Friend and fellow blogger Lauren educating about olives on her Madrid Food Tour
What do you do when Madrid’s most passionate food blogger invites you to come along on a culinary tour for a business she’s launching? You take her up on the offer, of course!*
Lauren, from the websites Spanish Sabores and Recetas Americanas, was the common link in our group of four last Saturday morning. While we had been told to wear comfortable shoes for a 3.5-hour tour, we weren’t sure what to expect; the two other guests and I simply showed up with curious palates and let Lauren lead the way.
We met at smack-dab in the city center, an area which lends easily to the telling and retelling of history. In our case, the morning commenced with the story of how a humble fish market rose to become a must-see sight now included in any Spanish guidebook worth its salt.
We received a brochure full of additional foodie suggestions
Our first pit-stop was to experience the quintessential Madrileño breakfast of churros con chocolate. As this was a tasting tour, we didn’t throw back several doughy straws but rather savored one or two. We had to save some room—our next stop was at pastry shop, after all. I was excited to see this second stop on the tour; it is in fact a place I bring all of my visitors. Lauren deftly maneuvered through the establishment, pointing out la crème de la crème for us to try. While I’d visited this particular location on many occasions, I took our guide’s advice and chose something I’d never had before. A sweet brioche sandwiching a slice of jamón, it was sweet enough to be considered breakfast yet savory enough to contrast nicely with the churros.
Churros, meet chocolate
BROWSING AND LEARNING
Now sufficiently fueled for a bit, Lauren steered us to a shop that turned out to be less than 600 meters from my front door. This secret gem was a store brimming with spices the corner Día would never put on the spice rack. Lauren took this opportunity to speak about the spice trade, an interesting lesson indeed since the favored spices in modern-day Spain boil down to salt and pepper.
The following stop was an olive oil store, where Lauren gave us a primer on four different varieties of oil. This shop was overflowing with options, and our guide gave us her thoughts on the brands she had tried. She also explained that Spain is the number one producer of olive oil in the world (as well as why that fact is often a secret).
Half of the stopping points on the Madrid Food Tour were at sit-down places, which is a definite plus for travelers. As the tour neared lunchtime, one such sit-down spot found the four of us around a high table sharing a degustación platter of aged Manchego cheese and jamón de bellota (a cured ham of excellent quality). This delicatessen was one of my favorite stops on the tour due to its sunny interior, quick service, and tasty morsels.
See? Isn’t this place cute and cozy?
Just what is jamón de bellota? Ham from acorn-fed pigs.
We also hit a nearby market and merged with the throngs of locals stocking up on weekly essentials. After talking to a butcher about different cuts of meat, we bellied up to an olive bar, where Lauren selected a variety of aceitunas for our group to try. Due to colorful market vendors and the general hustle-and-bustle, this was certainly the most memorable place on the tour.
Hamming it up in the market
Olive vendor, take two
The last stop on our tour de food was at a rooftop restaurant, where we drank in views of the city center along with sangria. Oh, and we had more ham in the form of croquetas. Of course there would be croquetas on a culinary tour of Madrid!
A fried finale
Walking to our destinations, the talk naturally turned to food. What were our favorite restaurants, tapa haunts, cafés? If I could learn from this info exchange after two years in la capital, I can only imagine how helpful it would prove to be for visitors in town for a short period of time.
*And first course, and second course…. Speaking of courses, I took part in the Classic Food Tour. Other options include “Pork on a Fork,” “Learn How to Drink Like a Spaniard,” and a “Snails and Tails! Bizarre Spanish Foods” tours. You can check ‘em out on the Madrid Food Tour Website and follow all the fun on facebook and twitter. This is a unique way to spend a day in the Spanish capital, and if you want a passionate, knowledgeable guide, Lauren’s your gal. ¡Buen provecho!