Madrid Food Tour

Everybody vacations differently.  Some people would come on a trip to Madrid, itinerary in hand with a plan for each part of their day.  They would have their day trips arranged, and a list of all the sites they want to see and each day would be filled with taking it all in.  I love these kinds of people. They’re so thoughtful and organized, and their planning is commendable.    

My husband and I are similar to these itinerary people, but just a little different.  Our itinerary for new cities is almost exclusively restaurants. Madrid was no different. Our game plan going in was to go eat at as many of the restaurants, throughout the different neighborhoods as we could, and whatever we could walk around and see after as we walked off the bread was a plus.

In the 30 days we were there, we ate at just about 30 restaurants.  I’m not going to bore you anymore with an intro. Let’s get down to it.  The first 6 were my top absolute must go to places. Everything else I will leave at your discretion.  I will say there is no going wrong in Madrid. It’s a magical land where even the most obscure empty restaurants, are filled with delicious food. 

Our Top 6

  • La Castela: Our first few days in Madrid were very blurry, but upon our very strong recommendation from our Landlord “Harrison Ford loved it here” we stumbled in.  It was love at first bite. The staff is made up of a group of close knit guys who have no interest in talking to you outside of taking your order, their hard to get attitude only made me love it more.  Their absolute must have dish is the Milhojas de Ventresca- we went back four times and had it each time. It is that good.  
    • Nutshell: no reservations, standing room or if you are lucky you can grab a bar stool, not kid friendly, $$
    • What we had: We sampled almost their entire menu, and I can tell you that you cannot go wrong.  I would say the Garbanzos salteados con Langostinos, Solomillo con Foie, and the Arroz Meloso con Pulpo and Calamar were my favorites.  Check them out HERE for more information. 
  • Triciclo: This gastro restaurant came highly recommended by locals and friends of ours who make it their business to know food.  I always come weary to gastro bars, in fear that it would go too far trying to be different. This place blew me away. Each dish was light and fresh, and took me by surprise with flavor.  The menu varies depending on what is available seasonally, but I would tell you to trust your server. To get more information or book a table click HERE
    • Nutshell: reservations available and suggested for dinner, if your kids are adventurous could work, $$$
    • What We Had: Shrimp wonton, Tuna Tartar, Sea Bass Carpaccio, Solomillo, Cannelloni Stuffed with truffle mushrooms and ricotta, and a rack of lamb 
      • To be clear I am very aware we overdid it here.  It was our only chance to come and everything was as amazing as it sounded.
  • Ten Con Ten: As soon as the automatic sliding glass door opens into this gorgeous wrap around bar scene, you know you are somewhere special.  We stepped into Ten con Ten for lunch one day, after receiving countless of referrals, and were taken by how beautiful it was and then blown away by the food.  I’m a sucker for truffle and an even bigger sucker for truffle on pasta. Naturally this place had me at hello, so much so we returned for dinner a week later.  
    • Nutshell: would suggest reservations, especially if you go for dinner as this place becomes a little bit of a scene (so fun to watch).  Very pricey- many people were there with their kids so it’s up to you.
    • What we had: Besides the black truffle risotto which we had both times because it makes me feel closer to God, we also loved the Pulpo (grilled octopus) “Pedreidro” Asado, Arroz Frito Con Pato (duck fried rice), as well as the Solomillo Asado a la Pimienta (Sirloin with Black Pepper Sauce), and would highly recommend a plate of their Iberico.
  • Los Juevos de Lucio: A light walk off the Plaza Mayor, down a charming cobblestone road you will find this charming place made for egg sluts such as myself.  As you might have picked up on, this place is THE place for juevos (eggs) rotos. You can order them over almost anything, we obviously did Iberico, because while most people have told me they got sick of it- I did not.  Check them out HERE for more information
    • Nutshell: casual, need reservation for dinner, good for kids, $$
    • What we had: Los Juevos con media racion de jamon, Pulpo braseado 
  • Street XO:  We were told by all of the foodiest of the foodies we knew that this place was a must try.  They open for lunch at 2 and the line starts to form around 1:30. That’s right, a line. Can you even imagine a place that is so delicious Madridians stand in line for the table, early! We were able to get a seating at the bar, and it was one of the coolest meals I’ve ever had.  The spin on Spanish food was different from almost anything else we had. The restaurant is really edgy and has Japanese grunge decor. The staff is also very edgy but majorly into food. We let the waiter walk us through the menu, and everything was delicious. 
    • Nutshell: casual, get in line at 1:30 worth the wait, $$, not kid friendly
    • What we had: Uzusukuri, Curry Japones, and whatever else the chef recommended
  • La Kasa– came highly recommended to us from the owner of Casa Di Vino, and it was for lack of a better word, divino.  The restaurant is modern and beautiful, and the staff was excellent.    
    • Nutshell: Even at lunch they were completely slammed, and made us feel lucky we could get a high top by the bar.  I would definitely suggest reservations. $$ I didn’t see any kids while we were there.
    • What we had: the Bunuelitos de Idiazabal (fried cheese), Gazpachuela, Mejillones de Bouchot Con Salsa Cafe de Paris, Corvina Macerada en Achiote, and the Lomo de Corzo Asado con Mole Poblano.  I would suggest any of these dishes, with the exception of the Corvina which while interesting to try wasn’t exactly up my alley. You can check out the rest of their menu or make a reservation on their website HERE.  

