Dear friends, it should come as no surprise by now that eating (comer) and drinking (beber) are two of our favorite travel activities. We are quick to search out food and market tours wherever we go, and Madrid was no exception. Many thanks to Jorge at Secret Food Tours for taking us on a gastronomic adventure through his city!
Madrid’s Plaza Major, a perfect example of Spain’s café culture.
The Spanish verb tapear translates literally as “to eat small portions” – and of course from that we get tapas.
Chalkboard menus (and fresh baguettes) dot the city.
Chorizo and sangria. What more do you need, really?
The city of Madrid issues plaques like the one above to stores and restaurants of historical significance in the city; this one dates from 1837. Many of these places pay rent that is far below market rates to keep their businesses open, because Madrid’s government has decided that they don’t wish to have the center of town filled with Starbucks, McDonald’s and tacky tourist stores able to pay inflated prices. Smart decisions like this help cities maintain their cultural character instead of becoming homogenized corporate copies.
Slicing jamón by hand.
Legs are hung for months or years to cure properly.
Spain is justifiably famous for its jamón, which comes in different grades. Jamón ibérico, or Iberian ham, can only be made in Spain and Portugal from pigs that are at least 50% Iberian. The very best is called jamón ibérico de bellota, which comes from pigs allowed to forage in the wild for acorns, giving the flesh a sweet taste and silky texture. Jamón ibérico de bellota is so valuable that individual pigs often have armed bodyguards, since the entire pig can be worth as much as $4,000. Traditionally, it’s always shaved very thinly by hand and served as tapas with tiny breadsticks, above.
Notice how the leg is stamped? Since they’re so valuable, it’s important that they can be traced to prevent forgeries and theft.
Calamari sandwiches are another classic snack in Madrid.
Did you know that the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world is in Madrid? It’s famous for suckling pig, which you can see in the dishes on the left.
One of the oldest pastry shops in Madrid…
…and their famous ponche segoviano, a layered pastry made with marzipan.
France gets all the press, but Spain makes its fair share of incredible pastries.
Jorge demonstrating how to pour Spanish cidre, made from apples grown in the north of Spain.
Classic tapas: a Spanish omelette, or tortilla, made of eggs, potatoes and onions, served on fresh bread. Simple, filling and delicious.
A perfect pair: manchego and cidre.
I’ll be in the cellar if anyone needs me.