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

 

Tastes like home: 3 great burgers in Madrid

Let’s face it: sometimes you just want a cheeseburger. So what’s a guiri to do when McDonald’s just won’t cut it? Never fearthere are plenty of good burgers right here in Madrid. Here are three of my favorites.

Best gourmet burger

The burgers at Home Burger Bar aren’t cheap, but they’re definitely worth the splurge. You can taste the quality of the organic beef, and combinations like “goat cheese and red pepper jam” or “caramelized onions and brie” make my mouth water just thinking about them. There is also a range of classic burgers for traditionalists (I’m a bacon-cheeseburger girl myself), and even several veggie options for the non-carnivores. The contemporary diner décor further complements the style of the food.

Best retro burger

There was a time when I swore that if I saw another retro burger joint in Madrid I would go crazy. Now I just think of it as having more options. And there are plenty. Mel’s has generous portions and waiters on roller skates; Peggy Sue’s has wall-boxes that work (for 20 cents) and darn good milkshakes. But my money’s on TM Burger & Fries, where you can get a surprisingly delicious burger for €2.95. Of course you’ll have to deal with all the Malasaña hipsters, but I think it’s worth it for a burger that costs little more than Whopper but tastes way better.

Best all-American burger

Ask any American expat where to get a good burger in Madrid and most will probably answer, “Alfredo’s.” Alfredo’s Barbacoa is the original hamburger restaurant in Madrid, opened by a real, actual American in 1981. Amazingly, I’ve only been there once, but the burger was possibly one of the best I’ve ever hadgood meat with lots of char-grilled flavor. If you like your burgers smokey, juicy, and messy, you’ll love Alfredo’s; if you don’t, well…

There are plenty more burger joints in Madriddo you have a favorite? If so, let us know in the comments!

Home Burger Bar dominates the 28004, with locations on C/ Espíritu Santo, C/ San Marcos, and C/ Silva. www.homeburgerbar.com has all the details.

You can find Mel’s all over the placethere’s even one in León! Apart from the shopping malls, Mel’s has locations in Madrid at C/ Hortaleza 34 and C/ Pedro Teixeira 8. Specifics are at www.tommymels.com.

Peggy Sue’s has majorly expanded, with locations all over the country, and plenty of options if you live in “las afueras.” There are no fewer than eight Peggy Sue’s here in Madrid’s center, which makes for too many contact details to put here, so go to www.peggysues.es to find the one nearest you.

TM Burger & Fries focuses all their energy on their C/ Espíritu Santo 7 location. www.tmburger.com.

Alfredo’s Barbacoa fires up the grill at two locations: their original restaurant at C/ Lagasca 5 (Metro Retiro), and the offshoot at C/ Juan Hurtado de Mendoza 11 (Metro Cuzco). I love that they have a Texas-style oil drill as the main image of their home pagego to www.alfredos-barbacoa.es to check that out!

Country line dancing in Madrid

Is it just me, or do you sometimes feel more connected with your national roots as an expat than you ever did in your homeland? As an American, this sensation manifests itself in weird ways too: celebrating holidays like Flag Day (seriously), coloring Easter eggs, carving pumpkins, and line dancing.

Yes, you read that correctly. Country line dancing. Here in Madrid.

Not too long ago, I discovered a country western festival happening out at a ranch called El Encuentro near San Sebastián de los Reyes (about 20km north of the city of Madrid).

I went, I saw, and I was utterly amazed.

I also found out that the ranch hosts line dancing and dinner on weekends. I filed the experience under the category “I can’t believe this happens in Spain” and vowed to return.

A couple of weekends ago, I made that inevitable trip back to El Encuentro, where every Friday and Saturday night a crowd of dedicated country-lovers gathers. Friday, a little more beginner-friendly, Saturday, slightly more advanced. With my group of American friends, we went on Saturday, certain our cultural connection with country would elevate us to advanced status (haha!).

Decorated with Native American paraphernalia and American flags (some more appropriate than others), the ranch-style house fit the part. Then, the “authentic American” dinner menu almost hit the mark with its long list of hamburgers, Grand Canyon nachos, and ribs. Never mind the random mention of croquetas and jamón (I can hardly go a day without them, how can I expect the Spaniards to either?).

After filling up on hamburgers that tasted more like meatloaf than anything else, the line dancing began. Spaniards – dressed in cowboy hats, belt buckles, flannel t-shirts and of course cowboy boots – took to the dance floor like professionals. We Americans just watched in awe, clearly lacking both the commitment and skills.

A few notes of Achy Breaky Heart, though, and our love of cheesy country tunes overcame us. Mostly, we had no idea what we were doing, and just hoped that our American-ness would compensate. Truthfully, though, looking like fools never felt so good. Still can’t believe what you’re reading? Head over to my blog where I’ve got video proof of all the country line dancing awesomeness (apart from me dancing – please!).

