Category Archives: Spain

[Segovia, Spain] Casares Restaurante

Calle Isabel la Catolica, 1

40001 Segovia, Spain

 

http://www.restaurantecasares.com/

 

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187494-d2490041-Reviews-Casares_Restaurante-Segovia_Province_of_Segovia_Castile_and_Leon.html

 

 

Segovia is a quaint village, just 30 minutes away from Madrid on the high-speed rail AVE.  It’s a World Heritage site declared by UNESCO, with the Roman Aqueduct and the Alcazar castle being the must-sees.  That being said, what initially attracted us to visit, was the cochinillo or the roasted suckling pig.  The cochinillo, supposedly, is what sets Segovia on the foodie map.  Our time at Segovia was only half a day (our train departed at 2pm), and we were planning to lunch at Jose Maria.  We didn’t realize that Jose Maria doesn’t serve lunch until 1pm, which meant we wouldn’t have enough time to catch our train.  So, off we went to find another alternate restaurant for cochinillo.  We were glad to happen upon Casares.  It’s literally right smack in the middle of the town, right next to Plaza Mayor, a few steps from Jose Maria.

 

The front of the restaurant

 

The menu.  We opted for the Menu Traditional Segovia, a 3 course meal, which has the roasted suckling pig for EUR 23.50.  We ordered 2 of the Menu Traditionals for 4 people and the portions were more than enough!

 

The bread was really crusty.  But once you get past the hard crunchy shell, the inside of the bread was soft.

 

Salad of Segovian vegetables – this barely had any dressing, but the vegetables were so fresh and full of natural flavor that dressing is not really needed anyway.  I wish we had gotten more of this!  We all loved it.

 

Castilian garlic soup – we’re not really sure what’s in the soup.  It didn’t taste all that garlicky.  None of us were fond of it.

 

  

Each of us got a plate of the cochinillo.  The restaurant was gracious enough to split the 2 menus into 4 portions.  The skin was so crunchy and crispy, while the meat was so juicy and tender.  The cochinillo was succulent, full with pork flavor.  By luck of the draw, I was served with the leg — that was a big hunk of meat!  The potatoes were really yummy; dip them in the au jus.  2 out of the 4 of us thought this was the best meal on our Spain/Europe trip.

 

Sponge cake typical of Segovia — since we had to catch our train back to Madrid, we did not have time for dessert.  So the restaurant packaged them for us in the to-go containers.  I’m not sure if Segovian sponge cakes are typically THAT sweet, but the one from Casares definitely was way too sweet for any of us.  Next time, I think I’ll play it safe and get the more “safe” desserts.

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[Madrid, Spain] Mercado de San Miguel

Plaza de San Miguel, s/n

28005 Madrid, Spain ‎

 

Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday: 10:00 to 24:00H.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 to 02:00H.

 

Mercado de San Miguel website (in Spanish):  http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/

 

Trip Advisor reviews:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187514-d1520183-Reviews-Mercado_San_Miguel-Madrid.html

 

The Mercado de San Miguel is literally a stone’s throw away from Plaza Mayor.

 

To call it a market is a misnomer.  This particular mercado is more like a Southeast Asia hawker center to me.  Inside the building houses various vendors which sells numerous different kinds of tapas, alcohol (beers and wines), cheeses, desserts and seafood (fresh and cooked to order).  There are seatings in the center of the market.  The atmosphere is very vibrant and buzzing, as most everyone is standing and chatting, while munching on great food.  I had some of the best tapas here!

 

The Mercado de San Miguel – yes, it’s one giant glass building!

 

The pasta stand – some pastas are uncooked so that you can cook them at home.  The pesto lasagna (already cooked) was fantastic!

 

The oyster stand – only manned by 1 person so service could be slow.  Sadly, by the time I was ready to get oysters, the vendor was on break and nowhere to be seen.

 

Sardines with cheese on toast

 

Assorted cheeses

 

The olive vendor – you’ve guessed it, with all sorts of marinated olives!  There are olives with cheese skewers, olives with sardines skewers, olives with roasted pepper skewers, etc.  Each skewer is EUR 1 to EUR 2 (approx USD $1.30 – $2.60).

 

Seafood tapas!  Toasts with smoked fish, anchovies and sardines…

 

The pesto lasagna and arancini (Italian rice ball) from the pasta stand.  The pesto lasagna was full of pesto and really tasty (EUR 2)!  Arancini was a bit cold, but good texture and full of parmesan flavor (EUR 1).

 

The olive skewers that we got.  So good.  Cheese accompanies the marinated olives really well.

 

The assorted seafood toasts that we got.  May I just say that they were all delicious!

 

These were all my favorites!  It was unusual to see the small silver fish in the puff pastry, but it was super yum!  You can actually choose from 6 different infused oils to mix the silver fish, and I think I got the garlic oil.  The smoked salmon on toast was delicious, as was the olive-oil marinated cod (EUR 1 each).  And I don’t need to reiterate how good the olives are  (EUR 1 each)!

 

Our whole table full of the food!  My rosé went really well with the tapas that we got.  Some of the food to avoid:  the paella (just wasn’t as good as the one we had in Barcelona) and the sliders.  When in Spain, go for the fresh and seasonal foods!

