Tag Archives: Madrid

Spanish Bones of the Saints (Huesos de Santo) for All Saints’ Day

There is a theme with some Day of the Dead treats to be a bit literal – and usually that involves some form of bones! Pan de muerto is demarcated with a crisscross of bones on the top and ossi dei morti literally look like white, powdery bones! Spanish “saints bones” (huesos de santo) follow this trend, and are a bone-like, tubular marzipan with an egg yolk filling (sometimes squash). Maybe that filling is supposed to resemble bone marrow (cool! gross!)? Spain Recipes, Blue Jellybeans and The Spruce have recipes to DIY your own saints’ bones. These cookies originate from Madrid and have a history that stretches all the way back to the 17th century! Along with panellets and buñuelos, you’ll find these typical treats in many Spanish bakeries.

From Spain Recipes: Some accounts attribute their origin to 17th century Madrid, a theory that’s supported by their mention in Francisco Martínez Montiño’s cookbook, Arte de Cozina, Pastelería, Vizcochería y Conservería (The Art of Cooking, Pastries, Cakes and Preserves). Written in 1611, the book states that these sweets were “made to commemorate all the Saints and all the dead at the beginning of November”. 

Huesos de Santo by Dario Alvarez

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Splurge: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota at the Mercado San Miguel, Madrid

spainM arrived at the Mercado de San Miguel with a single goal: eat jamón ibérico de bellota. “Iberian Acorn Ham” is the name given to the finest quality Spanish jamón, a fiercely protected product produced through a painstaking process. Black Iberian pigs, living in southern and southwest Spain close to the Portuguese border, freely roam oak groves consuming little besides acorns. Their hams are left to dry for weeks, and cured for another twelve months or more. The result is what is universally considered the finest jamón on the peninsula, if not the planet. The price definitely matches the quality – but it is worth it.

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At the Mercado de San Miguel, most patrons get their jamón from a stall featuring Carrasco Guijuelo. The company was founded 120 years ago by the Carrasco family in the tiny town of Guijuelo (Salamanca province, on the border with Portugal). Now a protected designation of origin product, Carrasco Guijuelo now enjoys a major share of the Spanish domestic market, as well as running an enviable export business (but we all know the keep the good stuff). They also produce a lot of other food products.

While the standard jamón is a big seller, I splurged and got the 50 grams of the finest-quality Reserva, priced at 18.5 euros for 100 grams – or $111.13 per pound. The eight slices in this photograph – my total order – were priced at 9.25 euros (although, full disclosure, they accidentally charged me the price for the standard, at 16.5 euros/kilo. I did not correct the error).

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We write many words on this blog, but there are simply none that can effectively describe the taste of a perfectly prepared and cured jamón ibérico. The ham is so finely cured that it when sliced, it looks like a wax copy of an actual ham, each slice retaining a light sheen that catches the light of the room. The sheen may is from the fat, which while visually obvious, may as well not exist when eaten. The fat all but liquefies on your tongue, melding with the muscle and acorns in a salty/sweet/nutty flavor profile that is subtle yet precise. Jamón ibérico de bellota is a food that, while you eat it, composes a most beautiful poem about its own taste, and you are more than willing to sit there and have that poem read to you over and over again. By the time I was done, I was ready to pull another ten euros out of my pocket for another 50 grams. If you ever have the chance to get some, don’t pass it up.

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La Mi Venta, Excellent Tapas in Madrid

La Mi Venta
Plaza de la Marina Española, 7
28013 Madrid, Spain

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On our short trip to Madrid we wanted to cram in as much food fun as possible. We had previously experienced the frenetic market scene of San Miguel, and we wanted to take things a little slower for our second foray into Madrid tapas. Spaniards do not eat dinner until 9-10 PM at the earliest, so tapas serves as a kind of happy hour snack, where you can drink, have some munchies and meet with friends. However, Americans tend to buck this tradition and make tapas more of a meal. Alas, so did we, as we found ourselves famished at the odd-for-any-nation hour of 3 PM. In Spain lunch may even run as late as 2:30 or so, so I guess we fell into the late lunch crowd rather than the geriatric early-bird crowd.