Hitchhike, horseback ride or make friends with someone with a car – do whatever it takes to get your booty out to this joint to experience the American tradition at its finest…in Spain. You won’t regret it.

 

Honky Tonky at El Encuentro

Camino viejo de Barajas s/n.

Ctra. N-I km. 23- salida Algete

28700 San Sebastián de los Reyes

Madrid

Tel.: 91 623 68 82

Mov.: 600 428 945

Brunch Fix in Madrid

After several years in Madrid, one of the things I really miss about home is Sunday brunch. There are a few places I have tried out in Madrid that serve this delightful meal, but they are either far too expensive or only serve brunch on Saturdays.  I am happy to report that this past weekend I found my new go-to brunch spot in the Conde Duque neighborhood in the form of Toma, a cute little American-inspired café (the chef is a fellow American).  It is refreshing to see a place with an American touch that is not in the heavy-handed form of a 1950´s hamburger diner (we have much more to offer to international cuisine, Spain).   

The deal is this: for €18 you get a generous plate of assorted pastries (think Danishes, mini doughnuts, etc.), a choice of coffee or tea, a choice of a mimosa, orange juice or bloody mary, and a choice of main dish. Main dish options include (among other things), eggs Benedict, breakfast burritos, French toast, an omelet, and something called a “Mountain Breakfast.” I had the breakfast burritos (two corn tortillas filled with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese topped with guacamole…YUM), and Raúl had the eggs Benedict. The eggs Benedict were good but had a distinctly Spanish flair that my American brunch palette was not expecting (jamón serrano instead of Canadian bacon, and a hunk of regular pan instead of an English muffin); true brunch-purists might want to opt for another plate.  With the exception of the French toast (which comes with a side of fruit), all of the other plates come with these absolutely delicious roasted potatoes which, together with the bloody mary, were the highlight of our meal.

Rounding out the experience was the great overall feel of the restaurant. It definitely had a bit of a Williamsburg, Brooklyn vibe, from the chill music and laid-back retro décor to some of the clientele, which when I was there included several customers sporting the popular Williamsburg accessory of ironic nerd glasses. It felt just like home and I loved it!

Next time you have one of those Sundays that only a bloody mary can cure, I highly advise a trip to Toma.  Sunday brunch is very popular there, so reservations are highly recommended. 

 Toma

Calle Conde Duque, 14

Macedonia Fruit Café

Guiri Guest Laura is a recently-arrived English Language and Culture Assistant. She graduated from university in the Spring and is exploring the options that Madrid has to offer for her varying interests in fiction writing, Spanish, teaching, and Journalism. She is from the United States and is still figuring out all the little things that Guiris have to master to become true expatriates in this city.

*****

It’s a corny dream, to be sure, but I’ve always imagined that if I moved from the small-town environment in which I grew up to a big bustling city I would discover a little café, a coffee shop or something, where the waitress would know my order and just nod to me and start making my food and drink.

In Madrid, I found this in the form of Macedonia Fruit Café. Like many other breakfast spots in the city, it offers breakfast specials that include tea, coffee, juice, along with pastries, toast, or sandwiches. However, unlike many of the places I’ve seen, it sells free-trade coffee and products from Intermón Oxfam, a non-profit committed to fair wages for the people who produce the products it sells, as well as educating the public about poverty and fighting to end hunger around the world.

The café has a cute, bright feeling and is done in oranges, yellows, and greens that make the walls look as fresh as the fruit that decorates everything; there is even a bar with a glass top that contains a rack of (hopefully) fake apples. A small cup of fresh juice can be acquired for one euro, and a full range of snacks and smoothies are available.

My favorite food there, hands down, is one of their breakfast specials, el desayuno Macedonia: for €2.30, I get a drink of my choice (my go-to is café con leche, but you can get a tea or a macchiato or what you will) and tostada con tomate, a big piece of artisan bread toasted with olive oil and tomato on top. Perfect at just about any time of day, I have eaten this so many times now that the woman who habitually runs the café just raises her eyebrows when I walk in and asks, “Macedonia con café con leche?” I generally just nod, unless I happen to be in the mood for a juice or a slice of cheesecake.

Macedonia Fruit Café is located near Chamberí on Calle Miguel Angel, and you definitely should check it out when you are in the neighborhood, but this post is more a tribute to good waiters and waitresses and bartenders everywhere than just to this particular spot. Wherever you live or work, it’s worth the trouble to find a place with a good coffee or a cheap beer and get to know the people who run the place, so that you can greet them with a grin rather than just a request. You can make a new friend and turn a random spot for a coffee into a little home.

Macedonia Fruit Café

C/ Miguel Ángel, 24

28010 Madrid