[Madrid, Spain] Chocolateria San Gines

Pasadizo de San Gines 5

Madrid, 28013  Spain

 

http://www.chocolateriasangines.com/Chocolateria_San_Gines/Bienvenidos_a_San_Gines.html

 

This place is literally a block away from Canas y Tapas and minutes from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor

 

This chocolate and churros institution has been around for more than 100 years!  I’m always amazed at how some restaurants can preserve and survive for generations.  This one has the right recipe:  great churros, rich but not too sweet chocolate, fast service and reasonable prices!

 

The storefront.  I wonder if it has changed at all since 1894?

 

Open all day and all night!!!  We noticed that the later it gets, the more crowded it became.

 

The kitchen area on the main floor.  After you place your order, give your receipt to one of the uniformed wait staff and wait for your order to arrive.

 

Seating is a little limited on the main floor.  But not to worry, there’s more seating downstairs!

 

The churro is being made.  It’s an interesting stove!

 

An order comes with 6 pieces of churros and the cup of dipping chocolate.  Yummy!  Unlike the US version, the churros are not coated with cinnamon sugar.  Since they’re freshly made,  the churros are piping hot and crispy.  The chocolate is rich and creamy, without it being overly sweet.  EUR 3.60 (approx USD $4.70)

 

Chocolateria San Gines also serves assorted coffees and teas.  The cafe Americano was pretty decent.  EUR 2 (approx USD $2.60)

[Madrid, Spain] Cañas y Tapas

Plaza Celenque, 1,

28013 Madrid, Spain ‎

 

It’s very close to Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, about a 5 minute walk to each

 

http://www.canasytapas.es/

 

We stumbled upon this tapas restaurant, on our way to Plaza Mayor.  Apparently, it’s a tapas chain that is popular in Spain (with a few outposts in Portugal and France).  Prices were really reasonable and service very friendly.   The restaurant is split into 2 floors:  the main level serves tapas and has a special tapas menu; the downstairs dining room caters to full entrees with a few tapas items (the special pricing from the main level does not apply).  So it depends on whether you’re in for a quick snack or a full meal.  We dined twice in the downstairs dining room.  The wait staff actually speaks quite a lot of English!  And there are English menus available, so ask for one if you can’t understand the Spanish descriptions.  🙂

 

One of the main level menus.  Yes, a lot of the specials include beer!

 

One of the English menus from the downstairs dining room.  “Ration” refers to the tapas items, which you can choose between half or full portion sizes.  There are more menu items on the other side of the menu!

 

Here are some of the notable dishes:

On-the-house starter:  cold potato salad.  It was a bit vinegary but refreshing.

 

Grilled wild mushrooms with garlic-oil sauce.  The mushrooms are perfectly grilled and seasoned so that they’re juicy and succulent.  You can choose either the half ration or the full ration size.  This is the half ration EUR 5.10 (approx USD $7).

 

Spanish tortilla – unlike the Mexican/South American version, the Spanish tortilla is more like an omelette which contains layers of potato and onions.  This was huge and I think it was only the half ration! EUR 4.70 (approx USD $6)

 

Grilled cuttlefish – this was sooo good!  Cuttlefish is squid… you just don’t see the tentacles.  Grilled just right, so that the squid is very tender.  Full ration EUR 10.95 (USD $14)

 

“Padron” green peppers – loved the simply grilled peppers!  Not spicy at all, these are the perfect snack.  Half portion EUR 5.10  (approx USD $6.60)

[Barcelona, Spain] Spanish Cooking Experience

Travel Bound cooking info page :  http://www.travelbar.com/es/activities-in-barcelona/spanish-cooking-class.php

Trip Advisor page:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187497-d3757398-Reviews-Spanish_Cooking_Experience-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

 

One of the best things that I did on my recent trip to Spain was to sign up for the Spanish Cooking Experience, hosted by Travel Bound tours.  The tour is EUR 22 (approx USD $30) per person which includes food and the cooking experience.  You are first led by the chef to the local traditional market in the central Las Ramblas area.  There, you will get a tour of the market, and the chef will buy some of the ingredients for the paella.  Then, you’ll follow the chef back to the cozy bar and be served with amazing tapas and sangria, all the while waiting/watching the paella to be cooked.  Since paella takes about half an hour to cook, that means you’ll enjoy lots and lots of tapas and sangria.  The sangria never stops flowing!  Just when you think it stops, it’s actually time for you to make your own!  🙂

 

All in all, it’s a great way to spend an evening out with some friends.  Highly recommend it if you’re heading to Barcelona!

 

The Boqueria Market – where you’ll shop for the paella’s ingredients

 

So many different kinds of seafood, some of which makes it into our paella.  ^ ^

 

Different kinds of shrimp

 

Saffron is what makes the paella its golden color.  The market sells the ones from Spain.

 

There are also lots of meat stalls inside the market, which sells assorted meats and hams, including the famous jamon iberico!

 

The sangria that we enjoyed.  It was the never ending jug.  🙂

 

The tapas include toast.  The Spanish tapas way of eating it is to rub the tomato on the toast, then drizzle the toast with a bit of olive oil.  Yum!

 

Cheese, Jamon Iberico and olives.  The Spanish olives were the best I’ve had!

 

Patatas bravas – these were piping hot fried potatoes with a spicy tangy aioli sauce.  So good!  I want to learn how to make it!

 

Pimientos padron – roasted peppers.  These don’t look like much, but they are super delicious!  Simply cooked with olive oil and a bit of sea salt, the peppers are not spicy at all and are a great snack!

 

The big vat of paella is bubbling with all sorts of goodness:  shrimps, mussels, squid, clams, fish stock, chicken, saffron, and of course the paella rice!

 

The finished product:  best paella ever!