Recipes »Creamy Gazpacho

from NY Times

I was craving gazpacho in the wrong season but I decided to make some myself anyways.

This Creamy Gazpacho recipe is labor intensive if you’re lazy in the kitchen like me. But it is lots of squishing stuff, which is fun.

I always assumed creamier gazpachos were named so because they were made with cream but the lighter color and thicker tecture actually comes from bread.

We scarfed our bowls before I thought to take a photo but I did capture part if the prep work.

While I couldn’t replicate La Buenas this was pretty excellent. Next time I might make a huge batch to keep in the fridge for healthy snacking.

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Posted on January 2, 2012

Restaurants »El Cisne Azul

In Madrid

Thanks again to Marcus and Astrid for sharing another Madrid culinary adventure:

“Mondays are tricky to eat out in Spain.  A lot of the good restaurants are closed so it makes your options limited. However, it’s El Cisne Azul‘s best day. The reason?  So the owners can head out to the countryside the day before to harvest the freshest mushrooms in the area. Mushrooms are the specialty here and they have about ten different kinds that they serve about ten different ways.

We were a little overwhelmed when we saw the menu, but looked around at some dishes coming out and pretty much pointed and said ‘that’s what we want’. It turned out to be a great strategy.

We had mushrooms with cheese, mushrooms with foie gras, and mushrooms with a sort of ‘pasta’ that we later found out was imitation baby eel.  It was all delicious.

They have other spanish specialties like fish, ham, and local beef but the next time we’re there we’ll definitely be pointing at new mushroom dishes to try.

One word of advice its a very small space and unlike most Madrid restaurants it was packed with hungry Madrillenos before 9pm and closed at 11.”

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Posted on December 6, 2010

Drinks »La Venencia

Sherry Bar, Madrid

Thanks to Astrid and Marcus for sharing their fabulous Spain travels with us:

“We spent a little while looking for this place since it came up a lot in our Madrid research.  It was well worth it.  La Venencia is definitely a taste of old-world Madrid.  They only server sherry on draft from large wood casks.  The decor is authentically rustic with dusty old bottles and a chalkboard to tally up your orders.

It’s a great place to explore sherry while you eat olives near their fireplace and get closely monitored by the resident black cat.

One of our favorites was the dry Oloroso, which had a smoky vanilla flavor.  We wish there was a place like it in New York, but for now it’s one of the many places we’ll want to go back to Madrid for.”

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Posted on December 6, 2010

Places to Visit »Mercat Boqueria

in Barcelona

If you’re ever in Barcelona, you absolutely must – must – visit the Mercat Boqueria. Even if, like me, you’ve spent the previous night like a scene from the Exorcist with food poisoning, you’ll want to man up, drag yourself out of bed and go.

It’s vibrant, bustling and everywhere you look is a photograph waiting to be taken. Food nerds will wander around in wonder and shiver with excitement at the wild world of edible crustaceans, the rainbow of (in my case, life saving) fruits and juices, the parade of candies and chocolates, and the miles of sweet, sweet Iberian ham.

There are spots to sit and eat at, which you might be familiar with if you watched Andrew Zimmern chow down on bull testicles during his trip, but sadly I was not quite well enough for such adventures. I could not resist the ham, though, cut straight from the leg, a culinary treat that is unparalleled. The market has, at least in some form, been around since 1217 (!) and the official structure was built in 1853.

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Posted on January 24, 2010

Places to Visit »Figueres

dali figueresHome of the Salvador Dali Museum

Figueres is about a two hour train ride from Barcelona, through landscapes that are in turn industrial, rural, urban, vineyardy before finally stopping at the little town Salvador Dali put on the map. It’s a short walk from the station to the eye popping museum, but not well marked, so we foolishly took a cab about three blocks.

The museum, Dali’s former home, is as wild as you can imagine from the outside, and I can only really do it justice by asking you to take a look at the photos we took (though, they are no substitution for actually being there either!).

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Posted on January 17, 2010

Restaurants »Barcelona Round Up

barcelona restaurantsButtery Ham, Anchovies, and Squid

We traveled to Barcelona primarily for the spectacular food and we were not disappointed. Our first night in town we went to Tapac 24, a bright and bustling tapas spot in the L’eixample, where we actually had the best meal of the entire trip. An menu filled with the letter ‘x’ only confused me and left me realizing that I really didn’t know Spanish at all, so we took suggestions from the moderately patient waiter and pointed to words that looked promising. We started with ink dyed fried calimari, it was delectably tender and crunchy, like fresh onion rings of the sea. Really incredible. Wonderful lightly salted and fried artichokes came next followed by flavorful chicken croquettes and a daringly ordered bull tail. The latter was a rich, meaty dish much like a fragrant oxtail. A nice bottle of cava accompanied our fully satisfying meal and I’d strongly recommend you make your way to this underground spot if you visit the city.

Breakfast brought more adventure and deliciousness with Mantequeria Ravell, a bodega store front which hides a secret breakfast dining room that you access by walking through the kitchen and then up a flight of stairs. It feels like a well kept secret (even though we found it in a tour guide) and the complete lack of English spoken only adds to the exotic experience. And exotic it is, for where else have I been faced with a menu containing a foie gras and eggs dish? Oh, this is decadent living, friends and I savored every bite, except for the ones I gave over to Jim in order to make it through the day without going into a foie gras induced nap. Fresh squeezed orange juice and a large window overlooking apartment gardens were lovely accompaniments.

