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.......
With beautiful landscaping, ponds, trees, and interesting white marble clock-table, surrounded by Neo-classical buildings, it made for a nice stop to stroll, people watch, and just enjoy the fresh air.
I'm sometime interested in statues you'll find in these parks. The one I saw here is for native son José María Usandizaga, a Basque Composer who succumbed to tuberculosis at the young age of 28.
The meteorological pergola (gazebo) was quite interesting as well. Though I really couldn't quite make out how it worked. It did keep me occupied for a while though.
We wandered a bit more through the street of "Centro"....doing some window shopping, the Missus considering a few purchases.
Until She'd had enough. It was time to walk back to the apartment.
So, we got back to the street where our apartment was located.....
And suddenly decided to make one more stop. This one was close by, just a few doors down at Casa Urola.
The upstairs area features a well regarded restaurant; but we decided to sit downstairs and have some pintxos.
We started with the Ensalada de Hongos, Pinones, en Idiazabal.
A nice refreshing salad; the light Idiabazal (this one didn't taste smoked) cheese bolstered by the pine nuts.
The Brocheta Pulpo y Papada (pork jowl fat) was amazing......
Tender octopus draped in pork fat......need I say more?
The Carrillera was passable. Man those potatoes had a texture of thick cream......
And no meal would be complete without some "Basque Butter" Foie Gras.
You'd think that after having Foie Gras for almost every meal; sometimes twice, we'd be getting tired of the stuff. Ummm.....no way! Nicely seared Mi Cuit with an almost jelly like interior. Decadent and delicious.
Along with a couple of beers (for me) and a "tinto" (for the Missus), this was a nice low keyed last meal in San Sebastian.
Casa Urola Fermin Calbeton 20 San Sebastian, Spain
Our apartment was literally a few steps away from Casa Urola. Eating that last piece of Foie Gras, I was suddenly worried that we'd be marching back up Monte Urgull. But the missus only wanted to take a short walk, "to help digest" and all that.
While walking around we passed these two American "street kids" whom we first saw begging for money near Brexta Market. We later saw them partaking of the "cash crop" on Mount Urgull, and now they asked us for money the second time around. We acted like we didn't speak English or Spanish. It was time to go..........
But first, we had a nice Txakoli break.
While I couldn't get up to the pouring height of the really nice bartender at Bar la Cepa; Txakoli is a very dry, acidic, "fresh" wine that is traditionally poured from a height of about two meters to aerate the wine, creating bubbles, and reducing the carbon dioxide. It was a nice way to end our last evening in San Sebastian.
The next morning we headed to the train station. Instead of catching a cab or the bus the Missus (of course) chose to walk.
Actually, it was a nice walk. We had a cup of coffee in the train station, then caught the train to Hendaye, then Saint Jean de Luz.
After a nice self catered lunch and a short nap, the Missus decided we needed to "do something".
Not quite sure what "something" was, we headed out. The streets had definitely gotten much more lively with both tourists and locals. As we arrived at the port, the Missus looked up, pointed, and said, "this is where we're going".....
She had pointed at the Statue of Christ at the top of Monte Urgull.
So we headed off......
There's a church located at the port and there was a wedding taking place. And you know....the (amateur) paparazzi just love a wedding.
Especially when, whom I think is the Flower Girl, looks so adorable.....
Even the washroom attendants have to watch!
I really enjoyed the port area......even though there are touristy restaurants, the aquarium and all that, there's still a "lived in" feeling to the place.
The walk up the Mount Urgull was nice....there weren't too many people to be found.....except small groups of young folks partaking of the...ahem....."cash crop".
For some reason, I really like cannons....don't ask me why. Even when they seem to be pointed in the wrong direction. These were aimed back at the city.
The view at the top is rather anti-climatic, though it's a nice little walk and the views are quite nice. I'm sure on a clear day, it's quite stunning. We'd always look to find the Cathedral, which rises quite distinctly above the San Sebastian skyline.
There was this pair of street kids.....ahem musicians we kept seeing; first earlier in the day at the bandstand; then outside Brexta Market asking for money. We saw them up here having a nice "smoke" as well. The Missus told me, "you know, when we start seeing the same people over and over, it's time to go, right?"
But, there were more cannons to see!
We headed back down on one of the trails which actually led back to Old Town.
And so we ended up back in Old Town. The Missus however, wanted to see more. So I told Her, why not head on over then Urumea River to Gros; which kind of looks like San Diego with a decidedly Spanish vibe. I was told this is San Sebastian's version of Surf City. My bad for not taking photos of the beach....which...well, being from Hawaii and living in San Diego...you know...
Gros was interesting. It seemed more local. I had a recommendation which I followed up with some research of a tapas shop that had won a bunch of awards named Bar Bergara.
So, I really thought it would not be right if I left San Sebastian without trying just regular tapas, the stuff from the counter.
