In Spain, I've only spent time in Madrid with short trips to Toledo, Seville, and Quenca. My time there was short but oh so memorable and I could retire there for the tapas alone!
Like I had indicated in my post to the SF/ Bay Area board my favorite is pimientos de padrone but a close tie must be boquerones. My Madrileno friend told me that boquerones are typically eaten atop a potato chip. Has anyone eaten boquerones this way or even heard of it this way? No matter, it was still very tasty. And crunchy.
The one other thing I developed an intense love for was the horchata de chufa. While my compatriots were opening or closing their stomachs with a white lightening equivalent, I was content either with my limon or horchata. I was having dinner at Gabriela's on Amsterdam and 92/93rd and they have horchata. However, it isn't the same variety as in Spain which is horchata de chufa. I was very disappointed.
One of the best food experiences I have ever had was because of paella. My friend (who is definitely a Spanish chowhound) took us to a neighborhood restaurant that was supposed to have fantastic paella. When we arrived, we were told that they only made paella on a certain day and it wasn't on the day that we were there. We all expressed profound disappointment and my friend told the barkeep that we were from America and had not yet had paella in Spain and asked if there was anything that could be done. The barkeep called the owner of the restaurant who lived close by and he came in a few minutes later to find out how big our party was so he could make the appropriate amount of paella for us. Then he had to go across the street to his bigger kitchen to make our paella. And it took about 45 minutes or so. When he came back, he was smiling proudly over his masterful creation like a proud father. He was so genuinely pleased with the way this paella came out ("the best paella he'd ever made")and he told us what ingredients went into it and how carefully he had prepared it and that it was very literally just for us. He didn't stop fussing over it as he carefully spooned enormous portions of it on to our plates and of course, we'd already had Serrano ham, Manchego, insalata, olives, etc. Anyway, it was the best paella I have ever had and it kept getting better and better as we made our way down to the bottom of the pan where the rice was all crispy. Fantastico! It was the definition of labor of love and I doubt I will ever have a better paella. We appreciated all the fanfare and indeed it was deserving of it. I've written to my friend to get the name of this restaurant so I can post it here.
Though I do not usually recommend touristy places, we were charmed by the owner of Los Caracoles in the Rastro. My friend (same friend) stops by there every now and then to debate with the ancient owner behind the bar who eagerly serves up a plate of caracoles,a shot of its salty and garlicky stewing juices, and a lot of advice if you're willing to listen. On the day that we went, we were treated to an arm-waving chest-thumping fiery diatribe about love and other secrets of the heart. This too was quite a passionate display and the owner did not miss a beat in terms of getting the snails out to his other patrons. Again, fantastico!
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