Category Archives: Restaurants

Tapas of the Week #17 – Percebes

Menu shot

Last month to celebrate my birthday, and that of a friend, we went to a modest Galician restaurant in our central-eastern neighborhood of Madrid which is locally popular for its low prices and great food. Their cider is brought directly from Galicia in barrels, and the tapas in this basement restaurant are generous, and delicious. However, this was not a day for only tapas, we were going to have a feast.
Among plates of octopus with potatoes, patatas bravas, morcilla with pimientos de padrón, we treated ourselves to what is considered a delicacy in
Spain, Percebes or “Gooseneck Barnacles”

An interesting and strange food, its said that before the 18th C its unlikely people actually ate these crustaceans, considering them as appetizing as rocks, or even imagining them to be small monsters with many, very ugly, feet. Some accounts state that they were thought to be the early form of Barnacle Geese, birds which to the medieval eye seemed to appear out of nowhere. The geese don’t of course, but in an age before mass transport, people had no idea that these birds migrated and therefore hatched their eggs elsewhere.

Percebes in Spain are found along the rugged coasts of Galicia, especially near the dangerous cliffs of the appropriately named “Costa da Morte,” or the Coast of Death. It’s a beautifully striking landscape, with jagged cliffs with the cold Atlantic waters pounding the huge rocks below. This creates the perfect habitat for these barnacles who attach themselves permanently to the rocks beaten by the surf and feed off the plankton and other small crustaceans that the waves bring them. Fisherman risk their lives as they swim to harvest the Percebes, thus explaining the high prices Spaniards will gladly pay to indulge in this delicacy.

Percebes, Goose Barnacles

Percebes are cooked for just a few minutes in salt or sea water. As the Galician saying goes, “auga a ferver, percebes botar” When water boils, take out Percebes. Nothing else is added to the water or the Percebes once they are cooked as to preserve this special, sought after flavor except maybe a bay leaf.

But how do you eat these strange looking critters? The head, well, I think it’s the head, is covered with a strong shell which is easy to twist off from the body, exposing the moist, soft and yet firm meat within the tube of the neck or body. With every bite its like getting a squirt of the delightfully salty sea.

Where to try Percebes? If not in Galicia they can be had in many Galician restaurants around Spain. Madrid, although landlocked, is an excellent spot as well because of the enormous amounts of fresh seafood arriving daily. Try a Galician restaurant such as Maceiras on Calle Huertas, 66.

Or if you want to try my neighborhood place, its called “De’Galicia” and located near Metro Manuel Becerra on Paseo Marqués de Zafra, 8. Tel 91 356 91 69.

For more formal dining, with higher prices try:

El Pescador: High quailty fish and seafood at a Madrid standard.

Combarro – bills itself as Galicia in Madrid.
Que Aproveche!

2 Comments

Filed under Food, Madrid, Restaurants, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars

Tapa of the Week #14 – Octopus – Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo a la gallega
One of the more difficult dishes for me to convince visitors to Spain to try is octopus. I have given many tapas tours and it’s a rare occasion that someone says “YES, I’d love to try octopus!” Maybe its the texture, maybe its the shape, maybe because its not chicken, but I suppose its fine if people don’t want to take the chance and actually have to feel the shape of a sucker on their tongue. It means more for the rest of us! Octopus are caught off the north and east coasts of Spain, and although they are diminishing in numers they are still an important component of the Galician diet, and one of the most popular dishes in Galician restaurants. Both pictures are examples of “Pulpo a la Gallega” – Galician style octopus. The octopus is boiled and served with boiled potatoes and sprinkled with olive oil, paprika and sea salt.

Pulpo a la gallega

In Madrid, there are several places to try octopus. Usually you can’t go wrong at a Galician or Asturian restaurant. Around the Plaza Mayor octopus is usually present on the menu but I find those places to be expensive for the quality of food generally served.