And there's no denying, the stuff here looked very pretty.
As a whole it was a mixed bag, for me, the bread really did not stand up well. Especially with the Piquillo Peppers and the Anchovy. The flavors though, were quite good.
The Foie Gras was very tasty; but again, the bread had suffered from sitting around.
The one item that really did well was the "De Pato al Calvados", basically duck in a apple brandy in puff pastry. The pastry held up quite well, the pine nuts really added to this this.
Overall, a very inexpensive meal, though I'm not sold on the counter top tapas. Very nice folks, the place has the feel of a fast casual restaurant. And while I'm still not sold on the stuff lying along the bar....the presentation at Bergara is quite stunning.
Bar Bergara General Artetxe Kalea 8 San Sebastian, Spain
As we walked back....of to try more tapas; it became quite clear. There's unfinished business here; we'd arrived on the wrong days, there was much more to see and eat, we'd have to return some day soon. And all of this before our last stop of the day!
We love exploring public markets whenever we travel. We were just a block away from Brexta Public Market, so we were obviously going to pay them a visit. Along the side of the two large market buildings have been turned into a shopping center......
There's a nice produce "market" set-up alongside the buildings.
And heading down below the shopping center.....
You'll find a wonderful meat and fish market, with tons of stalls. The selection is quite amazing, especially the various charcuterie, cheese, and cuts of meat. You could literally spend and hour or more just wandering around. There are prepared food stalls and vendors selling all sorts of Basque food items.
We soon left the market however, as the Missus wanted to check out places out side of the Old Town. So we headed out. Past the statue of the Drummer and the Plaque with the lyrics to La Marcha de San Sebastian, which I was told is San Sebastian's City Anthem. Each January 20th marks Tamboradda in the city. From midnight on the 19th to midnight on the 20th drums pound constantly and there's....well, a party of course, which lasts (gasp) 24 hours! It must be quite and event.
As we expected; San Sebastian Centro is different from the Old Town. But, there was still an old world charm; just with more coffee shops, and some nice, upscale, shopping. We enjoyed just meandering up Calle de Urbieta, first taking a short break for a cup of coffee. Before arriving at the impressive Catedral del Buen Pastor de San Sebastián (Cathedral of the Good Shepherd). The Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro lies almost directly across from the Cathedral. It is said that you can even see the doors of the Cathedral from the stairs of the Basilica.
We took a walk inside the massive cathedral which was rather austere. It was very quiet in contrast to the busy traffic on the street outside.
Leaving the cathedral, we headed back to the Old Town. Of course the subject of lunch came out. We were getting hungry and it was still early. So we decided to self cater. I'd read about a market named Aitor Lasa right across the street from Brexta Market.
The rather tiny little market stocked a nice variety of cheese and charcuterie.
And we ended up purchasing some cheese, head cheese, eggs, and chorizo.
While paying for our groceries, we noticed some beautiful mushrooms. One especially caught my eye since I'd never seen it before.
The mushrooms are displayed in the top right of the photo above. I was told they were "cepes"......fresh porcinis! How could I not get a few? With all of this, bread was a must, so we asked the woman working the produce. At first she tried to sell us the bread stocked at the store. But soon enough, she wrote down the name of a place and drew a dot on my nap.
We loved the folks working here.
Aitor Lasa Aldamar Kalea 12 San Sebastian, Spain
Next we decided to head back down the stairs of Brexta Market and head for a stand that had caught our attention during our earlier visit.
The gentleman behind the counter was so friendly, handing out samples to everyone. We had decided to taste some of the olive oils for sale and decided to get a very nice Arbequina Olive Oil; mildly grassy with a nice pepperiness to it. We also got some olives; sin sel....light on the salt. The olive was perfect; we finished the last of it in Bordeaux right before flying back to Madrid.
We also headed off to the fish market portion of the market which we had skipped earlier.
We loved the displays....some of them seemed artistic and somewhat whimsical to us. What do you think?
We then headed back upstairs and off to getting some bread.
The shop was located right on Calle Mayor. We'd passed it a couple of times, but never even noticed it. There was no missing it on this morning. Check out the line!
So we stood in line and eventually got our bread. It was quite good; perhaps not on the level of what we had in Bordeaux, but it sure did well for lunch.
Galparsoro Okindegia Calle Mayor 6 San Sebastian, Spain
And while the kitchen wasn't too well stocked; luckily I had the olive oil. There was salt, pepper, and also some red wine vinegar. Still, this was so good! The Missus still mentions the earthy, yet mellow flavor of these. It turned out to be a nice, simple spread. Quick with minimal prep and clean-up.
After I cleaned up, it was time for a short nap......
We had really enjoyed our time visiting Petaluma and hitting the Cheese Trail, which was a great time. But, all things must come to an end, and it was time head back to SFO. But not before the really friendly cat came by to bid us farewell.
