Sunday, December 11, 2011

Delicious Madrid on a Budget! Part I

I have been on hiatus for a while and really have missed checking out my favorite blogs!  I miss you all!  Since I have been gone, our house went under contract and we are scheduled to close on our next home at the end of next month.  I need to pack up the whole house - what a daunting task!  I really wish that it was in the budget to hire movers to pack for us - oh well it will get done somehow! 
 We just got back from visiting our daughter who is studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.  The timing wasn't perfect with everything going on with the house but there was no way that we weren't going to make it to Spain to visit our daughter.  We booked the flights long ago and were determined to enjoy Spain on a shoestring! 

Matt and I both worked a full day, took the train to Newark airport and boarded the plane to Madrid.  That was the very same day that we signed the contract for the new house.  Faxing of forms, juggling funds for the down payment and making sure that everything was in order at work and not missing the train or forgetting our passports - STRESSFUL.  Luckily Matt's co workers came up with Euros we could borrow so that we had a little cash in our pockets! 

We arrived in Madrid a little bedraggled and headed for the Metro - only 2,50 € to get to our hotel versus 32 € for a cab.  One problem - we had two close to 50 lb. bags, a laptop and carry ons - oh and I am terrified of escalators!  I can go down no problem but up... that's a problem.  My poor husband had to take both large bags and I ran up all the flights of stairs and grabbed my bag off when we got to the top.  We must have made quite the impression!  Pink line, blue line... we arrived at Plaza de España, our home for the next 10 days.  10 days of great food and plenty of wine! 

We settled into our hotel - Suites 33 on Calle de Leganitos.  The hotel was small but quite adequate.  The location was perfect and we had free wireless and a small kitchen.  The kitchen had a stove but no cookware - odd.  I did at least have the forethought to bring a paring knife, ziploc bags and a wine opener. 
While we were waiting for our daughter, we headed out on Calle Gran Vía to look around.  We had our first of many jamón sandwiches (amazing!) and bought some wine.  Ham is everywhere- literally hanging everywhere!- in Madrid.  Our favorite sandwich was from Don Jamón on Calle Gran Vía - made with Iberian ham, a bargain at 2,30€.    So simple but so good.  Thinly sliced Iberian ham and tomato slices on fresh bread.  We also tried Museo del Jamón's Serrano ham sandwich which was good also and cheaper at 1€.  Iberian ham comes from acorn-fed Iberian pigs and Serrano ham is from white pigs.  For 3,30€  we had a sandwich-off between the two ham sandwiches.  We returned to Don Jamón a couple more times during our trip.  Oh how I miss the ham and the inexpensive but wonderful wine of Spain!

Jamon Iberico Sandwich from Don Jamon
Ashley met us at our hotel. We were positively exhausted so we had dinner at a cervecería near our hotel.  We had fried calamari, tortilla española (Spanish omelet), croquetas and empanada gallega de atún (Galician tuna empanada). We were also served a complimentary olive plate.  After an inexpensive but tasty meal of typical Spanish tapas we headed back to the hotel. 

The next day we went to El Corte Inglés, a large supermarket below a huge department store where we bought bottled water, wine, beer, orange juice, croissants and chocolate.  Wine is super inexpensive and I really liked the Rioja and Ribera del Duero - wonderful reds.  We just loved the Valor dark chocolate bars with almonds.  We became regulars at the market.  A few notes on the supermarket:
  • You need your passport if paying with a credit card (they let us use a driver's license)
  • You cannot touch the produce (you ask for what you need and it is weighed for you or in some markets you put on plastic gloves and weigh/price yourself)
  • You can buy single beers (Mahou is the regional beer)
  • Bring your own bags (you pay for bags)

We spent the day getting familiar with the city and walked countless miles.  We visited the Prado (Madrid's famous art museum), which is free to visit on Sundays, so of course we visited on Sunday!  Our dinner pick was Casa Mingo, an Asturian cider house that was established in 1888.  Many restaurants in Madrid are closed on Sundays and Casa Mingo is open so it was a perfect day to go.  They have an amazing homemade hard cider that is an unbelievable bargain at 5,30€.  We ate delicious roasted chicken (10€), chorizo in cider (3,40€), salad and bread.  The chorizo was my favorite and the salad was the only disappointment.  It was very plain and looked pre-packaged but everything else was really good. I wanted the queso cabrales (aged blue cheese) but I couldn't have eaten it all myself... I craved it from then on...It was approximately 40€ for three of us.  Bargain!