Cochinillo:

“Suckling pig” is a common dish served in a lot of restaurants in Madrid and all of the surrounding areas.  I am told that the absolute best one, according to many of the emails I’ve received, and almost all Madridians that I spoke to, is in Toledo (a nearby town accessible by a 45 minute train ride) and it is called Los Cuatro Tiempos.  However in Madrid you can find some pretty delicious variations. It’s typically served with roasted potatoes and is fall of the bone delicious with the crispy skin that just brings that added level of melt in your mouth deliciousness. We went to:

  • La Taberna Del Capitan Alatriste: more of a local scene.  Casual with an old Spanish vibe.  The menu here was very kid friendly and fairly priced.  I would make a reservation just in case, HERE is their website. 
  • Sobrino de Botin: Oldest restaurant in the world.  I swear- can’t make this up. It’s on a beautiful street in the center of Madrid, and the cochinillo does not disappoint.  Also casual, but some people dressed up. Kid Friendly and a little more pricey due to the “oldest restaurant in the world” tourist appeal.  Definitely make a reservation- find the website HERE

Pollo Asado

When it comes to this dish, Madrid don’t play.  I want to point out to you, that I may be biased.  I am irrevocably in love with Spanish cooking, so to me their pollo asado (roasted chicken) is perfection.  Something about this dish, maybe it’s the magnificent way the skin of the chicken has just browned, creating just the right amount of crisp as it falls off the bone and is swimming in perfectly seasoned drippings.  Is it hot in here? Whew! Sorry, I sort of just lost myself in that moment. Two of the best places to get your hands on some finger licking good chicken: 

  • Casa Mingo: It opened its doors in 1888, and the decor has maintained the original main features with wood paneling, a view of their bottles and barrels.  The barrels are for their world renowned cider. It is a very local scene. Everyone comes here and places an order for the chicken, with a side of bread.   For our little family of 5 we ordered two whole chickens and not a single piece of chicken was left over. Our kids begged to go back for more.
    • Nutshell: Very casual, great price, and absolutely delicious. Reservations aren’t necessary and you can visit their website HERE.
  • Limbo: Located inside a hostel right off Plaza Mayor and near Mercado de San Miguel, Limbo is almost a more modern Casa Mingo.  I would called it the hipster Casa Mingo. It has a real young scene, even a space for live music, and the design is very modern with an open space concept.  The chicken here is on par with Casa Mingo. The appetizers and sides are also really creative takes on classic dishes. Would also recommend the ribs.
    • Nutshell: Casual, kid friendly, $$, and you can make reservations HERE.

Markets or Food Halls 

  • Platea: located in the higher end Salamanca area, Platea is a 2 story “gastro leisure space” food hall filled with different stands offering classic and a modern take on tapas.  For those who want a more formal experience there is a restaurant with full service on the first floor, where you can order from the menu of the surrounding gastro pubs surrounding the seating area.  It was a great experience with the kids, and also one of our first. They host live music and also have a “el club” for those who are looking to be without kids. Check out the website HERE
  • Mercado Los Mostenses: Our amazing food tour guide, Margit, introduced us to this amazing market one of our first weekends in Madrid.  Filled with different stands of different meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables and more. Most stands being run by the same family who has done so for generations.  The pride and care that goes into each slice of jamon or each bocadillo de pulpo was overwhelming and needless to say delicious. Only open on the week day and a must if you can make it. 
  • Mercado de San Miguel: I am going to say something about this mercado that is not going to sit well, it was one of our worst experiences in Madrid.  While beautiful, it seems to be just a shadow of its former self. While they seem to have led the food hall trend, I feel Mercado de San Miguel has become a victim of its own popularity.  Whether the vendors have a hard time meeting the demand of the number of customers they are receiving, or they are just phoning it in- I can’t tell. But it was rather expensive and the scene was very touristy.  I spent most of the time worried about where my kids were. I would not recommend when there are other more authentic, less hectic places to see. 
  • Mercado de Paz: If you can only do one food market, this is the one I would pick.  Also full of vendors whose families have been doing this for generations, it also has Casa Dani a small little popup restaurant with hands down the best tortilla I have ever had in my life.  Along with other little popups and different shops filled with locals, and really gives you more of an authentic experience.  

