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.