When In Spain… Madrid Food Tour Is A Must

The popular Mercado San Miguel is one of the stops at Madrid Food Tour. Did you know that it used to be an illegal fish market in the 1900s? What it is today is the idea of 4 friends who bought it and converted it into a hygienic food market where the stalls were run by Spaniards

Conde Nast Traveler recently came out with an article entitled, “In Madrid, Molecular Gastronomy Is Out. Comfort Food Is In.” The article states that, “After years of molecular gastronomy, with its flavored foams and vapors, Madrid’s food scene makes a U-turn to become the new capital of home-style Spanish cooking,” Cocidos (hearty meat stews), croquetas, heirloom vegetables and seafood, basically “dishes that a madrileñamother would serve to a lovesick son” are once again at the spotlight. The reason being that, they cite, “as economic indicators decline, comfort food makes a surge, providing solace during turbulent financial times.”

When I was in the Spanish capital earlier this year for Madrid Fusion, I had the opportunity to experience this beautiful home-style Spanish cooking the article was talking about in one go– by way of the Madrid Food Tour. I met co-director and tour guide James Blick at Madrid Fusion, and he invited me on the Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour. 

I first met Madrid Food Tour co-director and tour guide James Blick at Madrid Fusion in Spain! He also happens to be a fellow journalist.
I first met Madrid Food Tour co-director and tour guide James Blick at Madrid Fusion in Spain! He also happens to be a fellow journalist, and my seatmate at the Margarita Fores dinner at Hotel Ritz!

Lasting a little over 4 hours and at  €85/ head, it’s a walking tour that offers a glimpse into the history of Spanish cuisine by strolling through neighborhoods, stopping by local, off-the-beaten-path restaurants and even century-old bars, trying everything from pastries to tapas, while learning about the most important events in the evolution of Spanish food. There are 8 to 10 stops throughout the tour, with 12 food tastings and 3 traditional Spanish beverages (yes, alcohol)!  Oh, and it also just happens to be ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for Things to Do in Madrid— voted no less by customers themselves! (Honestly, if you love to eat– and which human being doesn’t– you will enjoy this tour! Just do it!)

Here are some photos of what we saw– and ate! But just a few as there are some surprises along the way, and I don’t want to spoil them for you! :)

Madrid Food Tour's Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour begins at Plaza Mayor. In our case, it was at 10:30 AM. Our lovely guide, Debbie Musgrove, was waiting for us with a sign. She's super cool and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour with her!
Madrid Food Tour’s Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour begins at Plaza Mayor. In our case, it was at 10:30 AM. Our lovely guide, Debbie Musgrove, originally from the UK, was waiting for us with a sign. She’s super cool and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour with her!
El Riojano was founded in 1855 by the Riojan baker Don Dámaso de la Maza-- who happened to be Queen Isabel II’s pastry chef! The Queen supported him when he decided to put up his own bakery and even helped him decorate the bakery! To this day, El Riojano still serves it’s pastries to the Spanish royal family!
El Riojano was founded in 1855 by the Riojan baker Don Dámaso de la Maza– who happened to be Queen Isabel II’s pastry chef! The Queen supported him when he decided to put up his own bakery and even helped him decorate the bakery.To this day, El Riojano still serves it’s pastries to the Spanish royal family.
Check this out-- the Monasterio del Corpus Christi is a convent that sells traditional sweets by cloistered nuns!
Check this out– the Monasterio del Corpus Christi is a convent that sells traditional sweets by cloistered nuns!
These mantecado de yema (lard and egg yolk biscuits) were some of the goodies baked by the cloistered nuns! Apparently, I read on TripAdivor that many nuns in the convents of Madrid earn their living selling pastries. Their recipes come from the times of the Romans and Moors, which they have preserved over the ages. Unfortunately many convents are closing because they have fewer nuns. But buying sweets from them will definitely help them.
These mantecado de yema (lard and egg yolk biscuits) were some of the goodies baked by the cloistered nuns. Apparently, I read on TripAdvisor that many nuns in the convents of Madrid earn their living selling pastries. Their recipes come from the times of the Romans and Moors, which they have preserved over the ages. Unfortunately many convents are closing because they have fewer nuns. But buying sweets from them will definitely help them.
It's never too early to drink! Mid-morning vermouth (vermut) break at Mercado San Miguel, along with little skewers of happiness: quail eggs, sardines, red and green pepper, and the most beautiful olives! While vermouth Greek and Roman origin and became famous in Italy, the Vermut Reus. Vermut Reus, considered a benchmark vermut and one of the top vermut in Spain comes from the town of Reus in province of Tarragona in Catalunya. It has a slight bitter aftertaste and herbal aromas from the herbs and spices used to enhance its flavor.
It’s never too early to drink! Mid-morning vermouth (vermut) break at Mercado San Miguel, along with little skewers of happiness: quail eggs, sardines, red and green pepper, and the most beautiful olives! While vermouth has Greek and Roman origins and became famous in Italy, the  Vermut Reus, considered a benchmark vermut and one of the top vermut in Spain comes from the town of Reus in province of Tarragona in Catalunya. It has a slight bitter aftertaste and herbal aromas from the herbs and spices used to enhance its flavor.
La Bola is an institution known for its cocido Madrileno, cooked in individual earthenware pots for 4 to 6 hours, and is a favorite of the kings and queens of Spain, and even actor Richard Gere!
La Bola is an institution known for its cocido Madrileno (a stew made of meat, chorizo, vegetables and noodles), cooked in individual earthenware pots over a low flame produced by an oak wood fire for 4 to 6 hours, and is a favorite of the kings and queens of Spain, and even actor Richard Gere!
Chef meets cook! Our very own Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma in the Philippines meets the Spanish cook at La Bola in the kitchen and they both looked so happy!
Chef meets chef! Our very own Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma in the Philippines meets the Spanish cook at La Bola in the kitchen.
Bocadillas de Calamares (fried squid rings in bageutte bread) are a very Madrid thing. Try it when you're here! The ones at La Campana behind Plaza Mayor beat the touristy ones that line the front of it.
Bocadillas de Calamares (fried squid rings in bageutte bread) are a very Madrid thing. Try it when you’re here! The ones at La Campana behind Plaza Mayor beat the touristy ones that line the front of it.
El Anciano Rey de los Vinos is an institution in Madrid spanning over 100 years old! And this was the best thing I ate at the Madrid Food Tour-- century-old tapas of glorious rabo del toro (bull's tail stew) encased in crunchy filo pastry, topped with pimento, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and gravy. We had it with a young tempranillo wine.. just perfect! (Trivia: It is said that in 1909, a tunnel was dug into the restaurant connecting it to the palace so that King Alfonso could have a drink here incognito!)
El Anciano Rey de los Vinos is an institution in Madrid spanning over 100 years old! And this was the best thing I ate at the Madrid Food Tour– century-old tapas of glorious rabo del toro (bull’s tail stew) encased in crunchy filo pastry, topped with pimento, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and gravy. We had it with a young tempranillo wine.. just perfect! (Trivia: It is said that in 1909, a tunnel was dug into the restaurant connecting it to the Royal Palace of Madrid so that King Alfonso could have a drink here incognito!)

