Friday, January 14, 2011

“Stepping In” on the town - Madrid, Spain

Day 1 (cont'd):
Mo’ Mojitos: My favorite activity is moseying around a new city and stepping in here or there for a quick nip or nibble. Our next “step-in” was at the bar, La Solera where wise cracks were quipped from wine casks turned tables and olives were served with our much stronger mojitos.

The bathrooms left the mark of a more rowdy joint with graffiti scrawled over every stall, so when Bubba and I ventured back here again after 11pm and it had morphed into a smoky den with music videos flashing above the bar, it all made sense.

Yay for Paella: Bubba stopped us in front of a low-key restaurant, Meson Cardena, crowded with locals - always a good sign. Ceramic, tiled walls were broken up with photos of matadors and various animal heads (the wild boar’s hair could have used a deep conditioning...)

(...and the coat rack of upturned deer’s hooves was a bit disturbing).

But we were immediately greeted by a plate of pasta salad that was surprisingly flavorful for its ordinary components – krab, onion, pepper and white beans - nothing but compliments for this complimentary starter.

For drinks, we switched from mojitos to sangria = best decision ever. Best decision ever = best sangria ever. Was that a cinnamon stick floating around in there? This brought the same spiciness of mulled wine and put fruit in the background so it wasn’t sickly sweet, as some sangrias can be. What was the secret to their house blend? Well, the woman behind the counter was marrying various wines into one bottle and that might have had something to do with it – genius. Waste not, wine not.

And even though we got a couple of dirty looks while inquisitively eyeing our neighbors’ spoils, we decided paella was king here. Pretty as a picture and good enough to eat, yellow rice offset the brilliance of red crayfish and sleek, black mussels. Tender, tiny clams made me happy as one and we fell back from the table content.

Street serenade: If New York is the city that never sleeps, then they have some competition because not only does Madrid stay wide awake, but this city sings…at the top of their lungs at 4am. But getting serenaded by drunken Spaniards was another pleasant reminder that I was a stranger in a strange land and I planned on embracing all that encompassed. Perhaps belting a few bars of Springsteen out the window would help me assimilate quicker…

**animal head photos courtesy of Mom Alkema

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