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!

Where to warm up in Madrid

When the weather gets cold, sometimes you just want a cozy spot for a tea or a café con leche. So where do you go when the fluorescent lights and metal counter of the corner bar won’t cut it? Sure, there are lots of places with a long list of teas in every color and flavor. But for me, it’s all about ambiance—plush booths, peace and quiet, or a beautiful setting. Here are a few eight of my favorite places to warm up in Madrid (I think I drink more coffee than I realized).

Malasaña

Café del Ruíz

A lovely, though definitely cozy, spot—this one’s not for large groups. Great for a quiet carajillo, though.

Calle de Ruíz, 11

Pepe Botella

Lots of nooks and crannies, free wifi, plus they give you a cookie with your drink. Can’t argue with that.

Calle de San Andrés, 12

Chueca

Café Belén/Café Madrid

Either of these places, right next to each other on Calle Belén, is great for a cup of tea and a long conversation. Choose whichever suits your mood at the moment.

Café Belén is at Calle de Belén, 5; Café Madrid is at Calle de Belén, 7

Acuarela

Intimate and gay-friendly; make sure to get a window seat for people-watching.

Calle de Gravina, 10

El Espejo

One of those classic old spots, and a beautiful one at that. Skip the restaurant part and stick to the little outdoor pavilion.

Paseo de Recoletos, 31

La Latina

La Rayuela

Big windows, wood interiors and rotating art on the walls—I’ve whiled away many a Sunday afternoon here.

Calle de la Morería, 8

Café Monaguillo

Lots of seating and enough of a variety of téscafésbatidos and carajillos to keep everyone in your party happy.

Plaza de la Cruz Verde, 3

Lavapiés

Nuevo Café Barbieri

This place has the weirdest hours, but if it’s open, its 19th-century interior is a nice place to wake up from your Indian-lunch-induced food coma.

Calle de Ave María, 45

Do you have a favorite café in Madrid? Let us know in the comments below.

The Madrid Gastro Festival 2012

If you live in Madrid and are a foodie then take note now…there is a gastro festival that will consume the city from 25th January to 5th February.

There are hundreds of restaurants taking part, with menu’s of 25 euros, 40 euros, and dinners with star chefs at 75 euros. And I want to try the Degustatapas offered by numerous restaurants!

The festival also looks at how food is integrated into, and influenced by culture with various events at libraries, theaters, films and more.

They say: The III Edition Gastrofestival 2012 program reaches beyond the borders of traditional restaurant cuisine and takes place in a variety of spaces. Gastronomy is conceived as culture, and one can enjoy major museums and art galleries, kitchenware, gourmet and luxury shops and the National Film Archive with a cuisine-related film series in the theater.

Full details can be found at: www.esmadrid.com/gastrofestival and for a round up of last year’s festival, check out this New York Times article