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The specialty at Li Mi Venta is tapas (along with a limited selection of main courses). The tiny restaurant consists of a bar and a back room with a few tall tables. You could get most of the offerings in a large portion or as a tapa – so depending on how hungry you are you can either try many different little plates or stock up on a favorite. We decided to go with a variety of meat and vegetables. And of course M could not resist getting his hands on some more rare and delicious Jamon Iberico. As another meat dish we sampled was spicy chorizo “from hell” (how could we skip it), and migas, one of the more unusual offerings, a composed plate of fried breadcrumbs, peppers and chorizo. We were shocked by the reasonable prices – everything was under 3 euros.

La Mi Venta Tapas

La Mi Venta Tapas: (clockwise) Migas, Tuna, Jamon, Manchego and Tortilla.

However, not all of our selections were so carnivorous. We also ordered the manchego cheese, which was excellent (but not as good as in the market). M’s favorite selection was the Tuna bocadillo with tomato confit, a delicate combination that really worked well. L also enjoyed the Spanish Tortilla (potato omelette), and could have gone for another slice or two. To finish our tapas “meal” off we decided to end on a paradoxically healthy note: Salted tomatoes in olive oil (8€). Such a simple dish – but it was extremely tasty and refreshing. The portion was also extremely generous, justifying the higher price.

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M’s Favorite – Tuna and Tomato Confit.

In addition to tapas, there was a nice selection of teas and coffees that came served in little silver pots. They also had free wifi, though that seemed a little incongruous with the other offerings. We also appreciated the friendly and attentive waitstaff and the pleasant ambiance. It’s almost as if you are eating in a private wine cave – it would definitely be a great place to have a small party (maybe someday). La Mi Venta was a welcoming place with a great selection of fresh, well-prepared tapas. For less than 30 euros we were full for the entire day!

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A giant plate of tomatoes – simple but delicious.

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Traditional Spanish pastries at La Mallorquina in Madrid

La Mallorquina
Calle Mayor, 2
Madrid, Spain

spainA seemingly endless window display of beautiful pastries, cakes and candies first entices you in to La Mallorquina. Taking the opportunity to have a weekend brunch and try some new-to-us pastries in the process, we quickly entered. The bakery was packed to the gills, it looked like half of Madrid had the same idea for brunch! La Mallorquina’s bottom floor is a traditional bakery, with stand-up counters where patrons quickly enjoy coffee and a sweet. The full tea room is located upstairs with tile floors and wooden tables. “La Mallorquina” means the little woman from Mallorca, and is also the same name of a famous old cafe in Puerto Rico (no relation). The Madrid cafe was established in 1894, and looks like it hasn’t stopped churning out treats since.

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La Mallorquina had a huge selection of baked goods, cakes, sandwiches and coffee drinks, and you can order anything in the tea room that is in the front counter. The selection was nearly overwhelming, but we went in with a few recommendations (the chocolate napolitana is a specialty, as are the rosquilla rolls). We were interested to see some of our favorite treats that are popular in Puerto Rico: mallorca and ensaimada. We went to the bakery around Christmas time, so Christmas favorites like Turron were also on offer. 

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We made our way up to the tea room and were lucky enough to find a spot. We picked an apple tart, a Napolitana and ensaimada. The ensaimada is a rich brioche roll, which was perfect with butter and the apple tart was fresh and had a sweet glaze. However, the chocolate Napolitana was definitely the star of the show, think a rich croissant filled with chocolate custard. Of course, to complement our brunch we had a cappuccino and some chocolate milk (we also hear the orange juice is excellent). Given the sheer variety, there were so many selections we wish we could have tried. The torrija, a Spanish take on french toast looks amazing. If you are looking for a classic Spanish pastry experience, this is definitely the place. Just be prepared for a crowd!