Places We Tried and Loved…

The biggest food takeaway from our time in Madrid is simple, you can’t go wrong.  We had a lot of recommendations to go off of, but when we felt like just venturing out we were never disappointed.  Every place has its own personality and style. The thing that remains is that it is all made with fresh ingredients by people who just get what it’s all about- great food.  Here are a few more places some that were referrals and some that we just stumbled into. All amazing:

  • La Palma 60: the best croquettas of my life
  • Bodega Rivas: the most tender fried octopus 
  • Cafe di Vino: her wine and Cava selection are amazing, and a mean ensalada Rusa
  • Couzapin: the fabada of my dreams
  • Gerardo: solomillo off the grill that was to die for
  • Laredo: they had a dish with a scallop on a rice cracker that made me tear up
  • La Barilla: fresh seafood, it was solid
  • Taberna Triana: a truffle juevos rotos dish that I could have eaten once a day forever
  • Catapa: arroz meloso (risotto) with rabo that I can still sometimes smell in my dreams

Surviving Weekly 38 {7.19.19}

Ole From Spain
It has been more than a while since I’ve sent out a newsletter.  There was so much going on between end of the year and a few projects I have been working on.  I have missed you all.  

One of the bigger things going on was preparing for our big summer trip to Spain.  My husband and I had always talked about living in another city for a while, and we finally decided this was the summer to do it.  So I am currently writing to you with my hair blowed out, in a cute little dress, in an adorable little coffee shop in Madrid as I sip on espresso and eat tapas.  I’m kidding.  I’m just in Spain- nothing else has changed.  I’m wearing workout clothes, drinking coffee from a mug and my hair is a bun.  

We have been here for two weeks, and been through it all:Jet Lag Stomach BugsTantrumsOne child didn’t like something at a restaurant and threw up, on her plate, (we obviously had to leave a ridiculous tip)One child farted so loud and big that he showed me Sharts are a real thing
It doesn’t matter the continent- raising kids is always fun.  We even had an unexpected birds and bees conversation yesterday in the park which you can find on my Instagram Story.  

In all seriousness, it’s been amazing to be here.  My husband and I had never been to Madrid.  Being able to come for this amount of time, and share it with our kids has been nothing short of magical.  

I have gotten a few questions about the who, what, how of this entire trip.  I have answered most of the questions HERE on the blog. 

However there is plenty to get to below including Mariah Carey and Meth Gators. 

Thank you for sticking around and reading! 

xx
Cristina 

In My Feelings 

This summer’s internet challenges are kind of, hmmm how do I say this? SO LAME! Are we out of ideas?  Last summer we at least were able to watch everyone do catchy dance moves.  This summer we have people kicking off bottle caps and aging themselves with an app.    

What am  I talking about?
Bottle Cap Challenge: I admit I was intrigued briefly when I first I saw John Mayer sloppily kick a bottle cap off a bottle on Instagram, but he’s kind of out there and clearly still drinking vodka out of a plastic bottle (which I am super judging).  Then Kendall Jenner did it and the internet exploded: 

How it Started: Apparently Farabi Davletchin, a taekwondo instructor, posted a video on Instagram doing the move and challenged Connor McGregor (MMA champ) Jason Statham and Jackie Chen.  Unfortunately for all of us Jackie Chen has not responded.  Here is the original video: 

That was it.  You see? Underwhelming.  One is supposed to do a slow-mo video of themselves kicking a bottle cap off a bottle.  It has led to some mildly entertaining content.  Check out some of my favorites: Blake Shelton, Ryan Reynolds and Mariah Carey

Speaking of Mariah Carey we are moving onto…
Face App Challenge is having our feeds filled with our friends, influencers, and celebrities alike showing us how they will look when they age.  

I’m not particularly vain, but why is this a thing? Not just that, you want to see yourself at around 85 I can almost understand it BUT why share it?  How does this involve Mariah you may be wondering? 

Yes Mimi!! Check out other celebrities and see MImi break it down again HERE.

Forget the notion that over 100 million people sharing their aging faces is kind of weird there are actual security concerns. 

