.
We noticed that the dogs in every city seem to have distinct personalities. In Madrid, they were a rambunctious bunch, having their own mind, pulling their masters along.
Coming full circle we ended up back at Puerta del Sol. We were hungry, it was lunch time. Along the arteries stretching out from the square are tons of eateries. We looked in several of them, a few of which I had on my list and settled on La Oreja de Jaime.
It was quite interesting. There were tons of tourists outside the place, but only Spaniards in this little joint. On occasion someone would walk in, order a Caña...a small beer...polish it off in one large gulp and head on back out. For lunch this was a one man operation; Jaime took orders, cooked, served the drinks, bussed the tables. You name it. There were a couple of older folks eating and having drinks. We simply requested a couple of cañas and ordered from the chalkboard. No crazy equipment here, just a deep fryer, a stove, and a wonderfully seasoned flat top which you can see from the streetside window.
We started with some Padrons.
Thrown in the deep fryer, we quickly found out that Jaime does not go easy on the salt....it was good sea salt. Nice and almost sweet if a bit high on the sodium scale.
You'll notice the name of the place "Oreja"......so what else would you get from here but orejas....ears.
The orejas were only 5€, so we were flabbergasted at the portion size. Get a media (1/2) racione if you go here. These were simply done on the griddle, which, by the flavor, smoky and almost sweet is highly seasoned by who knows how many orders of pig ears. These were crunchy, wonderfully gristle-y, and chewy, with a pretty hefty amount of olive oil, a touch of smoked paprika, and since we love pig ears, quite enjoyable, though the Missus couldn't bring Herself to eat the hairy portions.
The champignons with camarones was also pretty good.
The shrimp was quite tasty, full of that nice shrimp flavor that folks in the states seem afraid of. It was a bit on the oily side, but I'm not complaining.
Man, the prices were quite cheap and we left stuffed. Even more impressive was the couple who walked in after us. Apparently, they come here often as Jaime knew them. The woman, who appeared to be in her 60's polished off an entire order of patatas bravas, as did her husband, they polished off a plate on pardons, another plate of something else I couldn't make out, and then, the husband having fallen by the wayside; the woman devoured a plate of orejas, while enjoying three beers. Not small caña sized glasses, but three bottles of beer...and some olives to boot!
Jaime is quite friendly, always smiling, even though he's a one man show. The prices are quite reasonable and this was a pretty good and simple lunch. No messing about, just good grub.
La Oreja de Jaime Calle de La Cruz 12 Madrid, Spain
It was getting quite hot and I was starting understand the how's and why's of how things are done here. At least I understood the necessity of a siesta......
So, how did we end up travelling to Spain? Well, if you're a regular reader, it's a familiar story...much like almost all our other trips, it was food. We were having a version of Patatas Bravas at Tasty n' Alder in Portland when the Missus made Her decision. "We're going to Spain......" So there I was, planning first a trip to Spain, then adding the Basque Country, then Bordeaux, finally Dordogne. The decisions developed quite organically, the logistics, while not difficult took a bit of planning.
A few months later; there we were, a bit bleary eyed arriving in Madrid. Getting to where we needed to be was quite easy; the Expres Aeropuerto costs a mere 5 Euros to get from the airport to Atocha Station. We had some time to kill and walked around, though it was getting to be quite warm, up and down Calle Atocha. One funny thing, we actually sat and took a break in the square right where our apartment would be on our return trip to Madrid! Anyway, after some coffee, walking about, we met the owner of the apartment we were staying at....which happened to be a couple of blocks from Atocha Station and got settled. It was getting mighty warm by this time, so we were ever so happy to have a nice strong A/C unit. After a wonderful shower we headed out to get something to eat. It was 1pm, early for lunch in Madrid and Sunday to boot. We were close enough to one of the areas I had mapped out Calle de Jesus, a small stretch which has a number of Cervecerias and Tabernas. The favorite here is obviously Cervantes, but the line was crazy, and it looked like all tourists. Instead, we chose this little place next to La Anchoita named El Olivar.
The place was fairly quiet, there were two parties of what looked like regulars, a good sign, there were some items on the menu I really wanted to try. The place was manned by a staff of two.
I started with a beer, the Missus a "Tinto" a young, light table wine. The gratis olives were briny and worked well.
As for ordering food....well, I was tempted by the sign that said "Especialidad Rabo de Toro"...basically oxtails, but man, it was just too hot for us to try that. Rather, I saw two items on the menu I wanted to try.
The first, was Jamon de Bellota. Awhile back, I'd done some research and found that there's something above and beyond your "normal" Jamon Iberico. These days, "JI", while still having the heritage of the blessed Black Iberian Pig, is now corn fed, and perhaps; if you're lucky, acorn fed somewhere during the process. The Jamon Iberico de Bellota on the other hand, is truly acorn fed. Also, while typical Iberico is cured two years; Bellota is cured for an even longer period.
This place did Bellota, decently cut, already "sweating" when it hit the table, the taste is sweet, not too salty, the fat velvety, lacking in the 'stringy/sinewy" texture that I've had with Jamon Iberico.
Since we grow Padron Peppers, we couldn't wait to try some.
They deep fry these babies in most places. We found that the versions in Spain had a thinner skin and were a bit "sweeter". These were on the salty side though.
