A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Friday, August 26, 2005

Aug. 22.



Madrid, Part One - Our journey to Madrid got off to an exciting and tense start when we just barely made the train. After that close call though, it was smooth sailing and five hours later, Vince and I arrived in Spain's capital city. Of all the cities in Europe, I've spent the most time here, studying Spanish over a three-week period. Madrid was much like I remembered it, steeped in lavish and classically European architecture and majestic parks and public arenas. Compared to Barcelona, it also felt older and more serious, less interested in stimulating the tourist's appetites.

Our appetites were plenty stoked though, as it was approaching three o'clock. We left Atocha station and found a nearby bar to get more sandwiches. (In Spain, a bar is like an American cafe with a full bar.) This time, I had salchichon (salami) on another excellent and immense baguette, whereas Vince went with the jamon York. The owner, amused by our lack of mastery with the language, offered us a bowl of peanuts too.

After lunch, we hoisted our backpacks back on and took the metro to our hotel. It was located just a few streets away from the Plaza de Toros, Madrid's world-famous bullring. We put down our stuff, I swam in the pool, and we set out to wander more of the city at night. We walked by the magnificent kingdom of the Palacio de Comunicaciones, down the Gran Via, around the bustling Puerta del Sol and back toward our neighborhood. Along the way, I spotted the Museo del Jamon, or the Museum of Ham, and we knew right away this was where we had to have dinner.

A huge space with a bar, table seating, and a vast deli counter, we had tons of possibilities to choose from. While we pondered, we took in the sight of the massive hamhocks of jamon iberico hanging from the ceiling, stretching from entrance to exit. I ended up going with the croissant mixto, which came with strips of ham and cheese, and I added tomato too. While the croissant was on the stale side, the ham was truly terrific. Vince loved his omelette as well, pronouncing it the best thing he´d had in Spain thus far. We both agreed this was one museum we'd be happy to curate.

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