MADRID—The first time I traveled to Paris, it took about 26 hours with five or six stops to get to the destination. Very tiring.
These days, there are direct flights to any major European city including Spain, and travel is not that troublesome anymore.
We are in Spain taping the second season of our food show, “Foodprints!” We want to show how Spanish dishes have evolved into some of our Pinoy dishes.
We flew Qatar Airways from Clark in Pampanga to Madrid via Doha, Qatar.
It was an eight-hour flight to Doha. As long as I have something to get my mind off the long trip, I’m good. We left at noon and were eating no end up to our destination. I had almost 100 movies to choose from. I watched four and enjoyed each one.
Before we landed, I heard we had a nine-hour stopover, and that made me anxious.
But, I really didn’t mind after seeing the Doha airport. The lounge had four kinds of buffet from various cuisines, and had huge, clean shower rooms and many other amenities.
I chose the Middle Eastern buffet. I had a mutton with yellow basmati rice and garlic yogurt on the side; fish with a Middle Eastern cream sauce; an Indian chicken dish; and some spicy green beans. Plus a nice glass of white wine.
Food was great and the dessert was Baclava type with pistachio. Sarap!
I slept on one of the couches in the lounge. Two hours before the flight, I did all my rituals, including a nice warm shower. I walked into the plane fresh and excited.
The flight served a choice of Western, Asian and Middle Eastern food. I sampled the Arabian breakfast—all cheeses with flat bread and a side dish of some lentil soup. Very good.
Our mission in Spain was to take a food trip at the Madrid Fusion for 11 days, plus show taping. Now, how could anyone call this “work?”
El Corte Ingles
After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we head off to El Corte Ingles, the largest department store chain in Spain.
The store was flooded with discounts from 40 to 60 percent off. My companions could hardly move when they saw the sales offering.
We ended up at the Gourmet shops (pronounced “gurmette” in Spanish)—the best selection of food stalls in Madrid.
What an experience! We started off with thinly sliced jamon Habugo with tiny bread sticks and a full-bodied Spanish red wine.
Then came the Spanish pizzas with crusty dough. One topping was zucchini strips with parmesan, Iberico ham, and on top of the other were mushrooms with truffle cream. I also saw anchovies with Manchego cheese topping.
For dessert, we had Crema Russo, which was like a soft sans rival. Also very good.
We had a lovely kababayan, Leslee Ann Tabarina, at the International desk who was gracious enough to show us around.
We walked to San Miguel market where we had huge olives with a variety of stuffing such as Manchego, anchovies, mussels and artichoke.
We walked the streets of Madrid with a thick cup of chocolate and churros.
We went back to the hotel to freshen up and met for dinner at La Barraca, known for having the best paella in Madrid. We almost canceled this dinner. It would have been the biggest mistake of our life.
For appetizers, we had croquettas de jamon, cod fish fritters and salty bacalao flakes over mashed pimientos. I enjoyed the unique taste of the bacalao.
For our main dish, we had two kinds of paella—the Marinier or the house paella, and the Negra or black rice with squid.
Both were simply outstanding. The Negra had tiny squares of perfectly tender squid. Mixed with little aioli from the appetizers, it tasted even better.
The seafood paella initially looked pale compared to the good ones I had tried, but boy, this baby grew on you. It was all seafood, and with every spoonful, it became better and better.
While having the Paella Negra, I was telling myself: “Just concentrate on this one.” But when I tried the other, I simply couldn’t make up my mind. I loved how it confused me.
I asked for a second serving of the Marinier, but this time with the tutong (burned rice). And when I thought I had tasted the best in paella, it even went up a notch higher, this time with the crunch and the aroma of the wood they used to cook the paella mixing with the overall taste.
And this was only our first day. What an experience!
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