Right next door to the restaurant there is a lovely church San Antonio de la Florida with the most beautiful frescoes painted by Francisco de Goya.  A must see!  Free admission too!

The next few days Ashley had classes so Matt and I continued to explore the city and eat well.  We visited the Mercado de San Miguel which I was extremely excited for.  We did have some amazing ham there but I found it to be very pricey.  We had a few bites to eat and moved on. 

We wandered the rest of the day and got lost!  We walked completely in the wrong direction from our hotel and it was raining, pouring actually.  We eventually found our way to familiar territory but we were quite a distance from our hotel, as we were near the Prado.  We stumbled upon the best fried calamari sandwiches with salsa bravas (mildly spicy tomato-based sauce) at a bocadillo shop on the Paseo del Prado.  So good and such a bargain at 3,30€.  Not low calorie but just delicious!  Good thing we walked so far!  We nicknamed it grumpy guy's calamari.  In Spain, takeaway doesn't seem to be popular and is kind of frowned upon.  In Madrid, meals are enjoyed for hours, not eaten on the streets.  I really like that but we were starving and wanted to get back to our hotel so we asked to take it to go and then (yikes!) asked if he could cut the sandwich in half!  Grumpy guy's reaction was too funny.  But hey, the sandwich was worth it and we walked all the way back another time and brought Ashley! 

At this point in the trip,  I started really feeling like I needed a healthy meal.  We had way too much salty and fried foods and few vegetables.  We do not eat that way at home.  I was determined to find somewhere for a healthy dinner.  I was so grateful that we brought a laptop and I could research.  I stumbled across good reviews of Al Natural, a vegetarian restaurant near the Prado.  Sold!  Ashley, Matt and I went for dinner.  We had a complimentary appetizer of the most wonderful spinach and pear croquetas.  I plan on writing in to Bon Appetit magazine in hopes of attaining the recipe.  So good!  We also had the best veggie burgers of our lives.  Who would even think that a veggie burger could be that good?!  Eggplant with a pistachio sauce and a wonderful salad were also enjoyed.  Rolls were served and put on the check even though we did not order it.  Apparently that is done in Spain.  No big deal as the rolls were excellent and they were only .70€ a piece.  Ashley enjoyed a vegan apple cake and tea for dessert.  We were also given complimentary after dinner drinks of rum with honey.  The atmosphere was very relaxing.  Fabulous meal!  We returned another day for lunch. 

To be continued... churros con chocolate, Indian food, tapas, pizza, the best croissants and more!


  1. Sounds and looks like a lot of good food on your trip to Spain. What fun, and probably worth all the stress of getting out amid all the other stuff going on in your life.

  2. Even though it was hectic time for you guys I'm so happy that you were able to make it to Spain. It looks like you had a wonderful time and you must be so proud of your daughter!

  3. Welcome back. I love how food bloggers travel and come home with photos of grocers! (I do that also - even before I started blogging). Sounds like a grand trip - and even though you have your work cut out for you, "You'll always have Madrid."

  4. oh my goodness...I stumbled into your blog and love your travel adventures. I recently returned from a dream trip to Paris, so I'm comparing all the food! YUM!

  5. Wonderful to see you back again!! Looks like you have been busy...really, really busy. I am so happy that good things are going on in your life. This trip to Spain must have been great...we have been to Europe...several countries but never it goes on the list. Congratulations on your new home...would it be any closer to my house??
    ♥, Susan

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