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A Photo Tour of the Mercado de San Miguel

spainWe love visiting markets while traveling, and making a little picnic out of the local meats, cheese and fruits. One of our recent favorites is the Mercado de San Miguel in the heart of Madrid. The Mercado de San Miguel is a metal and glass Beaux-Arts masterpiece that was recently opened after a long renovation. You can find nearly any kind of Spanish food in the mercado, including produce, cheese, meats, paella, pastries, ice cream, seafood and more. The market is open until midnight on most days (and 2 AM on weekends) and is nearly always full of people. It is especially crowded around Tapas time, from 7 to 9 or so, before the extremely late Spanish dinner. We visited one evening and filled up on a variety of excellent meats and cheeses, just wandering around and sampling to our heart’s content.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

Interior of the market

Interior of the market

A variety of Spanish Cheeses

A variety of Spanish Cheeses for sale

Cheese shop in the market

Cheese shop in the market

A cheese tapa

Garrotxa cheese tapa

Jamon Iberico

Selecting Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Carving Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Macarons for Sale

Macarons and pastries for sale

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Chocolate and churros in Madrid

spainOne of our favorite things to do in a country is to sample their typical iconic breakfast foods. We have found some of our most favorite foods this way – yogurt and honey from Greece, helva from Turkey, Torta Caprese from Italy, etc. –  and we find it quite a lot more enjoyable than taking a bland continental breakfast. In Spain, the breakfast treat of choice is hot chocolate and churros. In the US, churros have something of a dubious reputation. While, of course, you can find some excellent renditions of churros in the US, the sugar-coated, soggy churro is often the purview of school lunches and amusement parks. I had personally sworn off churros after they were the only dessert offered in our junior high cafeteria. However, I am open to an opinion change.

Churros and Porras

Churros (left) and Porras (right) at Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid

Churros are a different affair in Spain though: no extra sugar is added, and the fried pastry is the whole deal. However the best part of having churros is dipping them in the thick, rich hot chocolate that traditionally accompanies them. No Swiss Miss hot chocolate here: this is thick, rich sipping chocolate. They sometimes even give you a little spoon to eat it with. We tried chocolate and churros and two locations in Madrid, each of which was completely different.

Waiting in line at San Gines

Waiting in line at Chocolatería San Ginés

The first stop for churros was Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, Madrid). All they serve is chocolate and churros, and boy do they serve a lot! We went on a Saturday night, which admittedly is probably the most crowded time you can get chocolate and churros, and there was a line snaking out of the door. The routine is similar to Giolitti: you order and pay and then get a receipt for what you ordered. If you are able to get one of the tables (either inside, outside or in the basement) the waiter will take your ticket and give you your order. The only things available to order are chocolate, churros and porras (a thicker churro). The churros were excellent: a nice portion and not at all greasy. The cost of a cup of chocolate and 6 churros is less than 4 euros.

Chocolate and Churros at San Gines

Chocolate and Churros at Chocolatería San Ginés

On our last day we sampled churros from Chocolatería Valor (Calle Postigo de San Martin, 7, Madrid), which is more of a regular full service café. We visited Valor at an admittedly off hour, 8:45 on a Monday morning. So we were very pleased to find that a fresh batch of churros was fried up just for us. Perhaps as a product of their freshness, we found these churros a little greasier than the offerings from San Gines. However, the price was a lot cheaper, and you could get additional items off of the menu if you so desired. There are even paper cones for those who want to take the churros to go.

Chocolate and Churros at Valor

Chocolate and Churros at Valor

Going to Madrid completely changed my idea of the churro (especially when combined with hot chocolate). We especially enjoyed Chocolatería San Ginés, and we are looking forward to going back someday and trying more varieties. Do you have a favorite place for churros in Madrid?

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