If I knew how to upload flamenco music, you’d hear the sounds of passion-filled rhythmic boots lashing out against a hardwood stage, perfectly in sync with the intoxicating Phrygian melodies dancing between two acoustic guitars. But… I don’t know how to do that; so, just imagine hearing that for now. (Hopefully, this picture from the Torres Bermejas flamenco show will help fuel some imagination… it was incredible, by the way.)
So, we’ve just returned from an amazing adventure in Madrid, Spain, and before I start sharing stories about our adventures in different posts, I have to reveal a little insight regarding our experience with Adventurous Appetites, a tapas/food tour guide company in Madrid.
Adventurous Appetites is a tour company (one of many) that was listed as an option when first planning our trip, and after some research, watching a load of videos and reading a ton of feedback on Trip Advisor, we decided this was the tapas tour we wanted to trust during our first visit to the food-centric city of Madrid.
Having scheduled our tapas tour on our very first day was truly a genius move (on my part, of course), as our in-depth look at how Madrileños enjoy their nights set us up for absolute success throughout our entire stay. Danny, our guide, showed up at the meeting place on time, and after a brief moment of waiting on another couple who eventually never showed up, we were off to explore Madrid. Along the way, Danny gave us an insider’s explanation of Madrid’s tradition of tapas and what we should expect during the evening. He pointed out historical facts, plentiful in such a place as Madrid, and did so in an engaging and charming way. His demeanor was welcoming, sincere and the foundation of why we had such a phenomenal experience during our tapas tour.
Our first stop was the Taverna de los Ángeles, where we devoured setas (mushrooms) in white wine and butter, chorizo (sausage) with potatoes and other amazing tapas, along with a festive introduction to La Larada Sidre Natural (natural cider). What fun! Our group’s enthusiasm for pouring the elixir just added to the excitement, and we even got to use the Tinto Maceración to add some bubble and laughter to the cider drinking experience.
Next we made our way through Puerta del Sol, making a quick stop at San Gines for a peek at the famous chocolatería, strolling through Plaza Mayor, listening to Danny explain the long-standing traditions and medieval events that occurred within Spain’s distant past. In addition, we enjoyed a lesson about the Spanish nativity or Belén and about the mischievous and peculiar little “Caganer” character. Needless to say, the information was both intriguing and, at times, hilarious. More details on that another time.
At La Venencia, clearly a local favorite with a narrow, clandestine-like entryway, we were greeted with a few stares and asked politely not to take photos. Moments later, we were treated with melt-in-your-mouth jamón and the most delightfully salty Spanish olives and cheese. The sherry tasting was quite the experience, and I can now see why such a mysterious greeting was offered. If I had that treasure trove of sherry, I wouldn’t want anyone to take pictures or steal away too much either! It was wonderful!
El Lacón was our absolute favorite stop and our “go to” for the rest of our trip. We visited three times during our stay in Madrid and had amazing tapas and great rapport with the bartenders each time. Danny walked us through callos a la Madrileña (stew made with beef tripe), a great, comforting resemblance to menudo for me, as well as a variety of delicious, traditional tapas, including the incredibly delectable morcilla (blood sausage made with rice). We enjoyed espárragos (asparagus) and pimientos de padrón (peppers similar to charred shishito peppers)… la comida fue maravillosa! And, let’s not forget about the wine. This stop was where Danny talked in-depth about the tradition of tapas, the wines of Spain and how important the relationship is between drink and food at every tapas bar in Madrid. Again, another topic I’ll tackle later.
At Terramundi, we feasted with a sit-down meal of chipirones a la plancha (grilled baby squid or cuttlefish, although cuttlefish is also called sepia in other places), pulpo a la plancha (grilled octopus), lacón (pork shoulder) and chorizo, all while sipping on Albariño and listening to everyone’s animated perspective on how we’d fed our adventurous appetites that evening. The torrija de pan de nueces (a type of bread pudding with caramelized nuts) was the ultimate sweet treat to top off the evening, and as we all stood around post-meal and gathered to take a photo, I was pleasantly reminded of how much food, drink and comradery go hand in hand, regardless of where you are in the world.
As most of our group parted ways, Danny was still enthusiastic about one last stop, and so were we! My husband and I, along with one other pair, followed Danny just up the street for one last toast for the evening. We lingered there for a while, talking about our stay, where to eat, what to see, and how much we had enjoyed our tour. To our dismay, our evening of food, wine, camaraderie and valuable information had finally come to an end, and we bid a very genuine and appreciative farewell to our new friend, Danny.
Contact James Fraser for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
The location of the restaurants are in the upper left corner of the photos. Click the photos to enlarge.
UPDATE July 7, 2017
We’ve been reminiscing quite a bit lately about Madrid, especially since one of our friends recently traveled to Madrid, and another friend is planning a trip to Spain later this year. And, I went back over this blog post to discover that I’d left out (oh, I don’t know) about a bazillion food pics and mentions of other areas around Madrid! I think I was focusing on the food tour at the time — which I still stand by 1,000% (they are actually now a client of mine I loved them so much). But, I wanted to provide a quick update, adventure map, and additional food pics to prepare anyone for their adventures in Madrid.
How I forgot to mention out visit to El Botín is beyond me. Perhaps, I was on cloud nueve and mesmerized by castanets or something. But, you have to go to El Botín. It is the oldest restaurant in the world, founded in 1725, and it is absolutely worth the planning and expense. It’s the definition of “once in a lifetime” experience. The entire time we were sitting in those seemingly tiny chairs pressed firmly in earshot of your neighbor’s conversation, I kept thinking, “I’m in the same building, same room, as someone from 1725. I’m eating from a hearth oven that has pridefully served thousands and thousands of Spaniards, world travelers — Charles III of Spain could have known about this place.” Needless to say, it was a mind-blowing experience for me, and the food upheld the restaurant’s reputation. It’s a must-do in Madrid.
I’ve included pics from El Botín, as well as pics from the marketplaces and restaurants we visited (names in captions) — plus, an adventure map for anyone who wants to know how to plan a day. (PS – eat Sepilla a la Plancha at El Lacón… repeatedly. It’s amazing.) Okay, I created the map for the friend who recently traveled to Madrid, and I’m going to share this post with our other friend who’s traveling later this year. And, this is for you, too! All of this reminiscing… we may just have to plan another visit… and soon!