Sunday, February 10, 2013

Secretos de Madrid-My secret love.

Most people who know me would tell you that I must be on facebook all the live long day. And with an iphone in my bag of Mommy tricks that was probably true- until recently. I'm actually stepping out on facebook with twitter, its wilder smarter and more mysterious brother. Returning from Madrid, I realized that I could continue exploring my favorite city by following its diverse people. I wasn't wrong in my assumption. Currently, I am following over 300 people who have their own unique angle on Madrid. Over the course of a few months, I began to follow tweets displaying various information on Madrid food, culture, events, music, bars, art, theatre, opera, current events and history.
It was especially facinating finding a twitter feed that led me to a spanish blog which proved as riveting as two books recent read, Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett and The New Spaniards by John Hooper. What made this blog even more desirable to me, was that it zeroed in on the city of Madrid's rich detailed history that could easily be dismissed, discarded or just plain overlooked. Not suprisingly, there are many blogs nowadays but few are really well done or consistent updating content. Secretos de Madrid is a deep well documented history of Madrid told in a random order, inspired by street names, old photos and even heavy metal local inhabitants. And this blogger is dedicated. 

Whether he's covering the story of a misguided angel landing upon Madrid rooftops, following the bittersweet perigrination of the infamous Tio Pepe sign, or the sinister history of the street named after a decapitated head, Secretos de Madrid's posts are written to interest anyone visiting Madrid for a short period or even one of the over 3 million inhabitants that occupy the city, unaware of its beautiful profound detail.

The author of this insightful blog is a thoughtful young gentleman by the name of Manu. I took one of his quotes so as to fully describe what he aims to do.
"Lo que más me fascina de ella es su capacidad de adaptación sin límites, de simple fortaleza a villa, y en apenas cuatro siglos a urbe cosmopolita de primer orden mundial. En agradecimiento infinito a ese recibimiento y en homenaje a esa historia convulsa de cambios y crecimientos sin medida va este blog. Bienvenidos" -Manu
 Here is the my translation in English,
"What facinates me the most (Madrid) is her capacity for limitless adapting, a simple strength of spirit,  with only four centuries of being a first world urban cosmopolitan city. Because I am infinitely grateful for this realization, this blog is a homage to its convulsive changes and its inmeasurable growth.

Secretos solved one of my mysteries. After celebrating our wedding anniversary over a wonderful dinner at La Gastroteca de Santiago, my husband and I decided to walk back to our hotel. From Plaza de Santiago, we decided to find Kathmandu, an old club I used to frequent as a student in the 1990's. Once on Calle Senores de Luzon, a fairly narrow cobbletsone street, we located the club which was closed as it was Madrid's shut down month, August. Well, hey at least it was still open 17 years later and that me feel somewhat young. The street then let us out into Calle Mayor where unbeknownst to me, Plaza de la Villa is located. Andy took a few shots of me walking past the Plaza slowly, looking at the statue and surrounding buildings. It was deserted on a summer Monday night, so it was easy to notice that this medieval plaza must be historically relevant. Except, I had no idea what it represented. I obviously didn't delve enough when I lived in Madrid back in the 90's as I was too busy trying to cover many areas of Western Europe.

According to Secretos de Madrid  Plaza de la Villa is comprised of three buildings- the fiftienth century gothic-moorish influenced Lujanes Tower named after a successful aragon merchant family, the Cisneros House and Casa de la Villa City Hall that for 300 years served as the headquarters for Madrid's city hall. One of the wonderful historical tidbits he provides is that the tower was a prison for the King of France, Francis the First after the Battle of Pavia. As he was being imprisoned, to humilate he him even further, his captors had him enter through door where he would have to bow his head and in those times for a king that was unheard of. 

I loved that Manu likes to begin his route through the great Asturian area of Madrid at the Plaza de la Villa, away from the crazy bustle of Plaza del Sol or the infamous Plaza Mayor. His writing can be personal and yet demonstrative of why someone like me loves illuminated Madrid.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Estado Puro- Global Gastro Bar Tapas & Drink

Checking into the Hotel Palace and ready to enjoy my first day in Madrid, I decided to spend some time at the Prado Museum. It was around 2am California time so I decided to get a coffee to stay awake.

