Confession: I Miss American Foods

February 5, 2015 • Featured, Madrid, Travel

I love Spanish food

Chocolate drenched waffles at Feria in Sevilla are AMAZING, but they still aren’t breakfast tacos.

It has been 5 weeks and 3 days since I’ve had my last breakfast taco. And it feels like an eternity. Yes, the freshly-baked artisanal baguette that I toast and slather with Spanish olive oil and perfectly ripe tomato for breakfast every morning is positively scrumptious. But it will never compare to the sloppy perfection of a warm tortilla bursting with scrambled eggs, fried chilis, guacamole, cheese and three kinds of hot sauce. Now THAT is a breakfast of champions. And it is glaringly absent from my eating options in Madrid.

This city is, in so many ways, a foodie paradise. I can assuredly say that some of the best bites to ever cross my lips were constructed within these ancient city walls. But despite the mouthwatering jamón, mind-blowing tortilla española and worship-worthy croquetas, I would lick a city sidewalk right now for a Torchy’s taco or a massive pile of hot-off-the-barbecue ribs.

Although I spend most of my spare breath (and blog space) waxing poetic about my infatuation with Spanish food, I confess that there are a few things this country is sorely lacking.

Exhibit A: Tacos

Tacos are a food that I can never get tired of. Breakfast tacos, fajita tacos, fried avocado tacos, pulled pork tacos, bean and cheese tacos, corn tortillas, wheat tortillas, thick tortillas thin tortillas… With so many marvelous options how could I ever not want a taco?

Torchy's Tacos

Torchy’s Tacos… aka all I want in life.

While this food of all foods is starting to show it’s glorious face in a select few places in Madrid, there are still lightyears to go before any of the said taquerias arrive at the sheer taco glory that is Austin’s Torchy’s Tacos. On my next trip back to the States I’m setting a daily taco consumption requirement.

My Spanish remedy:  Maria Bonita on Calle Olmo 23 in Lavapiés. Their tortillas are made from specialty corn ground the right way on a machine they shipped in from Mexico. The owner and chef were both born and raised in Mexico and are spectacularly committed to ensuring that the marvelous flavors of their country shine through each and every dish. Not to mention their Micheladas are the best in town.

Exhibit B: Cartons of Quality Ice Cream

The polar vortex temperatures and bone-brittling winds that we are currently enjoying in Madrid are making my winter-hating self downright grouchy. And my one sure-fire way to cure a bought of wrinkle-inducing grouchiness is a cozy bed, a large spoon and a fresh half gallon of Coffee Chocolate Chunk ice cream. Inexplicably, a half-decent tub of ice cream is nowhere to be found on the grocery store shelves of Madrid.

Icy imposters in increasingly disturbing flavors like “whipped cream” and radioactive pink “strawberry” fill the one freezer of ice cream options at my local Carrefour. Ridiculously overpriced pints of equally uninspiring Häagen-Dazs add insult to ice cream injury, turning my grouchiness into full-blown annoyance. What does a girl have to do for a creamy carton of sorrow-expelling, chocolate-coated calories?! Pop over to America, apparently.

My Spanish remedy: While the grocery store is a good ice cream wasteland, the streets of Madrid are quite the opposite. Positively stellar ice cream shops abound if I can find enough layers to brave the winter cold. My go-to? Kalúa on C/Fuencarral, 131 between the metros of Bilbao and Quevedo. They’ve got at least two different coffee flavors and do things with Ferrero Rocher bonbons that are too delicious to be legal.

Best Ice Cream in Madrid

The heaven that is two scoops of coffee and Ferrero Rocher ice cream from Kalúa

Exhibit C: Barbecue

Real Texas Barbeque

Real barbecue should come from one of these.

I’m blaming this glaring hole in Spanish cuisine on lack of space. As no one in Madrid has a free-standing house, let alone a back yard (this is apartment-only territory), I can understand how a metal box of fire next to the clothes lines on the balcony could present some serious safety concerns.

But this is a country of patience. If you’re going to cure a ham leg for two years, can’t you throw one of them into a smoker for a mere eight hours? While I understand the at-home limitations of throwing a Texas-style BBQ, I positively can’t get on board with using the same word to refer to pan-fried hamburgers. If it ain’t been roasted to slow, smoked perfection for more than five hours, it’s grilled, not barbecued.

My Spanish remedy: Hamburgers. It’s not the same but it’s the closest I’ve found to the delectable smokiness of real Texas barbecue. And I feel equally as burstingly full after my meal. My Madrid go-to: Naif on Calle de San Joaquín, 16 in Malasaña. 

Exhibit D: Wild Game Meat

Growing up in a family of hunters, beef was never what’s for dinner. At my grade school birthday parties the hamburgers were venison and on any given weekday everything from elk to alligator made it onto our plates. As a consequence, I am rather finicky about farmed meats.

Texas style grilling

Grilled sandhill crane, sea scallops and salmon with mushroom risotto and caprese bites. My parents spoil me!

Luckily, Spain is a meat-lover’s Mecca. The beef is almost always pasture-raised and most of the hormones and antibiotics used in U.S. beef are illegal in Europe. Spanish cured ham is out of this world and the hamburger meat is ground to order by my neighborhood butcher. That being said, the lean and abundantly flavorful meats of the American forest are nearly impossible to find. If only customs would allow care packages of deer steaks!

My Spanish remedy:  Chuletón de buey. It is not often that I’m struck with a craving for red meat, but when that craving hits (like, for example, now) it’s fierce and demanding. As deer is practically an endangered species here, I instead turn to Spanish ox meat. The typical way of serving the two-inch thick steak (which is always to share because its ridiculously massive) is nearly raw and sliced into thin cigarette-pack size rectangles.

This platter o’ meat is delivered to the table with a sizzling hot iron upon which you sear each slice of meat before devouring it with a sprinkling of salt. If that didn’t cure my meat craving nothing would! My favorites are at Urugallo next to the lake in Casa del Campo and Albur on Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 15.

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8 Responses to Confession: I Miss American Foods

  1. Sara Hintze says:

    I’ll send you some venison and Texas BBQ—you send me Maria Bonita tortillas and Micheladas!

  2. I miss Coffee Heath Bar Ice cream by the carton! MMMMM.

  3. Word. I miss Chicago style hot dogs and frozen margaritas for less than 7 euros more than anything!

  4. RV says:

    Torchy’s Tacos aren’t truly tacos ;), but they are indeed awesome. If you’re looking for more Austin-like eats around Madrid, hit me up!

  5. I love how you talk about what you miss AND how you try to substitute them in Madrid! Will definitely be checking out María Bonita the next time I’m in Madrid 🙂

  6. […] American food gets a bad rap. Our barely-classifiable-as-edible fast food behemoths have wrapped the globe, promoting the idea that we Americans eat nothing but hamburgers, french fries and mystery meat-filled tacos washed down with swimming pool-sized cokes. Headlines about the obesity epidemic and Hollywood’s affinity for fatty product placement only magnify the stereotype. […]

  7. Ciudades30 says:

    Once you taste jamon nothing is ever the same 😉

    Ciudades30 recently posted…Project Monsoon, dibujos en el suelo solo cuando llueveMy Profile

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