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A culinary adventure worth 10,000 steps

By MILLIE AND KARLA REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 20, 2024 5:00 am

MILLIE: On our third day in Madrid, we met up with childhood family friends from Manila, the Meers and Nicandros. We walked through Plaza Santa Ana for some leisure shopping and a tapas lunch.

After lunch we had a siesta as is Spanish custom and spent the rest of the afternoon shopping at El Corte Ingles.

The tapas bar at La Giralda, a restaurant in the Salamanca district specializing in Andalusian cuisine

Weeks before our trip, the Nicandros had already made reservations for dinner at La Giralda, a restaurant in the Salamanca district specializing in Andalusian cuisine, to sample their famous lobster paella.

KARLA: It was the first time on the trip that I was able to practice speaking the language. I ordered food for the entire group in Spanish. Upon ordering, we were served complementary chorizo, potato aioli and bread.

Chipirones, tender baby squid cooked on the griddle and served with a side salad 

We ordered two kinds of clam dishes. The first was coquinas, which are small saltwater clams. It is a delicacy in southern Spain usually cooked with white wine and garlic. The other clam dish was almejas a la marinera, cooked in fresh tomatoes, paprika, onion, garlic and white wine. We also ordered chipirones a la plancha with a side salad.

One of the highlights during dinner was the salt-baked seabass, which was filleted and portioned tableside with potatoes. The piece de resistance was the arroz caldoso con bogavante nacional, a soupy rice dish with lobster and additional pimenton, or smoked paprika. It is usually served in an earthenware dish or a deeper paellera, which is why sometimes it can be mistaken for paella.

Judiones de la Granja de San Ildefonso is a classic Segovian stew with buttery white beans, pig’s trotters, pig ears, chorizo, and morcilla

MILLIE: The next day, we all took a private bus to Segovia, another World Heritage City. We alighted at the Plaza del Azoguejo square to take photos by the imposing ancient Roman aqueduct, which dates back to the second century. We walked up to the Catedral de Segovia and strolled around the cobblestone streets to explore and discover the city.

Our group had made a reservation at the famous restaurant Meson de Jose Maria to sample their signature roast suckling pig or cochinillo for lunch and we were quite honored to be welcomed by the chef patron, Jose Maria himself.

Coquinas, small saltwater clams usually cooked with white wine and garlic

KARLA: For starters, we had croquetas with jamon Iberico and morcilla, Spanish blood sausage with rice. Judiones de la Granja de San Ildefonso is a classic Segovian stew with buttery white beans, pig’s trotters, pig ears, chorizo, and morcilla. 

While walking on an incline towards Meson de Jose Maria, we would often see display windows with torreznos, which left us salivating. Although we stopped to try some, we found that Meson de Jose Maria served it with better taste and quality in terms of freshness. Torreznos, mom’s new favorite dish, is pretty much bacon chicharon cured, sometimes even smoked and deep-fried to a crunchy perfection. 

Torrijas, an Easter dessert of spongy bread soaked in milk, eggs and sherry, pan-fried and traditionally topped with cinnamon sugar or honey 

Finally, it was time for the cochinillo. The entire group of 12 shared two whole suckling pigs. Each received a very generous portion served with a very tasty au jus. The skin was light and crispy and contained a very thin layer of fat compared to our local pigs. Cochinillo, similar to our lechon de leche, is milk-fed but has the guaranteed mark of “Cochinillo de Segovia.” To be marked with such branding, the piglets, purely breast milk-fed, must come from the province of Segovia, where the farms must be dedicated exclusively to the breeding of the Segovia pig, and slaughtered at the max age of three weeks. 

For dessert, we were served a traditional Spanish dessert usually available during Easter called Torrijas. It is similar to a French toast; however, the traditional torrijas in central Spain are prepared with a special type of spongy, thick bread, soaked in milk and eggs with sherry before it is fried then topped with cinnamon sugar or honey.

Salt-baked sea bass, fileted table side and served with boiled potatoes, aioli and mayonnaise

MILLIE: After lunch, we took one last photo by the historic aqueducts before boarding the bus back to Madrid. At sundown, we all converged at the apartment for some cheese and wine with a selection of hand-carried cheeses from Paris like Brillat-Savarin, Tomme de Bourgogne, a 24 month-aged Comte devoured with toasted bread and strawberry jam!

Tired and pleasantly stuffed, we parted ways as our friends were leaving for Barcelona the next morning and Karla and I were staying one more day before heading to Luxembourg and back to Paris.

Authors Millie and Karla with chef patron Jose Maria and Maite Bayot

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La Giralda is at Claudio Coello, 24 , 28001 Madrid.

Meson de Jose Maria is on Calle del Cronista Lecea, 11, 40001, Segovia, Spain.

Send an email to [email protected] and [email protected]. Find us on Facebook: Food for Thought by Millie & Karla Reyes Instagram: @quichethecookph.