The way to Madrid’s heart…

…is through your stomach.

Lauren, founder and tour guide. Photo by Cassandra Gambill

I would like to introduce you all, faithful guiris, to Lauren Aloise’s Madrid Food Tour. This tour provides a custom assortment of Madrid’s finest cuisine, hand-picked by one very passionate guiri.

Lauren is an expat from Massachusetts who has lived in Granada, Sevilla, Cádiz, and Madrid. Her already existing passion for food increased immensely after living in Spain, marrying her very own Spaniard, and meeting her suegra, Antonia. Thanks to time abroad and the lessons learned from her mother-in-law, Lauren has learned a great deal about Spanish cuisine and has found a way to share it with the world! In addition to running Madrid Food Tour, Lauren writes both Spanish Sabores (in English) and Recetas Americanas (in Spanish), two excellent resources for anyone interested in Spanish or American cuisine.

Madrid Food Tour’s “signature tour” includes samples of various Spanish treats widely available in Madrid at both popular and unique stops around the city. The tour typically takes from three to four hours during off-peak times so that those on the tour can see Madrid in a way that most tour groups don’t typically get to experience. Not only does the tour hit all the general flavor groups–sweet, savory, and everything in between–Lauren shares some history and information about every plate sampled. Want to know what’s in what you’re eating? Where it comes from? Just ask!

Does the signature tour not sound like what you’re looking for? Want to try something a bit more off-beat or specific to your tastes? Do you have the most discerning of palates? Again… just ask! The best part of these tours is that they are almost entirely customizable based on what you like, so if Andrew Zimmern’s bizarre tastes inspire you to try something completely new and different, let Lauren know!

The Madrid Food Tour website can be found here, and tours are available now! Tell them Guiri Guide sent you, and then let us know how much you loved it!

Madrid on the cheap

Want to save some of these?

Living in Madrid can be pricey, despite it being a relatively inexpensive capital city. Groupon, LetsBonus, Planeo. Do these words mean anything to you? If not, they should. These three websites are incredible ways to experience a city for a very low price, and now they are all flourishing in Spain. They all have the same premise – bringing you great deals on everything from meals to classes and new experiences.

Groupon – Through this website, I’ve purchased a watch that I wear almost daily (6€) and a set of ten yoga classes at a center in northern Madrid (19€).

LetsBonus – This site, a partner of LivingSocial, has brought me together with 100 of my favorite photos, printed on paper and shipped to my door, for less than 10€.

Planeo – I just bought a Mexican dinner for two for just 19€, which includes a starter, two courses, dessert, and four drinks. Toma!

At each of their respective websites (in Spanish), you can sign up for daily emails that outline the day’s details. Just specify your preferred city – Madrid, of course – and get ready to start enjoying! Thanks to companies like these, a lot of up-and-coming bars, restaurants, and even some of the well-known theaters are jumping on the discount bandwagon as a way to advertise and keep business coming in. Has a money-saving experience led you to a new favorite spot? Let us know!

Un buen cocido

Even wine can be madrileño

One way to become a true Madrileño is to learn the customs and try out the traditions while living in Madrid. This means constant strolling through Retiro, eating churros after dancing all night, and sipping wine on a terraza. In the winter months, one great madrileño treasure is the cocido madrileño, a stew-like dish that will warm your bones after the harsh winds rip through tiny streets in Huertas and leave you congelado.

The history of this meaty, chickpea-laden meal isn’t 100% clear – some sources say cocido first emerged as far back as the Middle Ages, common in lower-class homes due to the relatively inexpensive cost of the ingredients. During the time of the Inquisition, many pork products such as chorizo and morcilla were added to typical plates of cocido, forcing some Jewish citizens to integrate these meats into the meals in order to prove they were Christians and avoid expulsion. Once cocido was finally accepted by high society, it became a staple of Madrid’s bar and restaurant scene during the Spanish civil war and has remained that way ever since.

Last week I read about the Ruta del Cocido Madrileño – similar to the Tapas crawls that happen once or twice a year around town. Having never tried cocido anywhere but at home, I called up fellow Guiri Guide author Laura and we headed over to Taberna Madrid in Plaza Jacinto Benavente to try their mini cocido – a safe stepping stone into the wild world of cocido madrileño.

Cocido raro, but delicious!

Traditional cocido is often served in vuelcos, or “overturns”. Traditionally the ingredients all served separately – first the broth (caldo), then the vegetables, and finally the meat, which is where each vuelco comes in, as the pot is to be turned over to empty out that course’s contents. As you can see in the picture above, Taberna Madrid’s mini cocido is served all at once, in the form of a stew. This is less common than having it course-style, so if you want authenticity, demand it in vuelcos!

La Ruta del Cocido Madrileño runs until the end of March, giving you plenty of time to scope out your favorite restaurants and try a few different takes on this Madrid classic. Be sure to check the list of participating restaurants to see if you’ll need a reservation, and make sure you go on an eligible day. Cocidos range from 8€ to 35€ per plate, some with drink and dessert included. Aproveche!