I was in a hurry to head to the museum but couldn't bring myself to get coffee at the Starbucks around the corner from the hotel. And the Spanish cafeteria/restaurant VIPS wasn't an option. I saw Estado Puro just up ahead so I figured I'd get coffee and check out where I was having lunch later.

I had done some research on tapas bars around our hotel area and was impressed when I read a Bon Appetit article on the modernization of some antiquated open air markets and the inception of the "Gastrobar" namely, Estado Puro created by Paco Roncero, Terraza del Casino head chef and the "disciple" of Mr. El Bulli himself, Ferran Adria. The mural of the stereotypical Spanish youth wearing a peineta and pouring out her Mahou beer also intrigued me. These were the little changes in Madrid that I had not witnessed being away for so many years.

There are two locations for Estado Puro currently, the one I was heading to is part of the Hotel NH Paseo del Prado, just in back of the Madrid Hotel Palace. It was a warm day, perfect to work up a tiny sweat but never feel uncomfortable. The sidewalk terrace looked great to have lunch at but I was going to have my coffee inside the bar. The space is smaller than I imagined but what they do with it is clever.
sealed with kiss and no drool
The ceiling where you can dine indoors features hanging peinetas that match the Spanish girl's in the Mural. At first glance, it looks like Creme colored Mexican papel picado thats been laid flat. The L shaped bar was well stocked with every spirit imaginable. The wines looked fabulous. For a moment I wanted to get sloppy drunk. This was the bar to do it at. But I drank another coffee instead. I had a plan and I knew with a few drinks in me, I'd pass out drooling on the white counter.

Drifting through the Prado for three hours proved dreamily powerful as toward the end of the third hour, I nearly fell asleep on my feet. Nearly colliding with some German tourists, I decided to break for lunch. Taking my seat within Estado Puros sidewalk terrace, the warm air tenderly tussled me awake to my first Madrileno late afternoon. The city's vibrant atomosphere was pumping oxygen through my body and every mundane thing seemed amazing. I loved watching the waiters playfulness, expounding paternal sweet nothings to a patron's fussy baby and warning another client not to leave their iphone on the table as someone else got theirs stolen that way. There's not much to the terrace itself but the location is stellar. You look out and Neptune with his watery fountain is standing guard across the street. The tree lined Paseo del Prado is your neighbor and the most beautiful post office is in the distance.

The majority of their are tapas modern, no doubt deconstructions of old favorites. Patatas bravas morph into whole small potatoes with a goopy red sauce center that can be devoured like a deviled egg. I normally could eat Bonito out of its tin can, and thats exactly what they brought me except the olive oil and bread that accompanied it made it moist, flavorful and theres just nothing like bread in Europe for the taste buds. Nothing.
Bad Senorita, no bocado for you

I brought Andy back here. I had to, it was a perfect afternoon place after walking around and wanting a snack and a drink before taking a break in our hotel room. We tried the tempura asparagus in a wonderful romesco sauce and devoured the simple salty cantabrian anchioves and tomato bocadillos.
It was all washed down with  a couple of beers. The weather was warm and throughout our trip we fell into the rythm of drinking Mahou beer during the day and red wine at night.

Weeks later, when we returned to the states, I was enjoying my Friday afternoon watching tve espanola, wine in hand while the kids tore the house apart. One of the networks shows, Gente or Corazon ( can't remember which) featured a segment on Estado Puro's Gin and Chicken. The unlikely combination works as for several hours they marinate the chicken in botanicals that go into the make up of gin. Citrus and juniper berries are a good examples of this. Then they traditionally cook it rotisserie style and serve it with a foamy gin and tonic drink that is less in alcohol content and more heavy on manadrin, lime, and lemongrass flavor. It supposed cleanse the palate as you dine on your bird. I'm sure it did. Harper's has an excellent article there famous dish in Spanish. The New York Times review is a good read in English if you want an overview on a the restaurant.

I was disappointed that I didn't try such an amazing concoction. But there's always next time in my illuminated Madrid.