Secret Food Tour in Madrid
Just before 11, I met the guide Jorge by the “Oso y Madroño” statue at Sol. Not sure what to look for? You have probably seen it many times already, as it is the emblem of Madrid, and you can find it on the local flag, on trash cans and taxies, to name a few. Anyway, aim for the statue of the bear and the tree. We later learned that madroño directly translates to strawberry tree, even though strawberries grow on bushes. And even later we found that the “tree” is actually used to make the licor de Madroño, which according to Jorge taste like kids cough syrup.
Our tour started sweet, in several ways, as the first stop was a cute pastry shop. And it was not just any pastry shop; it has been run by the same family since 1855, and is the provider of pastry to the royal family of Spain. Walking through the narrow wooden door, we entered a small room with cakes and candy on all sides. The room was oozing nostalgia; Chandeliers were hanging from the decorated ceiling, and the heavy wooden counter was decorated with marble and figures, with cast-iron claw-feet to hold it up. After soaking in the atmosphere, Jorge led us to another room i the back. The walls were painted in a calming red colour, with whitely framed lights on the wall alongside classical paintings and stained glass windows. As the windows were not actually getting light from anywhere, several chandeliers were lighting up the room. We found a table in the rear corner, and while we continued soaking in the atmosphere, Jorge arranged for the sweet sponge cake breakfast. The Ponche Segoviano originates from Segovia, a roman city with a large aqueduct, about an hour from Madrid.
To make the breakfast even sweeter, I opted for the hot chocolate to drink. I must admit I did regret it for a second. That statement deserve an explanation though; I am not that much of a cake person, and certainly not for breakfast. But hey, I have a philosophy that I want to taste as much as possible when visiting another country, so I had to suck it up (in a good way, that is).
The hot chocolate was in reality liquid chocolate with a bitter-sweet taste. I am usually a fan of hot chocolate, but apparently my taste differ from the taste of the king. Explanation time again; back in the days the king decided that he liked the thick melted chocolate, so that was the way it was going to be. It seemed to be the trend at that time, so the hot chocolate in France and Belgium is lighter, as their kings were more on my side. While south of Italy used to be a part of Spain, so theirs is also thick. Let’s move from one sweet thing back to another. The Ponche Segoviano was standing in front of me on the white marble table, begging to be tasted. Covered in marzipan and with lines of caramel between the layers, it sure is a sugar bomb and a kick start of the day.
From one smelly thing to the next – but a very nice smell. Legs of cured pork were hanging on the walls at out next stop. We were offered two types of sliced Jamón Iberico and Jorge asked us to taste them and decide which we liked better. The two kinds come from the same type of pig, but the taste difference is because of what the pig ate the last months of its life. Another factor is also how long it is cured. It was a close call, but I ended up voting for the one that turned out to be the cheapest kind. Good for me and my wallet…
A stone throw away we sat down in a quiet side street and enjoyed the warming strokes of the sun. Jorge soon arranged a bottle of cider from a local brewery paired with Manchego cheese. Pouring the cider was an act of art. You should hold the bottle high with one hand, and pour it in the glass you hold low with the other to get it mixed nicely and get natural carbonation. You only pour a little in the glass each time, and consume immediately for the best taste experience. After Jorge showed us how it was done, we had to pour our own glasses. Let’s just say there were quite a lot of wet spots on the ground afterwards…
To eat we had mejillones en escabeche (mussels with olive oil, vinegar and sweet paprika. They were not my favorite, so I stuck to my Vermouth, but the others loved them so they were gone in a heartbeat. We complemented each other well. The Vermouth used to be considered an old mans drink, but it is now very popular for everyone.
No food tour in Spain is complete without croquetas and tortilla (Spanish omelette). Almost all the bars serve the tortilla, and our last stop was no exception. The crocquetas were nice and smooth, but the tortilla was quite ordinary. But then again, it is always a matter of personal taste.
Before we left, Jorge sent an e-mail with a recipe, so I better get started in the kitchen now!
You can book the Secret Food Tours online. The price is 69 Euro per adult, while a small discount is offered for youth and children.
The tour runs every day all year at 11.00, but you can also book private tour at other times.