I'd planned a single stop on the way to the airport and we decided to getting Dim Sum at Zen Peninsula which had been recommended to us. A big plus was it was basically on the way to the airport. The small parking lot is quite odd here, since the dining room is one of those cavernous dim sum places.
We were hungry and ended up ordering way too much food....well, it didn't seem to be a lot when we ordered, but the portion sizes seemed quite large.
We were also quite surprised at how slowly this place filled up....a slow trickle of people. The place wasn't even full when we left at 1145. Anyway, on to the food.
The Missus enjoyed the Chicken Feet.
This was decently flavored, good soy, fermented black bean, but nothing special. Still, it was toe-sucking goodness to the Missus.
The Gailan was under-cooked; very crunchy, lacking in flavor.
The flavor of the Pork Neck was nice; sweet and savory.
But the Missus didn't care for the almost crunchy texture of it.
The portion size of the Soy Sauce Noodles was quite large.
This was ok if a bit too salty.
The Missus saw Turnip Cake with XO Sauce and automatically thought it would be like Sea Harbour.
No such luck Chuck. The flavor was on the milder side and the radish cake a bit too mushy for our taste. Still, not bad. One funny thing; we didn't want to waste food so ended up taking this on our flight.......nothing like the smell of XO sauce on Virgin America!
I saw the Mustard Steamed Pork Intestine and decided I needed to try it. It was very fragrant, and the "sauce" tasted good, though I wasn't a big fan of all the scum.
And while there were some bits that looked like part of the Piggy's last meal floating around; the pungency of the dish masked all of that. This also added to the pungency of our carry-on....I really felt bad. In fact, I made sure not to buy any washed rind cheeses so as to not bother other passengers.....and here I was bringing pork intestine along for the flight. Luckily, no one sat around us and the flight was relatively empty. I didn't see anyone sniffing around wondering "what the heck is that smell"......
One last item I wanted to try was the Duck Liver Sausage Bun. Think ducky lapcheong.
While I felt the steamed bun could have been a bit lighter....it seemed to be getting gummy pretty quickly; I liked the flavor. The Missus's Shandong roots betrayed Her as She declared this way too sweet.
In spite of what you might think upon reading to this point; this was a decent dim sum meal; nothing spectacular, but still better, and cheaper than San Diego. Of course the Missus wanted to head to the SGV as soon as we got home.
Zen Peninsula 1180 El Camino Real Millbrae, CA 94030
We finished lunch a bit earlier than expected, so I decided to head over to Burlingame. I'd heard that one of the Tea Shops also made tea infused chocolates. After finding a parking spot, which was a lot more difficult than I anticipated, then wandering around a bit....the shop isn't the easiest place to find....we got to Rue Du Thé , which I believe is also named Leland Tea Company.
Really friendly folks. And while not on the same level....according to the Missus as Wine Country Chocolates, She did enjoy what She selected. Especially the chili infused chocolates.
Rue Du Thé 1223 Donnelly Ave Burlingame, CA 94010
We really enjoyed our short trip to the Bay Area. In fact, the Missus is already planning a return....for more cheese!
We had a gameplan for our last morning in Portland. More on that later. First, we needed some coffee. Back in March, FOY (Friend of Yoso) "James" recommended Public Domain Coffee Never let it be said that I don't take recommendations seriously. Unlike many of the coffee shop in the downtown area which open later on weekend, Public Domain opens at 6am every day. Which made it an easy choice early on a Sunday morning.
They were doing some nice business at this early hour. Just a simple cup of coffee. Service was great and we enjoyed the place except for the two morons who blocked the condiment section....they kept adding cream, sugar, and whatever, then tasting their coffee, then adding more stuff...pouring off some coffee to compensate...wash...rinse...repeat....meanwhile a line was forming behind these two clueless, entitled knuckleheads...until we finally went, "excuse me, but can we get some sleeves...."
One other funny incident. There was an older gentleman, though perhaps life had made him look a bit older than he was, who was sitting on the sidewalk outside Public Domain. He seemed quite kind, asking for change, or a cup of coffee, addressing folks as "sir" and "ma'am". We got him some coffee and a croissant....and damn if he didn't give the Missus a bow and a flourish, finishing with what looked like a modified curtsy, which was pretty much worth the price of the cup of coffee and pastry.
Public Domain Coffee 603 SW Broadway Portland, OR 97205
We went back to our room and packed. Breakfast was going to be at....well, where else; Tasty n Alder, the decision was not up for negotiating. We travel light. On this trip, a single carry-on for both the Missus and I, a Tom Binh Aeronaut 45. Tasty n Alder doesn't open until 9am and out flight was at noon. On our visit the previous morning, we asked our server, who had also been our server on the previous two visits if she thought we could actually have breakfast here; catch the light rail, and make our flight back to San Diego. She believed we could do this. We'd have to be in line 20 minutes before the restaurant opened and she was sure we'd make it.