One of my favorite Galician restaurants in Madrid is Maceiras on Calle Huertas. I like its informality, wooden chairs and tables, handwritten menus, the sounds of Galician, Celtic influenced music, and even the gruff yet efficient wait staff. Don’t expect lots of smiles, patience or overt friendliness, but they are quick. The food is simple, traditional, inexpensive and most importantly, good! There is a nice selection of red and white Galician wines which you will drink in the traditional way, in white ceramic bowls. The decoration with nets, barrels, reminds you of the rural fishing communities found in Galicia. Notice the “Nunca Mais” flag on the wall and at the back the sign that warns “NO hay Coca-cola” – There is no Coke. So don’t ask. No problem, we will settle for a nice Albariño. As far as food, besides the pulpo, try the clams, mussles, empanadas, pimientos de padron, Galician sheeps-milk cheeses, patatas bravas. Finish your meal with an almond cake which tastes just like a Galician grandmother would make, the “Tarta de Santiago.”

Maceiras Restaurant

Maceiras is immensely popular so if you go for dinner on a weekend do not even think of arriving after 9pm unless you don’t mind waiting over an hour for a table. There is a waiting list, but no pre-reservations are accepted.

Maceiras in Calle de las Huertas, 66 and around the corner on Calle Jesus.
Huertas is a popular street with several bars so you won’t have to look far to find some nightlife. Its not far from the Prado Museum, and just a few blocks downhill from the outdoor caf’és and bars of Plaza Santa Ana.

Address: Calle de las Huertas 66, 28014 Madrid, Spain – +34 914 295 818

2 Comments

Filed under Food, jamon, Madrid, Restaurants, Spain

José Luis – Stylish Pinchos

The other day when I arrived at one of the offices where I give English classes, only one student showed up for class. The class is at 2pm, during their lunch hour and since neither of us had had lunch, and it was his birthday, he suggested we take our class out of the office. I readily agreed and we left the present perfect continuous for another day and headed out to satisfy our stomachs and practice more social English. We went to a bar/restaurant around the corner called Jose Luis, which I was happy to visit since I wanted to write about it for TapasTalk.

cimg2475.jpg

The bar “ceveceria” is an upscale, white collar, businessperson’s bar and the clientele reflects that. It’s located near the Paseo de la Castellana, Madrid’s main thoroughfare, and the roundabout of Emilio Castelar. Some of the businesses in the area include Price Waterhouse Coopers, La Caixa’s Madrid headquarters, several law firms, insurance companies, and several 4 and 5 star hotels such as the Hesperia Emperatriz, InterContinental, and the Occidental Miguel Angel.

At Jose Luis they serve Basque influenced tapas called“pinchos” (most served on a slice of bread) and there must be over 40 tapas to choose from. There are also full courses and “raciones” if you are in the mood for a proper lunch which is traditionally the main meal of the day. Jose Luis is a highly respected chain, which has traditional and modern pinchos. At the busy lunch time, eat at the bar, if you are quick you may get a table. The pinchos are quite good, although some are quite simple for the price that you pay. But the service is professional and the food of excellent quality

.

cimg2479.jpg

 

We ordered a plate of hot pinchos which cost €10.50 and included 5 pinchos, solomillo de cerdo (grilled pork loin), a ham croquette, brie cheese, battered cod and tortilla española (Spanish omelette). All cooked to perfection, the croquette was fabulous.

Tartar de Ahumados

 

I then ordered a pincho of “tartar de ahumados” which was a tartar of smoked salmon and trout topped with a bit of caviar and capers. Not a typically Spanish dish and my student was a bit wary of it. I convinced him to try it reminding him its not raw fish, and he loved it. So imagine, me teaching a Spaniard about tapas!

Pincho of brie with chistorra

My student ordered another pincho of brie with Chistorra, which is a mild paprika infused sausage common in the Basque province of Navarre. The lunch was great, we had a great conversation, in English of course, and got these pictures to share with you!

We visited:

Jose Luis
C/ General O
ráa
Tel. 915 61 6413

Website: www.joseluis.es

Directions: Just off the Castellana and the Glorieta Emilio Castelar
Nearest Metro: Gregorio Marañon and Ruben Dario.

Visit their website for all locations, most are in the business district around Nuevos Ministeros and the Santiago Bernabeau stadium. Also on the website is a section called “José Luis le Recomienda” which has some tasty Jose Luis created recipes!

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Madrid, Restaurants, Tapas Bars