After a day of uphill walking we deserved to indulge again and did so at one of the city’s most popular tapas and cerveza meccas, Ciudad Condal. You can expect a long line of locals and tourists, but it moves quickly and is worth waiting in. Here we had what seemed to my American sensibility like the most typical tapas: the Iberian ham was like butter and came with the traditional bread with a slight smattering of tomatoes. My boss highly recommended I take the opportunity to eat fried small peppers, and here they were excellent. Creamy manchego, fried anchovies, crisp asparagus, and tuna stuffed red peppers (all great) rounded out the mini feast and cold cervezas washed it all down…

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Posted on January 10, 2010

Drinks »Barcelona Round Up

cava barcelonaBubbly Wine, Water and Beer

Cava is the name of the game in Spain and we drank plenty of the bubbly. Much like champagne, cava can be sweet or dry (we opted for dry) and goes perfectly with salty tapas. But we didn’t end with cava as far as imbibing.

Vichy Catalan is the table “agua con gas” and made in the nearby town of  Girona (which we travelled through on the train to Figueres). Unlike the Perrier you might be used to, it’s actually kind of salty and delicious for it.

The tea in Spain is also slightly different from my estados unidos norm. Most restaurants serve a naturally sweet red tea, most of which, I believe comes from Africa and may just be the “bush tea” they’re always talking about in this week’s TV pick.

Lastly, they have a local beer, Moritz, which I’ve never seen in the US. It’s tasty and crisp and actually quite sweet in a non-lemon-wheat-beer kind of way. Quite refreshing.

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Posted on January 10, 2010

Desserts »Barcelona Round Up

crema catalanaChocolate, crema, and cake

Spain offered what I was hoping for: Iberian hams, anchovies, fried little peppers, etc but it totally surprised me with the best cake I’ve ever moaned the phrase “YUM…” to. It came from Rita (more info about the restaurant in this week’s restaurant entry) and it was like Duncan Hines boxed cake but gourmet – deliriously delicious.

Of course, we had other delectable sweets and I don’t mean for the cake to cast too long shadow over the cinnamony crema catalana – a spiced but mild crème brulee, or the incredible chocolates we sampled at the Mercet Bouqueria, which were as tasty as they were beautiful and sometimes humorous to look at.

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Posted on January 10, 2010

Places to Visit »Park Guell, Barcelona

park guelldesigned by Gaudi

Park Guell, designed by the inventive architect Antoni Gaudi, was originally intended to be an aristocratic housing development on the outskirts of the city but the houses never developed and the city ultimately bought the land back and turned the area into a public park; it’s one of the most spectacular places to visit in Barcelona. After a long uphill amble, we spent the better part of the day exploring the winding paths, nooks and crannies, wizard-like structures, vibrant mosaics, and gorgeous views.

We didn’t come in through the main entrance, with its tile dragon and sprawling staircase, but rather through a side passage near the terraces; a peaceful area where birds nest and there are many quiet spots to sit and enjoy the Mediterranean weather (it was in the mid sixties).

From a distance we spotted an ancient looking cross atop a nearby hill that we eventually made our way toward. This is the Turo dels Tres Creus (the Hill of the Three Crosses) a spot originally slated to host a church but now looms over town like something out of a Pasolini or Bunuel film and offers 360 degree views of the city.

There’s a main square where the public can lounge on magnificent mosaic benches and nothing is more spectacular than looking out on Gaudi’s totally sci-fi wizard tower-meets-Dr Seuss constructions; Gaudi truly transformed the city with his whimsical and wild creations and Guell is one of his crowning achievements. If you plan on going, give yourself lots of time to explore and enjoy this most beautiful park. This was one of the highlights of our recent trip.

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Posted on January 10, 2010

Restaurants »Mercat Negre

It's a rare thing when you can feast and graze for three hours at a restaurant and still enjoy full, helpful and cheery cooperation from the staff. Mercat in the city has always been a favorite spot with myself and friends for such a purpose on birthdays and other special occasions, and the new Mercat Negre Williamsburg location was ideal to celebrate a dear friend's recent visit to the city since moving to LA several months ago. Everything from the drinks to the dessert was great – you can't go wrong ordering – but I'll help?you out with some absolute must haves.

Begin with an array of empanadas, croquettes, and bombas, follow with the fried potatoes with alioli (which are far better than the ones we tried when the Manhattan location first opened), make sure to get the?cod entr?e, the sardines on bread, and please – for your own sake and happiness, do not skip the paella with duck and sausage. It is indescribably delicious – we were scraping the bottom of the dish like starving children.

As for drinks, Death in Spain and Ward Eight were table favorites and we were split on deciding the best dessert – I was crazy about the lemon frappe, that was like the top of a lemon meringue pie but frothier, but there was a lot of support for the toasted bread with chocolate, olive oil & salt.

The location is fairly new, and it works in your favor to get a reservation. It was pretty quiet, even on a Saturday. I hope it stays in business with word of mouth, but I'd hate to forfeit the relative calm of the place and the ease of getting a reservation.

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Posted on October 19, 2009

Books »1080 Recipes

1080 recipesI recently rediscovered what is surely the most lovely cook book on my shelves, a gift from co workers a few years back, 1080 Recipes. This tome of Spanish dishes is illustrated throughout with whimsical drawings by Javier Mariscal.?I posted some of my favorites over at Rotating Corpse.

Simone and her daughter Ines Ortega are the authors and this book has been a kitchen staple in Spain for decades. I became available in this handsome package only two years ago in the US.

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Posted on August 24, 2009