Lunch was nice and we headed back to the apartment satisfied and ready for a "siesta".
Awaking refreshed, we took care of a few outstanding odds and ends, then headed out to the Prado Museum. You see, on Sundays from 5pm to 7pm and on Mondays thru Saturdays from 6pm to 8pm admission is free.
I can truly say, that my visit here truly gave me and appreciation for art that no other museum had been able to do. There are no photos allowed; but I purchased postcards of some of my favorite paintings in the museum.
I had never heard of Diego Velazquez, but when I walked into the gallery and saw his painting "Las Meninas" (The Maids of Honor) I was amazed. I saw it from a distance, the painting had almost a 3-D effect and seemed so life-like, the composition and depth was amazing as it actually seemed to pop out to me when I walked into the room. I guess I had first seen this work at the angle that worked right for me. I was strangely moved by the painting, something that had never happened to me before.
And then there were the dark and somewhat disturbing works of Francisco Goya, who during a "dark period" (perhaps somewhat paranoid) in his life painted some rather disturbing works. Like Saturn Devouring His Son. Which kinda spoke to me in the "you know, I'm having a really bad day" way. Though Goya's most famous works are probably La Maja Vestida and La Maja Desnuda which are on display at the Prado.....it's the "dark works" that I found interesting.
There was a bit of overload, so we decided to stop and return the next evening. Because.....well, it's free, right?
It was still fairly early in Madrileno terms at 645 though the Prado was closing (it was Monday). So we headed off on a walk arriving at what is considered the heart of Madrid, Puerta del Sol - the "Gate of the Sun", this was once the location of the Eastern gate of the city walls. The Missus and I had our favorite objects in the bustling square. Mine is the statue of the Bear and the Madrono Tree, which is actually the official Coat of Arms of Madrid.
For the Missus, it's the iconic Tio Pepe sign, actually an advertisement for a brand of sherry. The sign shone with neon brightness over the square from the 1950's until 2011. The removal of the sign caused so much of an uproar, that it returned to its perch in 2014.
Because the sun sets so late at this time of year; it wasn't until our third night in Madrid, on our way back that we finally were able to take a photo of the sign in its full neon glory. The Missus loves these wide open squares, so we'd find ourselves returning here everyday during our stays in Madrid.
By now, the clock was closing in on 745, I thought a visit to one of Madrid's most popular eating neighborhoods, La Latina, targeting on the ground zero of eating and drinking streets in the area; Calle Cava Baja. The Missus loves Her eggs, so I thought She'd enjoy the classic "Huevos Rotos" (broken eggs) from Los Huevos de Lucio. The bad thing was....we couldn't find the darn street. We took a wrong turn down Calle Ribera de Curtidores ending up all the way down on Ronda de Toledo. We ended up having to turn up at Puerta de Toledo walking all the way back up the street.
We finally found little Calle Cava Baja. The street wasn't too busy since it was still an ungodly early hour to eat in Madrid......830 in the evening.....
As you can tell by the sign; the specialty here is huevos...eggs. The place is owned by I believe the son of the highly regarded Casa Lucio across the street.
We'd arrived just a tad after 830pm and you can tell, the place had just opened. It seems that only tourists eat before 10.
It was all part of our education. As was finding out that the portions were pretty hefty. It was only later on that I came to find out to order things "media racione" (half orders). Until then, we'd be eating pretty large portions...like this plate of Manchego Cheese (12.9 €).
The best dish of the evening was the Berenjenas crujientes con salmorejo (7.95 €).
Wonderfully crisp, well seasoned, thin slices of eggplant fried to perfection, not a drop of grease. The sauce was a thick tomato based "soup" with nice hints of garlic.
And of course there were the Huevos Los Clasicos (8.9 € - the House Classic Eggs).
"Broken Eggs", basically cooked soft then slightly mixed breaking the yolks. The eggs tasted lovely, almost rich, the potatoes had a wonderful flavor.....for some reason, potatoes in the states don't have the same flavor. It reminded me of potatoes in Peru. Again, this was a bit too high on the sodium scale for us...and we like salty.
I had a beer and the Missus a "Tinto" a light red.
It was a filling and satisfying meal.
Taberna Los Huevos de Lucio Calle de la Cava Baja 30 Madrid, Spain
After dinner, the Missus decided that we needed to walk around a bit so we headed to Plaza Major a square ringed by very symmetrical three story buildings. This was once Madrid's Central Square. Many events have taken place in this square since it was built in the 17th century, from bullfights to public executions. On this evening, the square was packed for a concert. It was the end of the San Isidro Festival...though we'd come to find, there always seemed to be a celebration of one kind or another happening; Spaniard's like to have a good time.
We also started understanding why folks eat late here. It was almost 10pm, the sun had gone down maybe 20 minutes ago and the temperature was still in the 80's.
As we walked back down toward our apartment, the Missus and I discussed our day. We both loved the Prado Museum. Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor just seemed a bit too crowded and the place a bit more littered than we enjoy. The food was good, but on the salty side. I had enjoyed our meals more than the Missus. In the end, we were enjoying ourselves.....it was good to be on holiday, visiting somewhere we hadn't been before. And tomorrow was another day!