Monday, April 4, 2016

Impressions Of Madrid: A Food and Wine Inspired Journey

The Spanish capital of Madrid is a celebration of art, food, tradition and nightlife. This vibrant city offers something for everyone.

The World’s Most Tourist-Friendly Country

In 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked 141 countries in categories such as security and price. The result? Spain was named the world’s most tourist-friendly country. (In case you are wondering, Chad came in last place.)

I’ll give that judgment my endorsement after my recent visit. My trip took me to Madrid, Santiago de Compostela, Bilbao, Tarragona and Barcelona. This was my first visit to Spain, and my initial impressions came from an enjoyable two-night stay in Madrid as part of a press trip with Ferrer Family Wines.

Hotel Miguel Angel

Our home base in Madrid was the Hotel Miguel Angel in the Salamanca district of the city. Although our schedule did not permit a visit, it is a short stroll from the world famous Museo del Prado museum.

The rooms were comfortable, although a bit lacking in convenient outlets for today’s technology-burdened traveler. An electric pants press device was in the room – 4,000 miles in a suitcase can add some wrinkles, so I took full advantage of it.

Perhaps the best amenity at Hotel Miguel Angel is their club room. This features a continental breakfast as well as refreshments and beverages throughout the day. Cava was on ice there, always a welcome sight.

Hotel Miguel Angel is a five-star property and a recommended hotel for your visits to Madrid.

City Scenes

Just a few minutes from Hotel Miguel Angel is Calle de Ponzano. This street is dotted with small tabernas serving tapas. You can’t do Madrid, or Spain, without doing tapas. Tapas are more than snack-sized morsels, they are the social glue that holds the nation together.

Sunday afternoon saw groups of locals going from bar to bar having a drink or two and a tapa before moving to the next stop. Tapas are free as long as you are drinking. For larger portions, you’ll have to cut loose with some Euros. From octopus to quesadilla there is a tapa choice for everyone.

From Calle de Ponzano, it is a short taxi ride to La Latina, the oldest and most picturesque part of Madrid.
Shops, bars and restaurants line the narrow curving streets and alleys.

Prominently advertised were montaditos, a tiny sandwich delicacy. These are ideal bar snacks and go perfectly with a bottle of Tempranillo or cider.

No visit to Madrid is complete without sampling the jamón. Jamón is ham elevated. Spaniards can detect the region of the ham and the type of acorns the pigs eat there with a mere nibble of these thin slices of ham. Jamón is widely offered in the taverns and for sale in shops, including one delightful place called the Museum of Jamón.

A Duo Of Delicious Madrid Restaurants

The two restaurants at which we had dinner are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The Taberna del Albardero offers traditional foods in an intimate setting. Platea Madrid is an explosion of sights, sounds and tastes and is the largest restaurant in Spain.

Dinner in Spain usually begins at 9 PM, although 10 o’clock is common and 11 is not unheard of. Our first dinner in Spain introduced us to this unhurried dining experience with waves of small bites accompanied by Spanish wines such as Tempranillo from Solar Viejo.

Albardero mixes traditional cuisine with elements of innovation. The calamari with onions was a particular favorite.

Platea Madrid is a revolutionary food experience that is spread out over 19,000 square feet. The former cinema not only offers cuisine from Spain, but also Japan, Peru, Mexico and Italy. It is an elegant food court with 15 mini-stations each representing quality Spanish foods, regions and ways of eating. There also is a disco and a cocktail lounge that is open until 2:30.

Our meal here stretched until nearly midnight and with the energy in the place, we could have easily partied with friends for several hours more. That trans-Atlantic jet lag did get the best of me. I reluctantly put on my blue coat, the signal for our squad that it was time to return to the hotel.

Planning your next European adventure? Madrid beckons with amazing food, culture and nightlife.

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