new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Tapas in Madrid and Giant Ugly Fish

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Tapas in Madrid and Giant Ugly Fish

One of my favorite finds in Madrid was the Mercado de San Miguel, an absolutely alluring old market retrofitted into a modern farmer's market and eatery. Built along the same lines as the San Francisco Ferry Building, it's an excellent place to suck down some good sangria and sample the best of what Spain has to offer. Fish mongers, bakeries, meat shops, tapas joints, canned fish specialists, beer geeks, and wine sellers all have set up shop here, providing an excellent array of treats in one convenient location. I can imagine no better place to get blitzed and eat pinxtos in the area. I hung out there for a bit and took some photos. Namely of fish.

Some large flat fishes.

The horrifyingly frightening specter of the monkfish.

More terrifying monkfish, or "rape negro".

Some adorable little red fishes.

Sardines of many varietals. Lovely little quick creatures.

Dear lord, the aliens have come to roost.

Clams of various varieties.

You may guess I'm a bit taken with these monkfish mugs.

For dinner, we decided to do a tapas crawl, going off some tips I recieved on the ever-useful Chowhound and Egullet. The Calle de Cava Baja proved to be a great place to cruise for tapas and booze, well favored by locals and not entirely jacked up by dorky tourists like ourselves. Warning: if you're even vaguely bothered by smoke, avoid doing a Madrid tapas crawl, you are not going to be able to survive for long. Spain is one of Europe's last hold-outs when it comes to frenzied indoors smoking. I suggest you just work through the pain and eat tapas until your face hurts, but to each his own. Getting to Cava Baja is easy: just walk out the bottom of the plaza from the Calle Mayor, and keep going down the Calle Toledo. Make a right on Calle San Bruno and you'll be there.

Our first stop was Tempranillo on Calle Cava Baja. Most tapas joints are dual affairs: one part is stand up and the other is a more formal sit-down. We decided to stand up and order beer and house white wine. Most tapas around here are served on pieces of bread.

These two are duck with mushrooms and four cheese. Pretty tasty insofar as stuff on bread can go, but nothing particularly exciting.

Our second destination was the Taberna Juana La Loca, which can be reached by walking to the end of Calle de Cava Baja then walking into the Plaza Puerta de Moros. It's a super popular and atmospheric place, full of the young and hip of Madrid, who chain-smoke, gossip, and listen to darkly indie music over plates of excellent food. You can order pre-made food from behind the counter, which will be zapped and served quickly, or you can order off the more elaborate menu.

High quality Spanish anchovies served with pita points and a kind of rich red pepper hummus dip. This was a tasty combination that hadn't occurred to me before, and would be nice to recreate at home.

A simple serving of boneless pork chop, cheese, and Spanish pepper. This was tender and tasty, a bit like a stripped down version of a Philly cheesesteak.

A delicious tortilla, or Spanish potato omelet. This was gigantic and filled with deliciously flavorful caramelized onions - a real treat in the tortilla category.

A sort of duck ravioli wrapped in cheese and topped with bacon - how could this not be delicious? Juicy and flavorful in the interior. Nice stuff.

For dessert, we headed back over to the Mercado de San Miguel, where we perused the considerable gelato and sorbet selection. My mom chose a passion fruit and pineapple flavor. Which came with a parrot stuck in it. (It now lives in our potted plant).

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