Travel and food pretty much go hand in hand for me. I cannot even imagine visiting a new city and not experiencing their local cuisine. That would be like visiting Paris for the first time and failing to eat a crêpe or macaron. Or traveling to London and ordering a burger in a pub instead of fish and chips! Shame on you. Yes, it might sound touristy but these things are popular for a reason.
A good food tour will take you through the most interesting parts of a city, share a bit of history, have you try out delicious food that best represents where you are, all while mingling with other travelers who are just as interested in food as you. Honestly, what more could you ask for? Madrid Food Tour provided all that and more, and by more, I mean alcohol of course. Founded by fellow blogger and Madrid local, Lauren Aloise, I promise you’re in safe hands when it comes to knowing the best places to eat in Madrid. They offer three different tours and two wine tasting experiences which made it quite difficult to pick but we finally settled on the Huertas Neighborhood Food and Market Tour. Known as the literary quarter, I found this area in Central Madrid extremely charming with cobblestone streets and beautiful, old homes where Miguel de Cervantes just happened to live. If that name isn’t familiar to you then do yourself a favor and type Don Quixote into Google.
In my previous posts about food tours, I take you through each stop, but unless you want to read a short novel, I’ll just be sharing my favorite stops on our tour. Our food tour lasted 3.5 hours which gave us enough time for about 10 (!!!) different tastings. Trust me when I say you get your money’s worth, walking away full, happy, and a bit more knowledgeable about Madrid.
Did you know churros with chocolate are considered breakfast food?! Madrid, I like you. One of our first stops was at Chocolat, tucked away on a sidestreet with almost no tourists in sight, this is the perfect place for a quick breakfast.
Technically we had porras, not churros. Churros are thin and sometimes knotted while porras are long and thicker. You dip these delicious porras into a cup of warm chocolate which is only semi-sweet and very filling. This being one of the first stops, I knew I had to pace myself so I held back from drinking the remaining chocolate. And yes, that’s allowed. Spaniards know how to live.
We eventually found our way to a great local market, Mercado de Antón Martín, where some serious eating was about to go down. This traditional Spanish market occupies a full city block and has three floors, the first two being the market and the third belonging to a famous Flamenco school.
We stumbled upon a lovely stall inside called Dónde Sánchez where we sampled delicious local wine, Las Retamas, to be specific. Drinks in Spain almost always come with a little snack, or tapa, so we tried fuet which is a Catalan thin, cured, dry pork sausage. Sticking with Spanish meats, we visited Charcutería Ismael where the friendly owner, Jesus, greeted us with a wonderful tasting tray of ham, cheese, and quince candy. Ham is taken very seriously in Spain and I was eager to try some. We sampled Serrano, Recebo, and Bellota for all you ham experts out there. Bellota was my favorite which comes from a black Iberian pig. Hams are labeled according to the pigs diet so with Bellota, for example, the pigs are on an acorn-based diet which is apparently the most desirable.
Another favorite stop in the market for me was Variantes Juanjo or Olive World, as I like to call it. Other than some black olives I usually pick out in a cold pasta salad, I had never really been a huge fan of olives. Then our lovely guide, Paula, shared with us that there are over 250 types of olives which meant there was bound to be one I liked. After sampling Malagueña, Aragonesa, La Abuela, Jaén and Camporreal, I had found my match. Camporreal olives are big, green, juicy, not remotely bitter (I’m looking at you, Aragonesa) and delicious. Now if I can only find Camporreal in America…
While this market has been around for over 60 years, they’re recently trying to create a trendier image with new stalls opening all the time, hoping to appeal to a younger crowd. One of my favorite stalls was Bar Omaira and if I lived in Madrid, I’d be there every week. We started with salmorejo, a delicious cold soup made with tomato, bread, and usually topped with egg or ham. I knew our next dish was a bit more adventurous when Paula told us she would prefer to tell us what we were eating after we tried it. Was I scared? Yes. Luckily, my friend told me to get over myself and just try it. I took a bite of carrillada, or braised beef cheeks, which melted in my mouth and I am sorry for any vegetarian that might be reading this but it was a wonderful experience. Let’s not forget the alcohol. Similar to sangria, we drank tinto de verano which is basically just red wine and soda. It was simple, delicious, and refreshing. I was happy to try several glasses of tinto de verano throughout my time in Spain…! Muy bien.
After a few more stops throughout the market, I felt like I had eaten my weight in food but we weren’t done yet. One more stop led us to Pan de Pi, a small place run by Galician bakers who gave us a delicious slice of tetilla cheesecake. Tetilla cheese is made in Galicia and is very mild, soft, and creamy. Unlike most cheesecake you’ll try in America, this was very light which I was thankful for since I could hardly move at this point. But of course I was too distracted with eating the cheesecake to actually snap a photo. Forgive me, my blogger brain was tired and full after three and a half hours of walking around and eating our way through Madrid. I know, it’s a hard life.
The Huertas Neighborhood Food and Market Tour is just one of the tours offered through Madrid Food Tours. It’s priced at 65 euros for adults and between eating, drinking, learning about the history of Madrid and its food culture, you truly get your money’s worth. As always, I’d reccomend taking a food tour at the beginning of your trip so you’re well informed of all the great places to eat for the rest of your vacation.
Have you ever taken a food tour? Is this something you’d consider doing? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.
*Note: I did receive two complimentary tickets for my Madrid Food Tour. Opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!