Forbes reported that because of this challenge Face Tune App (which is a Russian company) has collected over 150 million different faces, which may actually prove to be dangerous for your security.  As the app does have permission to access other photos and even your location.  A way to protect yourself is to change permissions, either delete the app, or go to app settings on your iPhone or Android and change what data tools are allowed to access.  Click HERE for the article. 

So I will end where I started, can we please bring back simple challenges like dancing on the street or dumping iced buckets over our heads?  Or if we are going to face tune ourselves can we do it in reverse? Ain’t nobody got time to be seeing my face covered in wrinkles. I pay a lot of money to make that impossible. 

Standouts of the Week 

Emmy Nominations were announced this week, and Game of Thrones was the leader with 32 nominations including one for Kit Harrington for Best Lead Actor.  Shout out to Moira Rose for her first Emmy Nomination for Schitt’s Creek (see TV Addict update) Full list of nominations HERE.  Anyone want to invite me over to watch?

Summer Movies It may be hard to believe, but there are other movies coming out this summer besides the live action remake of The Lion King.  I found this list from Polygon that breaks it all down along with release dates.  Check it out HERE.

But While we are Talking About the Lion King… Can we talk about Beyonce and Blue Ivy at the premiers?! See it HERE– I want to say it’s so adorable but with that many diamonds adorable just doesn’t seem appropriate. 

Beyonce has clearly been the big draw on this movie- I mean I just heard her and Donald Glover sing “Can you Feel the Love Tonight” and I was covered in goosebumps (catch a glimpse of that HERE).  Say what you want but Queen B is life. 

Don’t believe me? Watch Seth Rogan explain it to Jimmy Kimmel HERE right around the 2:35 mark- the woman gets an ovation for being alive. That entire interview is also pretty hilarious (BTW).  I leave you with Beyonce’s new Spirit video, which she made with Blue, and is inspired by Africa. 

In Case You Were Sleeping Well At Night, I Bring you Meth Gators! I am not sure why this has to be said, but stop flushing your Meth down the toilet as the gators are going to get it.  I feel that is is always implied however, nothing surprises me anymore.  Check it out HERE.

TV Addict Update  

As we have established, time and time again, I watch too much TV.  Here in Spain, it’s been a little more difficult for me to live up to my TV Addict reputation.  I’m working on cracking my VPN in the mean time,

What’s on my list to watch next?  The Hills Reboot- judge away but the second I touch back on US soil- it’s on.
Have a suggestion? Let me know

Fleabag – (Amazon Prime) It’s on Season 2 and comes highly recommended by most trusted TV source who would like to remain anonymous (for now).  About a lady who just can’t seem to get her life together.  I heard season 1 was a little slow but Season 2 picks up big time.  

Schitt’s Creek: I don’t know where I had been.  Moira Rose is my spirit animal and I can listen to Alexis tell stories about how she had been tied up and kidnapped by a Saudi Prince all day.  You all tried to tell me and I didn’t listen- and for that I am sorry. When I’m wrong- I say it, and I was wrong.  This show is so funny and I would absolutely suggest you RUN to go catch up on Netflix.  

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee:  Back for its 11th Season today!, Jerry Seinfeld is riding with Eddie Murphy, Seth Rogan, Jamie Foxx and more.  I wouldn’t say go back and watch every single episode of this series (but you could and you would love it) just pick your favorite comedians if you want, and it’s just so light and hilarious at times.  Great for a pick me up. 

More Summer TV: Orange is the New Black (July 26 Netflix), Stranger Things (Season 3 is out on Netflix), Younger (Season 6, TV Land),  Big Little Lies (Season 2 just finished HBO), When They See Us (Netflix), and Veronica Mars is back! (July 26 Hulu)

Family Trip to Madrid

My husband, Bobby, doesn’t know this, but a couple of years ago he lost his official vote in helping plan what our family does for vacation.  He shouldn’t be surprised, considering the last time he proposed and planned a vacation, THIS happened: 

However, this year, was the year he found redemption.  Since our oldest, Blake, was a baby (almost 9 years) we have been talking about (dreaming about) spending a summer somewhere else and just living life there.  We would talk about it incessantly in private, discussing what would make for the perfect scenario. What cities could work? What scenarios wouldn’t work at all? How old would the kids have to be?  Some of the fundamental conclusions we came to were: 

