Food in Spain

I recently had the opportunity to spend about a week in Madrid and Barcelona, and in that time I ate a lot of food. I was there to retrieve the older child after her two week student exchange program. I arrived in Madrid Monday morning, March 18. I picked her up Wednesday (at 4am before the rest of her trip left for the airport, the things we do for our children).

That first day I was tired and unable to check in to the hotel until 3pm, but I could at least drop my bags. I headed to the Reina Sofia, which may be considered the Prado’s little sister museum, but it’s fantastic. This is the first time I’ve been to 1) a foreign country and 2) a museum all on my own. It was fun, I recommend it, though I was happy to have company later in the week.

After the museum, I wandered for a bit, looking for some food. I ended up at La Buga del Lobo (C. de Argumosa, 11, Centro, 28012 Madrid, Spain). This was the first time I expereinced the wonderful Spanish tradition where if you just order a beer, they bring you snacks. This time it was just a little snack mix, but I was starving and it was salty. I ordered the degustacion de croquetas, which is a plate of all three types of croquetas they serve. This was my first opportunity to try out my rusty and very limited Spanish. I wanted to know if what I was ordering was appropriate for one person or if I was about to get a mound of croquetas. I wasn’t honestly sure what a croqueta was at this point. I managed to express myself effectively enough that she was able to answer, and I was able to understand her answer. This was one of my most successful interactions with anyone in Spanish during the whole trip and I was quite pleased with myself.

Six croquetas on a white plate on top of a colorful tablecloth

If you haven’t bothered to click through to read what a croqueta is, they are essentially a b├ęchamel sauce, breaded and fried. They are delightful, and I recommend them unless you have food texture issues. I wouldn’t mind a little more structure to the b├ęchamel, but the flavors were really nice.

That night I ate dinner at the Hotel Catalonia Atocha where I was staying. It was pleasant but the food was sort of boring. The wine was really nice, and I had a chat with the server about wine, and how the Spanish wine is excellent and inexpensive and wine back in the DC area is not quite so excellent. People in Madrid were much more willing to speak with me in Spanish than people in Barcelona were. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to dig in to what this says about each city (hint: it says nothing, it’s just a small anecdote from someone who speaks a little bit of Spanish, poorly).

Day two was my Madrid food tour, which deserves its own post (link to come once I write the post). I really like doing food tours when traveling to other cities. It’s a great way to see a bit of the city you might not otherwise and you’re bound to learn a little bit about local culture and tradition. And the food, of course. It’s also a nice way to have some company in a strange place if you aren’t the type to just make friends with strangers. This was my second European food tour that had a couple from Belgium on it, so I could talk about how my last name is Belgian, brought over to the UK in the early 1600’s by my 10th or so gre
at-grandfather.

After the food tour I took a nap and then went to the Prado. At my food tour guide’s suggestion, I started in the basement with Goya’s Pinturas Negras, which are fascinating and a bit out of the ordinary for the museum.

I had seen a brewery pop up on Google Maps at some point (La Osita, C. de la Cava Baja, 10, Centro, 28005 Madrid, Spain), and I had to try it out, knowing that it would be less of a traditional Spanish experience, but not caring. Turns out literally everyone there, customers and staff, spoke English. I briefly chatted with an American who was thinking of moving to DC when his girlfriend was finished her degree in Madrid. Small world.

A beer in a pint glass on a bar in front of a row of beer cans. There is also a small plate of bread and meat

Here I got another little snack with my beer – bread and some kind of meat. This is a custom that we could adopt here in the US, just putting that out there. The beer was good if you like American-style IPAs, which I do. I can tell myself that I wanted to get the Spanish take on an American style, but really it’s just that’s what I like to drink. I tell myself that it’s not at all like the stereotype of Americans traveling the world to complain how you can’t get a decent hamburger.

One last Madrid snack with drink at Bar Benteveo (C. de Sta. Isabel, 15, Centro, 28012 Madrid, Spain). Bread with something like hummus but it probably had meat in it.

A glass of wine on a red bar top with a small plate containing a piece of bread with a spread on top

And my dinner – a lomito (pork) sandwich with chips. I don’t know if I’m supposed to have sharper teeth or something but this was a little hard to eat. I kept getting more meat in a single bite than I was really prepared for. But it was quite good. You can get this with an egg on top as well – that sounded great but a little more than I was looking for at that point. Maybe next time.

A glass of wine on a red bar top next to a plate containing a meat sandwich and a small cup of chips

Next – food tour!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *