Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No Reservations: Madrid & Barcelona

One of the highlights of my trip to Spain was all of the food. The tapas, pinchos (small sandwiches), and fresh seafood helped facilitate drinking because they satisfy your appetite without making you feel full. The sangria was hit or miss (depending if it was watered down by Sprite or club soda), but the cava (spanish "champagne") and wines (rioja and rueda) went well with everything. I even tried a few new things like gazpacho, sardines, octopus, cuttlefish (squid family), and crayfish (mini lobsters). Here are a few places I checked out and recommend:

Madrid Restaurants
- Botin (near Plaza Mayor): Its the oldest restaurant in the world (1725). Their specialty is suckling pig made in a wood fired overn.
- Chocolateria San Gines (near Puerta del Sol): You have to get their churros and hot chocolate thats so thick, it can support the weight of a spoon.
- Vinoteca Barbechera (Plaza de Santa Ana): You have to try their pinchos sampler - I was addicted to their curry chicken pincho.
- La Fragua de Vulcano (near Plaza de Santa Ana): Good paella and amazing service (you could tell our server loved working there).
- Mercat de San Miguel (outside of Plaza Mayor): Great market with a dine-in area with wine, cheese, pastries, etc. Its open late and always lively.

Barcelona Restaurants
- El Rey de la Gamba (Port Vell): Fresh seafood since the Mediterranean Sea is right there. The crayfish were a chore to eat, but getting the meat out of the shell made it worth it.
- Pita House or Brasil (Las Ramblas): Perfect for people watching, they serve 1 liter beers & sangria, and the tapas are tasty.
- Luz de Gas (on a boat on Port Vell): Located on the marina and they serve good tapas and seafood.
- Mercat de la Boqueria (Las Ramblas): One word: heaven. They have the freshest produce, seafood, meats, cheese, and lunch counters. I feel in love with their fruit smoothies with every possible fruit combination: kiwi, banana, coconut, papaya, mango, etc. (TIP: The smoothies are 2 for 1 at the end of the day).

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