Good Food

Spanish Olive Oil: Castillo de Canena

February 24, 2013
Spanish olive oil:  Castillo de Canena

Hands down what I miss the most in the kitchen from Spain is easy access to great Spanish olive oil. Castillo de Canena has been one of my favorites since I first tried it in 2009 in a Ronda olive oil tasting. It’s satisfying to see it getting so much recognition…last year Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity, mentioned it as one of his favorites! I’m happy to see it is available here in the US and horrified at the price! I haven’t yet gotten desperate enough to buy the Picual Reserva Familiar at 32$, when it is 10€ in Spain! Aaaaaack! This is why my suitcase is always full of olive oil when I come back…wine markups are much less. Read on for more details on this beautiful line of olive oils….

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American Jamón Ibérico: love at first bite?

January 22, 2013
Jamón ibérico American-style

They caught my eye immediately…beautiful pig legs, glistening with fat….that familiar smell…heaven for someone in the ibérico desert! I was in Union market and I saw the whole legs first and then packages of cured ham slices that really resembled Spanish jamón visually. It turned out they were indeed cured 20 months and were from pigs that were American raised but had 50% ibérico race bloodline…so exciting! Bev Eggleston is the man and he runs Eco Friendly Foods, an operation specializing in sustainable and humanely raised livestock. Pretty amazing operation, but the jamón still had to go through my taste test…..

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Great eat-and-shop markets: Union Market in Washington DC

January 16, 2013
Union Market:  Great food and wine at this shop-and-eat market in Washington DC

A little off my usual Spanish theme but a subject very near and dear to my heart: markets where you can buy great products and also eat, drink and be entertained. A great find in DC on my last visit, Union market, is a great new project in a transitioning neighborhood behind Union Station. It is still in development, but already offers lots to visitors: quality farmers market produce and food stands, boutique shopping, food truck casual eats, and various types of casual restaurants. They have great parking and are within walking distance from the NOMA-Gaullaudet stop. It’s no Mercado de San Miguel, but I loved it! Already a great place to go and tons of potential!

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Madrid Tapas: Mercado de San Miguel

January 15, 2013
Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid for great Spanish wine and tapas

Mercado de San Miguel is the eat-in market concept taken to its highest level and is not to be missed on any visit to Madrid. You can expect insane crowds at peak hours, but that’s part of the fun, and it gives you a fun atmosphere in which to wander, edge in for some seating, try some tapas and have a few drinks. When I lived in Madrid, I loved to complain about the crowds like everyone, but I was always there anyway. A few more markets have opened in Madrid with similar concepts and the best of them is the Mercado de San Anton in the Chueca district…it is also worth a visit. But you can’t can’t beat the location, atmosphere, food, and wine at Madrid’s original tapas market, San Miguel.

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Spanish Comfort Food: Tortilla de Patata

January 9, 2013
Spanish tortilla de patata with bacon and spinach

There is nothing more comforting than a Spanish tortilla de patata….it takes me back to Spain in a really “casero” or home-made way. Eggs, potatoes, onions, olive oil, sea salt….five perfect ingredients in its classic form. Firm on the outside, creamy and melting on the inside. It is one of the main snack foods in Spain, from mid-morning to pre-dinner tapa. Every home cook in Spain has their method, secrets and tweaks to make a great tortilla, but it’s also easy to find a great slice in many bars. Here in the US, it can be a challenge….I’ve been mostly disappointed by the ones I’ve tried in Spanish restaurants. Home-made is maybe best here….it’s easy after a few tries!

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Casa Ricardo: Traditional Spanish Tapas in Madrid

December 19, 2012
Casa Ricardo for Spanish Comfort food in Madrid

Casa Ricardo, in the Moncloa district of Madrid, is one of those old fashioned places, tiled walls, bull-fighting memorabilia, local clientele, that really represents the spirit of Madrid. All the new, fashionable places with their upscale tapas, their fusion cuisine, and their multi-page wine list are re-inventing Madrid’s culinary scene….but sometimes you have to get back to basics. Luckily for every one of those new-tangled palaces, these are still ten Casa Ricardos…these places are what still gives Madrid that truly Spanish feel. All the traditional comfort foods are there, fried in vast quantities of good olive oil, and your drink options are only beer, red or white.

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Wine Lovers Madrid 2012

December 14, 2012
Madrid for Wine Lovers

This is a much needed update to my 2010 post on good wine bars in Madrid. Madrid is still a challenging wine place….getting better, but challenging. Great tapas and easy-drinking quaffable wines to wash them down abound, but if you are visiting and really want to explore some of the better wines it’s still not easy. For wine lovers visiting Madrid there are a few vital wine places I would recommend….the top two being Casa Lucas and the Mercado de San Miguel.

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Taberna Arzábal in Madrid: Butter and Truffle Potatoes

December 4, 2012
Taberna Arzábal:  a great tapas restaurant in Madrid

One of the nice new restaurant surprises in Madrid this time, my friend Nancy took me here knowing I’d love it. And love it I did…it has all I’m looking for: great food at reasonable prices, a fine wine list with reasonable mark ups, good service, nice atmosphere, and a huge vat of French salted farmhouse butter! It’s a place I could have returned to several times during my trip, and regretted I couldn’t. I’m still dreaming of the truffled eggs and those cigalas! Highly recommended to anyone visiting Madrid!

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Recession Spain: a fantastic food and wine destination

November 30, 2012
Great Spanish food and wine

Such a lovely trip to Spain! So much great food and wine! That bustling, loud, yet warm and inviting atmosphere still prevails in Madrid bars and restaurants, despite the persistently grim economic news. It’s been sad to see some old favorites succumb to hard times, but new, exciting projects are everywhere and the amount of food options at all price points remains abundant and inspiring. Overall value for money is fantastic and Spain remains a great destination and wonderful source of inspiration in difficult times.

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Cheese heaven in Madrid

October 14, 2012
Cheese Bar Madrid for great wine and cheese

Great cheese is not so easy to find in Spain. There often isn’t much variety, only variations on Manchego, and even the quality of the Manchego can vary greatly. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t spectacular cheese being produced out there, just that the great cheeses of Spain are not appreciated as much as they deserve. Artesanal cheese stores such as Poncelet have long offered these great cheeses but now diners can now enjoy the first cheese specialty restaurant in Madrid: Poncelet’s Cheese Bar.

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