And so we got to the front door; with our bag, 20 minutes before the place opened. It was good advice. Within minutes there was a line behind us.
We got in and wouldn't you know it......we got the same server....I got her name...but sadly can't remember it right now. You know how the Missus enjoys the food here. All I've got to add is, that young lady was just on top of things, she was just amazing.
Besides the usual suspects, we also ordered the Watermelon Salad, which the Missus loved. This is what made ordering the Watermelon Salad at Risibisi a few months later an easy sell.
Which she brought with the check, knowing we were in a hurry. Touches like this mean that we'll always come back here....... We're just visitors....who knows when, or if, we'd ever be back. And still there's such a nice gesture.
Tasty n Alder 580 SW 12th Ave Portland, OR 97205
And of course we made it to the airport with time to spare.
To think we'd been to Tasty n Alder three times (it would be four by the time left) over the last year and had even been to Tasty n Sons, but still hadn't been to the first, John Gorham's original; Toro Bravo. I'd indeed read and heard a lot about the place; the Spanish inspired dishes, and having just returned from Spain, possibly my second favorite country to visit, the time seemed right.
Even though we'd done a good amount of walking already, the Missus was determined to walk to Toro Bravo. Hacing walked to Tasty n Sons the day before, this two mile walk was a piece of cake. It helped that it wasn't quite as hot as it was earlier in the day.
As you can see....Toro Bravo is the place to be. There was a line when we arrived. The place only takes reservations for groups of 7 to 14 people, so we had to arrive a bit before opening. We loved the service here; it was both efficient and polished, but relaxed, and not stuffy at all. There was never a time when we even had to consider flagging someone down, as our drinks were always full , the timing of clearing the table was amazing. And yet, we never, ever felt like anyone was hovering over us.....a nice plus was being seated in the comfy and cozy little nook called "the Make Out Room". Compared to the busy dining room.....
It was such a nice, private, space.....
While it seems like the Tasting Menu would be a nice choice, we went a la carte instead and were glad we did.
We started with two "kisses", think amuse like starters.
First up, the Spanish Kiss - "spherical olives".
Had we not been to Disfrutar a few months before, this El Bulli inspired, olive flavored spheres would have impressed us a bit more. As it stood, we found this to be quite mild in flavor, not quite the stunning bite we expected.
I have to say, while this was decent, it really missed the richness, smokiness, and pure savory goodness of the TnA version. The vinaigrette was nice, but I think the tangy-creamy-rich dressing that TnA uses is better.
The Basque Piperade had all those components we love.
But in spite of the hearty look of the dish, this one also missed the mark. The grilled bread; was a bit too burned and bitter for us; and the entire dish was a bit lacking in overall flavor. We would have enjoyed a bit more acid, more salt...as a whole this tasted a bit flat to us.
At this point, I noticed something with the last two dishes; it seems that we were consuming what were the base of other dishes we'd had at Tasty n Alder and Tasty n Sons...the radicchio salad is obvious....but the piperade was so close to the shakshuka at Tasty n Sons, down to the grilled bread, and even the base flavors...we also found the shakshuka at TnS to be a bit lacking in flavor overall as well.
For us the real star of the "Beccerita" were the potatoes, which were prepped quite well and had great flavor. The sauce overwhelmed the octopus, which did have a very nice texture.
We also loved the potatoes the accompanied the nicely seasoned and very tasty Moorish Lamb Chop.
Loved the flavors; the charred and smokey lamb was very gamey.
By now we had a thought that perhaps the proteins here were the way to go and decided to end with the Drunken Pork, which proved to be a favorite.
While it looked like a hot mess; the combination of textures and flavors really did well together.
So things ended really well. Still, I think that Ataula is more our thing. Still, I'm glad we finally had a chance to check out Toro Bravo.
Toro Bravo 120 NE Russell St Portland, OR 97212
We had really wanted to check out several breweries, but were just not able to this time around. With our time in PDX short, I decided that the one place we needed to check out was Upright Brewing.
Located in the basement in the office building, I loved the setting. You go and find the elevator (we found the stairs) and head down to the basement.
Past those double doors.....
And you were there......
A couple of tables in room with a few pulls, the place had this real speakeasy feel....you were in the basement of some business building in who knows where... Also, I love my Belgian style brews, so the French/Belgian Farmhouse style beers were just up my alley.
My favorites were the "Six" and "Seven", the six a bit prune-raisiny with sweet touches. The seven was a wonderful farmhouse saison, fresh, perhaps a bit too sweet for a saison, but I enjoyed it.
Upright Brewing 240 N Broadway Portland, OR 97227
As always Portland is full of surprises for us.
Speaking of surprises....anyone know what this is?