Travel Wishlist: Madrid

While Madrid may not have the obvious charm found in Gaudi’s wonderland of Barcelona, it’s a tremendously vibrant capital and makes a great city break. For me, the highlights were visiting the incredible museums – two of the most renowned in the world – the Prado and the Reina Sofia. For the foodie, the Mercado San Miguel is an upscale tapas haven.

To Stay:

  • Vincci Via 66: This lovely modern hotel is a stone’s throw from the Santo Domenico metro station on the Gran Via. While the are itself is not the most charming, it’s a very central location which makes it easy to get around the city. Even better, the amazing San Miguel market is walking distance away.
Vincci Via 66
Gran Via 66
Madrid, Spain, 28013
+34 (91) 5504299

 

Culture:

  • Museo Nacional del Prado: I wanted to visit the Prado ever since I studied Spanish in high school. The Prado is home to some of the most amazing art in the world, and my favorite was definitely Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. This amazing work, structured in three wood panels, depicts Adam and Eve’s paradise on the left, hell on the right, and in the middle, the intricate scenes of earthly delights. The intricacy and complexity is unbelievable.
  • Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia: The jewel of the Reina Sofia is most certainly Picasso’s huge canvas representing the grotesqueness of war, Guernica. I spent about 20 minutes just staring at this masterpiece. Spain’s pride in both Picasso and Dali is clear at the Reina Sofia as the collections are vast and varied. The architecture of this modern art museum is stunning as well, so leave time to explore.
Museo Nacional del Prado
Paseo Prado 
Madrid, Spain 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
Calle Santa Isabel, 52
28012 Madrid, Spain


Tours and Experiences:

  • Walks of Spain Tapas Tour: I’m a huge fan of a good food tour. 🙂 The Walks of Spain tour was my first tapas tour in Spain and I was spoiled. Lead by enophile Andres, who brings wine from his own collection to the stops on his tour, it’s a combination walking history lesson and tour of some of the modern and trendy tapas stops in Madrid. The tours run at 65 Euros per person, a reflection of the quality of food and wine. No tourist traps here!
Walks of Spain Tapas Tours
Meeting place: Plaza de la Villa, Madrid, Spain
+34 653 91 28 79
http://www.walksofspain.com/#_=_ 

 

To Eat:

  • Mercado San Miguel: While this amazing market has all of the fresh produce, seafood and meat stalls you would expect, it’s decidedly more upscale than its Barcelona equivalent. What struck me most were the varied global food options served in small plates, tapas style. My favorite were the Italian offerings including an incredibly light burrata topped with prosciutto at the Moz stall. A must!
  • Loft 39: This trendy spot was a stop on the Walks of Spain tapas tour mentioned above. The “buenas noticias” or “good news” was the winner of the 2011 national tapas competition (yes, that’s a thing). If not a stop on your tour, or you just want to skip the tour and get to the good bits, this is a great stop!
  • Chocolateria San Gines: Mmmmm churros and chocolate. This hot spot is known for being open nearly 24 hours a day, so you can get your churro fix with the frequency you’d have gelato in Italy and at your own convenience (read: three times per day). There’s no customer service here: join the line, pay for your churros, pop the receipt on your chosen table and it will be slapped down when it’s ready, all with few words spoken by the staff. Don’t be intimidated, you’d not want to talk much either if you were slinging churros to tourists all day. 😉
Mercado San Miguel
Plaza San Miguel, 
28005 Madrid, Spain
+34 915424936
Loft 39
Velazquez 39, 
28001 Madrid, Spain
Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo de San Gines 5
28013 Madrid, Spain 

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2015.

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“I have a thing for hot chefs,” or Washington, D.C. Culinary Adventures

“Hmm, I think I know him,” I thought to myself, spying a handsome gentleman sitting outside of Béarnaise as Emily and I walked up to claim our reservation. It only took a moment for me to realize that I didn’t recognize a long-lost friend but in fact Spike Mendelsohn, chef at Béarnaise, We the Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery and “Top Chef” alum. This was not my first moment with Chef Spike. On the 4th of July 2010, he complimented me on my choice of double-fisting a chocolate milk shake and a Sam Adams Summer Ale with my burger at Good Stuff. Basically, every time I’m in D.C., I see Spike.  I think hope he’s stalking me. 😉

So… I have a thing about hot chefs. Earlier in the week, I had a little moment with a gorgeous tattooed chef wearing a Big Lebowski t-shirt at Radiator Whiskey. I mean really, what’s better than a man who can cook?

But on to the food. 🙂  We started at Béarnaise with the special appetizer salt cod fritters which our waiter encouraged us into saying that there were only a few left. The flavor profile was great but one of my fritters was a little cold in the middle. I overlooked that though given that the rest of it was so tasty. For our mains, Emily and I split both the steak frites and the Vietnamese mussels. The mussels reminded me of the Thai version at Flex Mussels in New York City; whoever first thought to combine fresh Asian flavors like lemongrass and cilantro with those simple little bivalves is a genius. With the steak we had both a traditional béarnaise sauce and a spicy version which I still have dreams about. We also shared some delightful brussels sprouts.  All in all, I thought the food at Béarnaise was lovely and of course, it’s always nice to see handsome Chef Spike.  My only criticism is that the service was a bit uneven on our visit: Our appetizer arrived before we’d ordered anything else, and the plates were left until we had to ask for them to be taken away to make room for the mains.

Next in our culinary adventures in D.C. (and yet another hot chef) was Rose’s Luxury, another treasure in Capitol Hill. That was so incredible however, it warrants its own post, so stay tuned.

Béarnaise 
315 Pennsylvania Ave SE 
Washington, DC 20003
+1 (202) 450-4800

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.