Speaking of the Royal Palace.. we were so lucky to have witnessed the changing of the guards, which only happens ONCE A MONTH! I tell you, right place, right time! Thanks, Madrid Food Tour! 😉

The picture perfect gothic Almudena Cathedral, right across the Royal Palace of Madrid, took 114 years to build, and was the first Spanish cathedral to be consecrated by a Pope (Pope John Paul II).
The jamon situation! At the tour, you taste and find out the differences between jamón serrano, jamón ibérico de recebo and jamón ibérico de bellota
The jamon situation! At the tour, you taste and find out the differences between jamón serrano, jamón ibérico de recebo and jamón ibérico de bellota. Serrano ham comes from grain-fed pigs that live indoors and have white hooves. They can come from anywhere as long as they are cured in Spain. They are generally inexpensive as they don’t have that much fat. The next grade is the recebo, a typical Iberian ham comes from a black pig from either Spain or Portugal. They are colloquially called pata negra referring to the black foot or hoof that accompanies the ham. The most premium one, bellota, comes from pigs that are fed 7 to 8kg of acorns a day! The ham is almost melt-in-your-mouth with a tinge of sweetness, and are some of the most expensive in the world!
Madrid Food Tour- La Despensa de Carmen
La Despensa de Carmen is a neighborhood takeaway place by a woman named Carmen and her daughter (they’ve been around since the 1980s). Locals, including our guide Debbie, often buy their food here and bring them back home to eat, if they don’t have the time or don’t want to cook .
Madrid Food Tour- La Despensa de Carmen- Empanadas
Carmen’s empanadas are very popular! Crispy, crunchy, delicious and homemade with love :)
A trip to San Gines, Madrid's most famous churros place that's open 24 hours (yup, 24 hours!) is not to be forgotten, of course!
A trip to San Gines, Madrid’s most famous churros place that’s open 24 hours (yup, 24 hours!) is not to be forgotten, of course!
The cool thing about this walking tour is that it fuses both history and food.Here I am with Indian food blogger Kalyan Karmakar and friends from Manila Alicia Sy and Berna Romulo-Puyat-- in front of the Casa de la Villa, the old town hall which used to serve as both a prison and town hall.
The cool thing about this walking tour is that it fuses both history and food.Here I am with Indian food blogger Kalyan Karmakar and friends from Manila Alicia Sy and Berna Romulo-Puyat– in front of the Casa de la Villa, the old town hall which used to serve as both a prison and town hall.

The Madrid Food Tour is a MUST-Do when in Spain– and come hungry! They also have a Tapas, History and Taverns Tour, and a Huertas Neighborhood Food & Market Tour, if you  have more time, and want to see more. The good news is, the company has expanded nationwide (they are now called Devour Spain) and now offer Devour Barcelona Food Tours Devour Seville Food Tours and Devour Malaga Food Tours. Visit their website for more information, email info@madridfoodtour.com or phone +34 695 11 1832

 

2 Comments

  1. great gastro and eno tour indeed. im glad you enjoyed madrid and España.( viva espana, viva el rey!). as i my self did enjoyed it too.( 12yrs working as a chef).
    but i think u missed something along the road..
    The oldest restaurant in the world by the guiness book of world records. that happened to be just beside plaza mayor.( restaurante botin, 1725).
    a must visit and try resto too. as it was an institution already when it comes to spanish heritage and castillian cuisine. not to mention the story it tells when ur inside the local. and the underground bodega of wine which used as a secret passage by the musketeers going to plazas along time ago.
    great blog…great tour… great experience too.
    Un saludo cordial, Chef Mike Alim

    • Thank you for writing! I did pass by it but didn’t have the time to try, what a pity! It’s very popular and hopefully when I go back to Madrid next time I will get the chance to :)

Comments are closed.