Tapas Fair 2012

After seven successful installations, the Tapas Fair has returned to Madrid. Starting tomorrow, Thursday June 21st, the Palacio de Deportes (metro: Goya) will convert itself into a giant bar of sorts where you can sample some of Madrid’s best tapas accompanied by a caña of Mahou.

Thirty-eight different bars and restaurants will participate in this year’s feria, each with their own small stand offering a few of their signature dishes from madrileño classics to inventive new plates.

Each tapa will cost €1,20 and each caña will also cost €1,20. There also non-alcoholic drinks available at the stands. In past years, these transactions have taken places using fichas – small commemorative coins that you must purchase in advance at the Palacio de Deportes ticket window or at special stands within the event, so keep that in mind as you rush in with an empty stomach!

This year’s Tapas Fair runs from Thursday, June 21st to Sunday, June 24th, with a split timetable of 1200-430pm and again at 8pm-midnight. Entrance to the event is free.

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!

Weekend in: Palencia

            The first reaction when I mentioned my impending trip to Palencia (using my close-enough Spanish pronunciation) was invariably, “oh, you are going to Valencia! I love the beach there, it’ll be great weather, etc.”

Nope. As the shirts from Palencia say, “PALENCIA (CON P).” I was on my way to the small city north of Valladolid in Castilla y León. While smaller than the major cities I’ve visited in Spain, this little metropolis has a few nice treasures up its sleeves.

The most known landmark is definitely the Cristo del Otero, an enormous statue on top of a hill, showing a tranquil Christ holding up his hands, as if blessing the city below (the rumor has it that the statue was supposed to have his arms spread wide, but that problems with funding created his current posture instead). Visiting it makes for a good view of the city, whether you drive up or walk up the various switchbacks that lead you up the hill, and at the top is a small museum dedicated to the artist and the process of building the statue that comes in at more than 20m high.

Downtown, you will find various churches and the enormous Catedral de San Antolín. On select days, they open the crypt below the church, and tradition has it that the water in the well down there is blessed. This time of year, there are weddings quite often, so at the smaller churches or even in the cathedral you may catch glimpses of very formal fashion; search GuiriGuide to learn more about how unique weddings are in Spain.

Outside of town, you can visit various small towns, from Dueñas (famous for an old abandoned building that supposedly is where Ferdinand and Isabella got married in secret, and for the house of Pepe Botella, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte) to Baños (famous for having a Visigoth-era church still standing, very possibly the oldest in Spain).

If you stop for an afternoon drink in the plaza next to San Pablo or one of the neighborhood bars, you will be pleasantly surprised at the small-town prices, often one or two euros less than the norm in Madrid.

Overall, while in no way a tourist hotspot, Palencia is a nice place to take a break from the big city and see authentic Castilla y León; the lack of tourism actually adds to the charm.

De Tapas Por Madrid 2012

We’ve told you about many Tapas crawls and food opportunities in Madrid, but this one bears mentioning for the next week in particular: until May 20th, De Tapas Por Madrid is an enormous tapas crawl with no less than 4 routes, each boasting between 15 and 30 spots in bars and restaurants.

Organized by La Viña, a business organization for restaurants in Madrid, and sponsored by Cruzcampo, the route makes ordering simple: each restaurant has one featured tapa, which comes with a mini-bottle of Cruzcampo beer (some restaurants offer both with and without alcohol), for €2.40.

If you are adventurous, I recommend just picking an area of the city that you like and finding a bar with a sign for “De Tapas Por Madrid” outside, and then going from bar to bar in that area. Inside, you’ll find maps of that particular route (there are four, based in different neighborhoods of the city). The maps have good quality photos and descriptions of the tapa offered in each area as well, so if you have dietary restrictions or just want to know what you are eating before you order it, you can pick and choose from the tapas suggested.

My first route this year has been the yellow route, where I visited three spots: Lhardy (an old and classily furnished delicatessen-type spot), Majaderitos Café (a more modern bar/restaurant on bustling calle Cádiz), and Grazie Mille Kitchen Bar (a cute and cozy Italian restaurant). I ate a salmon tartar dish, which I didn’t expect to like, but which was really savory and flavorful, a fried fish-in-sauce tapa, and (believe it or not) the signature spaghetti of Grazie Mille, packaged in a ball of tinfoil, no less. Do not expect large portions; while you may luck out with some of the tapas being generous, the ones I tried were reasonably small and packed more flavor than they filled me up.

After getting a tapa, you will be given a flyer with a code on it that you can use to vote for your favorite tapa on the route and also to enter a raffle for iPads and Cruzcampo products. After you try some out, post your favorite stops on the route in the comments of this GuiriGuide entry!

De Tapas Por Madrid


Viva San Isidro!

Click for official website

If you work in Madrid city, enjoy your day off this Tuesday, the 15th of May, and thank Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. Also the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro is celebrated every year with a procession through the Carabanchel district of Madrid, as well as various activities in the center.

As San Isidro falls on a Tuesday this year, the celebrations begin today, with the pregón, or kickoff taking place in Plaza de la Villa tonight at 8:00pm. Once the Gigantes y Cabezudos (a few giant statues with enormous heads) arrive in Plaza de la Villa from Plaza Santo Domingo and Plaza del Oriente, San Isidro weekend will officially begin. After the pregón, head to Plaza Mayor to hear a great concert by the Madrid Symphonic Orchestra at 9:30pm.

My favorite part of San Isidro is the music. All weekend in Parque de Las Vistillas (metro Ópera), live music can be heard at practically any time of day. Every evening there will be concerts with a bit more flair and staging and the park will be completely full of people singing and dancing to traditional tunes. However if you want to hear something a bit more contemporary, make your way to the Espacios y Congresos at Puerta del Ángel for PlanetaMadrid. This free concert series celebrates a dedication to sustainable development and runs from approximately 5:00pm to midnight Saturday evening. There will be environmental and education workshops while eight bands play on one of the two stages. On Sunday another concert series, UniversiMAD, will be held in the same space. This is another concert series, but it’s only free to enter if you have an invitation, which you can find at FNAC and opentrada.com. Also, keep your eyes open at the smaller concert venues throughout the weekend, as many of them will be having free shows as part of the celebration.

I think the one of the best parts of the San Isidro program this year will be the fireworks show in Parque Retiro. At 10:30pm on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, different pyrotechnics companies will prepare and ignite a spectacle of lights and music at the Alfonso XIII monument. And, like every year, this holiday would not be complete without a visit to La Pradera (also known as Parque de San Isidro, metro: Marques de Vadillo). There will be a different concert in La Pradera every night during the weekend as well as next weekend… don’t miss it!

All of this and much, much more is available during San Isidro weekend. Click here to download the official program and take advantage of your city’s patron fiesta!