Planning a camping trip next weekend to Sequoia National Park…
Erin and I are no longer in Spain, but we’re dashing from Munich airport to it’s city center during a 5 hour layover. Fall has arrived in Southern Germany as the weather and fall foliage attests. I prefer the warmer Mediterranean desert climate of Southern Spain and Southern California.
We enjoyed walking around Munich’s city center, Marianplatz, and strolling through an outdoor market, Viktualienmarkt. We ate at a Lowebrau Restaurant and I tasted my first draft Helles beer on German soil. We enjoyed a lunch of sausages including Munich Weisswurst. Freshly made pretzels were also delicious.
We also spent the night in Reston to catch a plane back to Lis Angeles the next day. It’s helping reset our clocks.
My time in Madrid has stirred nostalgia for living in New York City. The foremost similarity has been that both metropolises are walking cities. Madrid has individual neighborhoods that can be traversed and connected on foot. The fall air in Madrid may be playing a role as well. Fall signals us to slow down in preparation for the coming winter and I naturally take stock of the months (and years) that came before. Already in a reflective mood because of the season and weather I’m primed to associate Madrid with happy times spent in New York.
One great place to walk is the Retiro Park. Treasures await beyond paths, behind hedges, and around turns. Sculptures, an exquisite rose garden, fountains, and a pond-lake lay in wait to be enjoyed. Pleasantly familiar from another life spent walking through Central Park and Prospect Park.
Cultural institutions such as museums are available and densely, centrally packed. Extensive public transportation takes you where you want to go when your legs protest the distance. Restaurants, bars, and other public spaces all offer comfortable extensions of your home.
Madrid (and New York) offer up urban living on a human scale albeit amplified.
We had made plans in Barcelona with our new friends from Wisconsin, T&D, to reconnect in Madrid on the tail end of our trips. We each had committed to bringing a wine to a going away dinner. T&D had been touring Spain’s northern wine regions – Priorat, Rioja, Toro – while we had toured Southern Spain’s andalucian tourist attractions, Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla, and Madrid.
T&D brought an excellent Priorat wine and a superb Priorat wine that they had purchased from wineries in the region. Erin and I brought a La Mancha Temporanilla and a Lanzarote (Canary Islands) Malvasia.
They invited us to meet their Madrileno friend, JP, and we enjoyed our wines in his beautiful penthouse apartment near the Retiro park.
Our night unbelievably improved beyond this experience as JP took us to a local restaurant serving cider in the traditional way which is for the server to aerate the cider by holding the bottle of cider at arms length extended above the head and pouring a stream of cider into the glass held at waist height. I have a video of this that I’ll try to post from a desktop. We ordered a salad of lettuce wedges and anchovies and cooked tenderloin of tuna, red peppers stuffed with bacalao and covered in romesco sauce, mussels, and fried anchovies. The piece de la resistance was the beef tenderloin somolillo that is served raw alongside a piping hot clay plate used by the patron to cook the beef to their liking. This was served with a side of roasted potatoes and padron peppers. DELICIOUS. Afterward we concluded the night at JPs corner bar for a few drinks.
Solid night out with friends in Madrid!
Anthony Bourdain, I owe you one. Had you not featured Diver XO on your 100th ‘No Reservations’ episode I would have missed out on one of the top 10 meals of my life. Thank you for featuring Chef David Muñoz and his darling wife on your show. I was able to recognize that she introduced some of our courses and appreciate that I saw Chef Muñoz while walking through
the restaurant’s lobby. Its not everyday you get to behold a culinary genius! Further thanks to Chef and Mrs. Muñoz for allowing Bourdain to record you and his meal on his show and relaxing your understandably guarded policy on photographs.
Each course was unbelievably better than the course that came prior. A symphony of flavors with movements of Spanish flavors delivered crescendoing to the falling action of dessert. Chef Muñoz combines Asian cooking techniques and dishes with Old and New World Spanish ingredients, flavors, and dishes to serve up a completely unique and engaging cuisine.
Instead of bread our meal began with edamame lightly sprinkled with coarse sea salt and black sesamee seeds paired with a dipping sauce of a Peruvian pepper that Erin wanted to enjoy as a soup.
The first course was a mussel in a béchamel foam with minuscule, briny fish roe.
Second course was a perfectly poached quail egg dumpling paired with a divine pig ear dumpling. Heaven.
Third course was crab… A Singapore bisque preparation substituted with Dpanish ingredients and flavors paired with a scrumptious deep fried Spanish spider crab.
Fourth course was a meat coarse of ox rib cooked at low temperature for 24 hours topped. Each of three delicious morsels was topped with a sheet of rice wafer which acted as a textural substitute for the fat that had completely rendered off in the process.
Desserts of custard and chocolate courses were also delicious.
Mind officially blown!
Brabante Cervesas is the best beer in
Spain. I’m biased because my friend and classmate at Fuqua, Jaime, helped found this company that brings premium Belgian style beers brewed for Spanish palates to market. Brabante Cervesas’ portfolio includes the ever present pilsner (but in lighter, mire refreshing and refined form), a wheat beer, a double brun, a double blonde, and a triple. Jaime took us to dinner where were able to sample the full monty of Brabante beers. The beers were all smooth & refreshing and held good flavor across the respective styles.
Jaime remarked that it seems as though little time has passed since our 2006 graduation each time he connects with a fellow classmate. I agree with him. We had pleasant dinner conversation where Jaime indulged us by answering our questions about Spain. We further were treated to some exquisite mixed gin and tonics that were careful balances between specific gins paired with specific tonic and accompanying accoutrements (pomelo rind, rose bloom, and cinnamon stick) at L’exquis
Erin and I woke up in Sevilla, had breakfast at ‘Trifon’ where we had eaten Tapas 3 nights before and then caught the AVE to Toledo. We checked into the Parador Toledo that is perched higher than the city itself on a hill opposite the river and has a fantastic view of the medieval city.
We didn’t rush ourselves but still made it to tour the cathedral, the main plaza, and a temporary exhibit in the Templar Knights. I’ll probably remember the El Greco paintings most vividly, especially his portrait of Jesus.
We grabbed chic tapas at Adolfo and finally caught up on Spanish cheeses with a sample of 6 varieties. We retreated to the Parador to watch the sunset from our room’s terrace. We ate our earliest dinner yet (8:30) due to their dining policy and had an early night.
We woke up this morning to complete our diurnal cycle by witnessing the sub rise over Toledo.