  • Time: For us it had to be at least two weeks up to one month.  We want to be in another city and really get the feel for what it’s like to live there and we felt this time period would accomplish that.  
  • Kids Age: We wanted our youngest, Tristan, to be at least 4-5.  We wanted to be able to send the kids to camp. We feel more comfortable sending the kids to a new environment knowing they will be able to clearly communicate what had gone on in the day.  Also didn’t want them to be so young that they would forget this experience entirely.
  • Language: the first time we do this (we hope for more), it had to be a place we felt comfortable speaking the language.  English is preferred but it could be Spanish, as we are both fluentish. We definitely wanted to be able to handle any situation that arose. [This really helped us narrow it down.]
  • Camp: There had to be a camp that all three kids could attend and wasn’t too pricey.  I wanted to live somewhere else, not referee my children all day in another city.
  • Work: I can write from anywhere, but Bobby.  Luckily he had started a business that allows him to work remotely from anywhere.  
  • Location:  After an RV I realized real quick that city life, is the life for me. Also we wanted to be able to have access to great food, grocery stores, gyms, and culture.  No offense to smaller cities, but a girl’s gotta eat.

Back to Bobby’s Redemption Story.  This past January, Bobby came home and had found the key to making all of our discussions and dreams come true.  He found a camp the kids could attend in Madrid. This hits two of our requirements.   After all the talks and all of the day-dreaming, it was time to put up. We had never been to Madrid, were we really going to do this? Hell yes! So we booked it! 

It was one of those things that I was so excited for, but also could not believe was happening.  We had three kids, our lives are chaos personified, how was this going to work?  How would our kids take the news?

Our kids were not thrilled. Blake is already old enough to say things like “you’re making me leave my friends for the whole summer?”

Dylan was saying things like “But I don’t want to learn Spanish on my vacation!”

Tristan’s concerns were along the lines of, “how many toys can I bring? But won’t the toys that stay behind miss me?”

We had a few big talks leading up to the departure. Easing nerves about taking such a long flight (their first), about how long we were going to be away, and how it is ok to feel sad or that they are going to miss their friends and family. If you are considering a trip like this, I would definitely have a plan about how to talk to them about it and give them space to express their concerns. As much as this was our dream, we definitely wanted it to be something they could be excited about as well.

It’s hard to believe that we are 14 days into this incredible adventure. The kids transitioned so well! Tristan however has asked to FaceTime his toys, and asks how I think his Colossal T-Rex is doing almost every day.

I’m so happy to share with you some of the details of how we made this happen: 

Camp

We are in Madrid for 4 weeks, and decided to send the kids for the last 3 weeks we would be here.  We spent the first week battling jet lag, and spending time together being tourists. This also let the kids get used to this new city and way of life before sending them to meet all these new people.  The first day they were nervous, but the teachers were all so sweet and patient. My kids literally ran to camp on Day 2 they were so excited to go back. 

The camp we found for the kids is called LAE Kids. It’s run by a lovely woman, Natasha, and she helped guide us through the process.   It’s a family based camp where the emphasis is on fun, immersive Spanish and getting messy whenever possible.   The children are a mix of nationalities from all around the world. We decided on a language camp, because for being children of Cuban descent, our kids could barely string together a sentence in Spanish.  This camp appealed even more because besides learning Spanish, the kids would meet different kids from all over, and do different activities like science experiments, art, and more daily.  

Apartment

After finding the camp, we researched the best areas to stay in Madrid.   Then we took that list and tried to find a place on Air BNB that was walking distance to the camp but still in a good neighborhood.  

The camp also had a relocation department. They recommended a few apartments, but saved us with their extremely helpful advice, FIND AN APARTMENT THAT HAS AC.  I would also suggest an apartment with a washing machine.  

There were some great options (another perk to bigger city).  In a long term rental you also get better pricing, and are able to negotiate somewhat with the owner.  Our rental so far has been amazing. The location is fairly central, and walking distance to a lot of great food and to Parque Retiro which is a park similar to Central Park in New York, and covered in trees making it about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the city.  

Transportation and Getting Around

A lot of walking is done in this city.  I mean having lived here for two weeks, and seeing the amount of bread that is fed to you at each meal, I get it.  Cigarettes and walking seem to be huge here. Diet of champions. 

  • Walking is a great easy way to get around the city.  For the most part you can find a great restaurant, pharmacy, supermarket, fruit stand, or really anything within walking distance.  If you want to start venturing out, there are so many options here.  
  • Taxi: There are taxi lanes on most major streets, and it has not been difficult at all to grab one when you need it.  They do accept credit cards. 
  • Uber: Uber works and is just around the same price as the taxis. 
  • Subway: we have been using the subway almost daily and the kids love it.  They are in excellent condition, and I would dare even say clean. We had one mishap where we ended up going the wrong way (for a long time), but besides that it’s been really straight-forward and easy to get around with.