Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tasty Toledo

After being in Madrid for 3 weeks, a few friends and I decided to get out of the big city and visit Spain's previous capital Toledo.  This city has a kind of charm that can only be bestowed to one settled in the 7th century B.C.  Immediately upon arrival you are transported back in time.  You are walking on cobblestone streets, through narrow walkways, and of course the immense cathedral with its intricate carvings and architecture.  One of my friends, who is involved the group Couchsurfing, organized a tour with a fellow couchsurfer.  The first order of business was lunch.  Now if travel shows have taught me anything, it's that locals know the best places to eat.  He took us to a hidden cafe, that we would have definitely not found on our own.  The thing I appreciate about eating with Spanish people is that they prefer eating family style.  This way we have a variety for people to choose from but especially allows someone like me to try many dishes at once. This is what we feasted on:

Jamón ibérico with Manchego Cheese

Ensalada de Ventresca (piquillo peppers, mackerel, and egg)
Salmonejo (similar to gazpacho)
Carcamusas (pork)
Etrufado de Ciervo (venison)
Picadillo de Morcilla (blood sausage)
Tortilla (Spanish omelet with potatoes)

The best part about this meal must have been the bread that the restaurant provided to sop up all the sauce from the different dishes.  I tried to recreate the piquillo pepper salad the next day at home but it just wasn't the same.  I will keep working on it, a recipe coming soon.  Besides its history, Toledo is famous for 2 things: swords and marzipan.  Now the swords were interesting to look at but not practical to buy at this stage in my life.  Maybe if I convert into a hunter/gather and live in the forests of England...but probably not.  However, I do highly recommend buying the amazing marzipan.  Its unlike any I have ever had in the States.  Its buttery and soft, my favorite were those filled with apricot jam. 
Marzipan from Santo Tomé's
It was truly a relaxing day of sightseeing and great food.  I look forward to visiting more small towns in Spain and throughout Europe. I wonder where my next adventure will take me......

Check out this view from the other side of the river

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Craze that is 100 Montaditos

When you think that the sandwich or bocadillo (as they are called here in Spain) cannot be reinvented anymore, here comes a chain that totally sends you up in a tornado and lands you in something like bocadillo heaven. 100 Montaditos has literally 100 choices and the best part is that you get to buy more than one. This has something for everyone. Fillings range from chorizo and tortilla, gambas (small eels) with aioli, or chocolate with fruit preserves.  For those indulgent types, like myself, they also have foie gras on the menu. Their success is based on the fact that they use a few quality ingredients in each bocadillo and that are traditional to Spain.  Yes, local and fresh ingredients.
And an added bonus is that every order is served with fresh potato chips.  You can choose to eat in the restaurant and enjoy a cerveza with your bocadillos but these bit size sandwiches are perfect for a picnic in Retiro park.  I think the most magnificent advantage that this restaurant has is it that these delights are cheap, ranging from 1 Euro to 1,50 Euro.  So it is great for travelers on a budget or locals who want a cheap lunch.  This chain is all over Spain so I encourage all visitors to come and check it out.  When you do one thing really well, you don't need anything else and I think 100 Montaditos has found that niche.  I do realize that I sound like a cheerleader for this place and that they might be paying me for this post but in reality I am just really excited about it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spanish Extravaganza

This blog is moving in a new direction as have I. I was recently awarded a scholarship to study in Spain for 9 months doing research on the Mediterranean diet, but I mean, who are we kidding, what else would I study besides FOOD! I have met other grantees who are as obsessed with food as I am. I am very excited to have a group of people to eat out with as well as to experience national delicacies. Madrid has the highest number of bars and restaurants per inhabitant in Europe. I believe the current figure is 171 people per restaurant. I believe it. There is literally a bar with mostly decent food on every corner. This is an eating culture. People spend 2 hours at lunch enjoying different small plates and chatting about their lives. It seems that this a time for the Spanish to relax and enjoy the moment. This is a Spanish attribute that I am aspiring to embody and take home with me. If nothing else I want memories of good food and great friends. I am determined to recount my experience as an American in a completely different food culture and (maybe for those who read me) inspire myself and others to adopt some new customs. Come to Madrid, grab a few tapas and some vino, and enjoy the ride .