I recently visited my childhood friend Carolina in Madrid, Spain. We had 4 years without seeing each other and with 3,692 miles of land and water separating us it is difficult to keep the friendship alive on a daily basis but when I arrived we picked up our friendship back just like if it was yesterday that we were playing in 7th grade together.
Before I got there I told her I wanted my trip to be a gastronomic tour of Madrid and this was really a challenge with so much to see, do, talk and eat in only 48 hours. But we gave it a try and here is my summary of what I ate in Madrid.
We started the day with a brunch at La Penela. This is a restaurant that focuses on regional Galician cuisine. One of their specialties, which has been acclaimed as one of the best in the city, is their Spanish Omelet or Tortilla Española.
As you can see below I really enjoyed my omelet and soaked all the juice with the fresh bread that came along.
This tortilla is different than the traditional Spanish omelet as it uses potato chips instead of raw potatoes and is cooked for only seconds on each side which delivers a very runny center that is warm and packed with flavor. This style is known as Tortilla de Betanzos referring to a small town near La Coruña in the community of Galicia.
Restaurant La Penela: Infanta Mercedes, 98. Madrid. Service, food quality and overall experience: 5 stars
We then head out to El Mercado de San Miguel which is a very peculiar market around Plaza Mayor. Before I got there I was thinking it was a farmers market like what we see in the United States but this market is located in an urban setting in a French-style metal and glass building almost 100 years old.
The fruit and vegetable variety in this market was incredible. I was mesmerized by the colors, shapes and aromas.
El mercado not only offers fresh fruits, meats, seafood, and vegetables but is also a place to enjoy a good wine and “ir de tapeo”. The latter is the term the Spanish use to explain the activity of going from bar to bar eating their famous tapas or small food portions. El Mercado de San Miguel is perfect to do just that. It’s filled with stand after stand selling incredible options to eat and drink all blended in a market-like environment. It is really a special and lively place.
Here I ordered a tapas dish called “Heart of Burrata” which is a combination of very fresh mozzarella and cream and in this case it was topped with plum preserves and chopped hazelnut.
While at the Mercado de San Miguel we stopped to visit a dear Spanish friend of mine that I met while in college in Rochester, NY and now is a restaurateur in Spain. He has various stands at this market and graciously walked us through them giving us a taste of some of the food he offers.
Here you can see my friend Guzman (far left) and his staff at the stand called Paella y Olé where they serve various styles of Paella.
As going bar hopping in search of delicious tapas is a popular activity in Spain, we decided to do just that. We headed to La Latina a neighborhood in the very center of Madrid, and one of the oldest areas of the city. This neighborhood is filled with bars, cafes, parks and outside seating for a great afternoon of food and people-watching. The below were my favorite adventurous eats while at La Latina.
Grilled Sliced Pork Ears with Parsley Oil & Rice and Blood Sausages with Quail Egg
Eggs with Iberian Bellota Ham and Potatoes
For some reason I now see an egg theme in all the food I ate which was was not my intention. I have to say that Spanish cuisine is very unpretentious, humble and incredibly tasty. The combination of ingredients is what makes this cuisine so special.
An to finish this gastronomic tour with a sweet bite, one of the places you can not miss while in Madrid is Chocolateria San Gines. This is a small and almost hidden shop that specializes in hot chocolate and churros and has been operating since 1894.
Their hot chocolate is not too sweet, but rich, and thick with a consistency between regular hot chocolate and hot fudge. The churros where light and crispy, perfect to dunk in the chocolate. I am still dreaming about the day I had them in front of me, so I will soon share a churros recipe, cause I want churros badly!
This trip was very special for me as it was the first time visiting where part of my family originated. My great grandfather José María Fontanilla arrived in the late 1800s with his brother and made the Dominican Republic his new home. I really want to go back and visit the town where he was born, Blanes in the province of Girona.
And to close this long post, I cannot fail to mention that the best part of this trip was to rekindle my friendship with Carolina. We laughed and laughed so much and as an adult it is great to experience such true and honest moments of friendship that lift you up and that fill an important space of our hearts. Gracias Caro!
This is my favorite picture of the whole trip!
I hope you get a chance to visit Madrid. Let me know if you have any questions about my trip or this city. I would love to tell you more!