El Día de Acción de Gracias – fotopost

27 11 2010

The warm-up.

Serious ambientación courtesy of Emily’s resourcefulness.

Top-notch hostess Sam introduces the best of American cuisine to Madrid:
caramelized corn with fresh mint
sausage stuffing
applesauce
cranberry sauce spiked with orange zest
gooey mac-n-cheese
buttered green beans tossed with slivered almonds and cranberries
pumpkin cloverleaf rolls
crescent rolls
mashed ‘taters
fiery sweet potatoes
green bean casserole
cinnamon apples
brined and dressed turkey (!!!)
brined and dressed chicken
gravy

And the encore:
pumpkin pie
apple pie
pecan pie
fresh whipped cream





Puente de Vallecas

21 10 2010

Madrid’s significant dearth of non-Spanish ingredients is somewhat balanced by the joy I find in dedicating the occasional afternoon to ingredient-hunting. It’s a task best approached with the vaguest of goals – do NOT attempt to find real vanilla – and one that can easily lead to those lesser-known areas that make you feel all hip-and-with-it.

Charleen only has to drop the hint of “plantains,” and I hit the ground running. Today we convene in Puente de Vallecas, an out-of-the-way barrio to the southeast of Atocha. Back in the piso-hunting days, Jaselyn mentioned Dominican influences notable from merely walking around; we are intrigued.

Did you study abroad in Central/South America? Does Madrid need just a touch more Latin rhythm coming from every open door and car window? Do you require… real tortillas? Puente de Vallecas is the city’s answer to your heartstrings’ spicy longings. It’s markedly Madrid: the city center is within an hour’s walkable distance, and four and five story apartments with distinctive metal balconies are the norm. And yet – here hangs a loop of colorful laundry. And there goes a car bumping with reggaeton beats. Are you sure we’re still in Kansas, Dorothy?

It’s impossible to meander far in Puente de Vallecas without running into an Alimentación offering much more than mere frutos secos. We stock up on plantains and black beans, powdered cayenne and adobo seasoning. In one extra-special tienda, we are presented with fresh coconut cookies on the house, and they are absurdly risquisitos.

It feels like an escape, like we’ve somehow cheated the metro system and gone far beyond the B2 borders. But this, too, is Madrid.





Jornada Highlight

3 10 2010

No work on Thursday due to the obligatory, all-day Jornada de Formación de Auxiliares: Orient Harder.

Although a late-afternoon foray into the poetic comes in a close second, my favorite moment of the day is the formation of a fresh-food coalition during a Model Model UN session with my healthy buddies Mango, Papaya, and Avocado. Fried Mars Bars is not invited.





“Tapas” Nite in La Latina – fotopost

19 09 2010





Vespa Fantasies/Cilantro Realizations

19 09 2010

I’m going to guess it traces back to that alluring orange beauty emblematic of imminent success on Piso Day: Em and I have been fantasizing about Vespas.

Lucky us, there is a certified Vespa Store about 10 minutes’ walk from our place. We seek it out and inquire into possibilities.

A new bike runs roughly 2000€; we’re thinking a used one could be found somewhere in Madrid at an even more dangerously affordable price.

Shopkeep José is very helpful, fueling our enthusiasm and offering further information. He recommends we visit the US Embassy to iron out the legal details; we make a note of it as a possible Monday plan.

With no further schedule for the daylight hours, Em and I engage in our most dedicated wanderings to date. Armed with vague aims of “gold heels” and “Mexican ingredients,” we head first to Plaza Angel on a vague recollection of a Latino market.

Paydirt! Black beans are quite the uncommon find in Madrid. I snap up two cans, making a wish known to the universe that I’d like to consume one of them for lunch.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this market very highly – not too much else appealed (although I am glad to know of another location for coconut milk). We recall Fausto mentioning the barrio Cuatro Caminos as being home to many Central/South American immigrants, so I call up Charleen in the belief that she lives nearby and make plans to meet at the metro.

While on the surprisingly lengthy metro journey to Cuatro Caminos, Em and I unfold my rapidly deteriorating map to note that Charleen lives nowhere near the area whatsoever, and that I have absolutely zero idea how such a thought got planted in my skull. Ah well, it’s a wandering day for everyone!

Upon our exit from the metro, sugar-encrusted roasted peanuts from a nearby stall smell far too enticing not to devour. We contentedly munch while productively awaiting Charleen’s arrival by browsing a Carrefour, hoping for shelving and instead encountering a perfect yellow robe, plus tortillas and a baguette for later eats.

Just outside the Carrefour is another entrance to the Cuatro Caminos metro station, and something draws me in for a closer look. It’s common in these areas to to see black market vendors of pirated DVDs, knockoff sunglasses, and arrays of very likely pilfered goods, none of which I’m interested in purchasing – but this man has my number.

“Emily. Emily. Look. I think he has cilantro.”
“Qué?”
Cilantro.” [runs, not walks, up to shady seller clutching bunches of green] “Es cilantro??”
“Si. Un euro.” [begins packing massive amount into plastic bag]
“Uhh – no necesito tanto -”
“Un euro.”
“Uh. Vale.”

Yesssssss. My only regret is not snapping a quick frame of the sketchy cilantro huckster. There’s no question I’ll be back…

Charleen shows her pretty face and we begin exploring in earnest.

A foray into an Ecuadorian bakery – which are ubiquitous here, by the way – reveals a Jamaican cornmeal flour that Charleen’s been dreaming about, plus various other goodies. No real vanilla, however; Taste of America may have a run on the market.

Lunch plans come together as though divinely mandated; it is blindingly obvious that the tortillas, black beans, and cilantro in our hot little hands were meant to be together as one. A frutería near Charleen’s piso in Principe Pío provides tomatoes, onions, and garlic; a carnicería offers “queso para sandwich” by the slice. Charleen’s kitchen gets a full workout, and we devour the results, unanimously agreeing that the cilantro is the crowning focal point in the mess of burrito glee.

A full kitchen is a happy kitchen.