Madrid Gastrofestival 2012

Madrid laughs in the face of your New Year’s diet, with Gastrofestival 2012. Think of it as a classy follow-up to the other gastro fest that was your entire holiday season (you know, the one filled with turrón, roscón and lots of alcohol – oh, that was just me?).

For foodies seeking to tantalize their palettes at joints across the capital city, this is your week. From tapas bars, to galleries, shops, museums and fancy restaurants, establishments of all sorts invite you to experience Spanish cuisine through the senses.

First, you have a slew of restaurants offering tasting menus from 25€ to a potentially let’s tirar la casa por la ventana price of 75€ (but if you check out the featured restaurantes, you’ll realize this might just be worth it!). Then, you have galleries, theaters and museums, mixing up art and food through private tours, wine tastings and so on. Remind me why this event only lasts for one week?

For those who only feel prepared to throw one New Year’s resolution out the window, you can still keep good on that other goal to rein in spending. Some 24 Madrid tapas bars and restaurants offer a three-euro tapa-and-Mahou combo. Each spot boasts its own fancy signature snack, with your choice of a caña, clara or botellín (small bottle of beer).

A committed researcher, I sampled tapas at four of the featured tapas stops – two in Chueca, two in Salamanca. The general consensus: the bares in Chueca were a lot more generous. Not only did they give us a free regular tapa with our drinks, but the Gastrofestival tapa as well. On top of that, at both they allowed us to swap out our beers with red wine (totally against the rules, apparently). While the two stops in Salamanca had tasty tapas, they were so not into the whole wine-replacement idea, no matter how much my blonde friend and I tossed our hair and fluttered our eyelashes (nope, we’re not above that).

While the Gastrofestival may already be in full swing, don’t fret – three days still remain! Grub on the best of Madrid until February 5th.

 

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A treat for the tastebuds: International beers in Madrid

Since I started living in Madrid, my family and friends back home often ask me what things I miss most about the US. Aside from amazing burgers and Mom’s macaroni and cheese, I really miss good, interesting beer. I feel a sad longing when I think about all the pale ales and porters back home. Okay, some Spanish beers aren’t that bad, but compared to the variety back home, the beers widely available in Madrid just don’t stand a chance. To combat my nostalgia and stimulate my tastebuds, I’ve scoured the city to find a few places that offer brews that are sure to please even the most discerning palate. The following three spots–two in Malasaña and one in the center–are definitely worth checking out with your favorite beer lover.

1. Casa de la Cerveza (calle Luchana 15, metro: Bilbao)
http://www.lacasadelacerveza.eu/

With a menu boasting hundreds of different beers from all around the world–ever wanted to try a beer from Thailand?–this place is the adventurous beer fan’s paradise. Casa de la Cerveza has the look of a German brauhaus and the feel of a casual sports bar. Come here to get your weird beer fix and try an assortment of bratwursts and other German delicacies while you catch whichever fútbol team is playing that night on the big screen. And for you partygoers, Casa de la Cerveza has a 10 euro open bar deal from 11pm to 1am, though the promotion does not include many of the higher-end beers.

2. Naturbier (Plaza Santa Ana, metro: Sol)
http://www.naturbier.com/

Can you ever go wrong in Santa Ana? Naturbier is another place that brings a bit of Germany straight into the heart of Madrid. This bar gets its name from the beer that they serve on tap: an all-natural, super fresh brew made in-house. When you walk into Naturbier be sure to get a seat where the tables have taps built-in and you can try your hand at pouring your own beer. They have three varieties: rubia (a lighter blonde beer), tostada (a darker, maltier beer), and a non-alcoholic version that are always served cold and fresh, either from the bar or from your own table tap.

3. Cervezorama (calle San Andrés, 29, metro: Bilbao)
http://www.cervezorama.es

Sometimes you’d rather sit at home with your tasty beer, and this is where Cervezorama comes in. This self-proclaimed “Delicatessen Beer Shop” in Malasaña carries beer by the bottle from a few different countries, most notably Germany, Belgium, and the United States. The staff there are extremely knowledgeable and can answer any of your questions, as well as suggest beers for you to try based on your tastes. Cervezorama also carries ingredients and instructional guides needed to brew your own beer at home, and often hold meet-ups with home brewers in the area. In addition to brewer meet-ups, the shop sometimes holds beer tastings, or catas, so for a small price you can sample different brews and get to know some other Madrid beer aficionados. While you’re there, try one of the new beers by Fábrica Maravillas, an up-and-coming Madrid microbrewery with a bright future.

Of course, there are many other places in town where you can find international beers on tap, including the many Irish bars in town. But when you’re feeling in the mood for something other than Mahou, Guinness, or Heineken, stop by one of the above bars and enjoy. If you have a favorite spot to try international beers that isn’t mentioned above, please let us know in the comments. Cheers!