Europe 2013 – Culinary Pilgrimages: Part 1 – Madrid

Madrid's Plaza Mayor

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor

It was an ambitious trip. Starting in Madrid, we would attend and cover the seminal Chef’s Congress, Madrid Fusión, all while partaking in some of Madrid and Spain’s finest contemporary and traditional restaurants like DiverXo and Casa Botín amongst others. With our ultimate goal to make it to Lyon for the Bocuse d’Or the following week, we had an opportunity to head north and explore a few of the acclaimed restaurants of Holland, Belgium, and northwestern France such as De Librije, In de Wulf, La Grenouiller and L’Air du Temps, before training it back to Lyon for the Bocuse and finishing up with a couple of nights in Paris. All the while we would stay at a combination of apartments and hotels that would be our homes away from home.

StreetXo

StreetXo

After a red-eye flight from New York and checking in to an apartment off Madrid’s Gran Via, our first day was one that become centered around the food of Chef David Muñoz and his Asian accented Spanish cuisine. Our first stop was for a light lunch at the nearby StreetXo, located in the Callao location of El Corte Ingles. Situated in a fancy food court on the 9th floor, StreetXo is a small open kitchen selling imaginative and delicious Asian inspired street foods like Chili Crab and Gambas al Vapor Con Ajillo de Pollo. We limited ourselves to sharing three of these tasty dishes since we didn’t want to spoil our appetites for later that evening.

Pascal Barbot and David Muñoz at DiverXo

Pascal Barbot and David Muñoz at DiverXo

DiverXo, Muñoz’ flagship restaurant has earned two Michelin stars and with good reason. The dining room is fun, intimate and elegant, but most importantly, the food is original, creative and absolutely delicious! Sharing the dining room with Michelin three star chef, Pascal Barbot, was a treat as well. We were off to a flying start!

Hot Chocolate and Churros

Hot Chocolate and Churros

The next morning, we arose in time for a visit to my favorite Chocolate spot, San Gines, for a light breakfast of thick, dark, hot chocolate and freshly made, crunchy, churros. There were still stragglers from the night before.

Entrance to the Prado - no photos allowed inside.

Entrance to the Prado – no photos allowed inside.

The morning was filled with a visit to Madrid’s seminal art museum, El Prado. Of course, it is always a pleasure to view treasures like Diego Velasquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas and El Bosco’s imaginatively warped Garden of Earthly Delights, but it was an even greater pleasure to discover less remarked-upon masterpieces as we let our eyes dance over lesser known works. One such painting that captured the attention of both my son and I was a portrait of “El Principe, don Carlos de Viana” by Jose Moreno Carbonero. This large portrait showed a banished former heir to the throne settled in amongst the dusty, old books that he took to in lieu of his lost realm – powerful!

Chef Rodrigo de la Calle at his eponymous restaurant

Chef Rodrigo de la Calle at his eponymous restaurant

The afternoon was spent with my friend Rogelio of the blog Pisto y No Pisto, who met us at the Museum and drove us out of Madrid to the nearby town of Aranjuez for lunch at the heralded vegetable-centric restaurant Rodrigo de la Calle.

L.J. Sconzo and Gerry Dawes at the home of Esmeralda Capel

L.J. Sconzo and Gerry Dawes at the home of Esmeralda Capel

We made it back to relax a little bit before attending a small dinner in a private home, where we were guests along with the likes of the legendary Juan Mari Arzak and the inimitable Gerry Dawes. With plenty of Iberico, fried shrimp, ravioli en brodo and luscious baby lamb chops, the meal was a total delight, until…

On the way walking back to our apartment, I began to feel the uneasy qualms of GI distress and was fortunate enough to make it back in time to relieve them. Unfortunately, the waves of distress continued through the night as both my son and I fell victim to it. Our entire next day, the first day of Madrid Fusión, was shot. We could only get out of our beds to head into the bathroom. This was too soon to have been from our dinner, from which no one else got sick. No, it was something from earlier in the day. These things happen and the timing is always unfortunate. Fortunately for us, though, it held off long enough that it had not ruined a perfectly splendid evening.


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