Under the Castilian Sun: Granja Cantagrullas, Valladolid Spain

Perhaps you would be content if by the tender age of thirty-one you had grown up in Spain, lived in the north of France, completed a doctorate in the Amazon and begun a family? For Rubén Valbuena this wasn't sufficient. Upon getting to know him on a cloudy-rainy-sunny-cloudless day, among the expansive plains of Ramiro, Valladolid, I began to understand why those previous challenges and life experiences weren't enough for his restless soul; an energetic dreamer as he calls himself.

Madrid Restaurant Guide: The Burger Lab, Malasaña

Do you consider yourself a trend setter? Were you listening to Nirvana before Teen Spirit got big, were you the first of your friends with an invitation to Google+, or did you see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in its original Swedish version? Than perhaps you are also ahead of everyone on the subject of food trends? If you answered yes to any of these, then certainly The Burger Lab in Madrid, in the hip neighborhood of Malasaña (you were probably going there long before the guidebooks and national magazines mentioned Tupperware) is right up your alley. I knew I was on to something when I bumped into Helen López of Círculos de Fuego one of Madrid's premier food writers and always present at gourmet and tasty food affairs.

Crica Productos Ecológicos, Valladolid, Spain. No mala leche here.

"You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit."

"A culture that just uses a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure, to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within its community, and other cultures in the community of nations, with the same type of disdain and disrespect and controlling type of mentalities."   Joel Salatin

There has been a lot of press and a lot of criticism as of late regarding organic, local and sustainable as buzz words. By using them I don't mean to signify that I am superior to anyone for buying, consuming or supporting this "business." It's a personal choice that I make for my family because I believe it makes a difference for our health, our well-being and a noticeable (maybe larger) impact on the environment. Lately I've taken a very personal approach because it makes a world of difference to me if I can meet the people and animals behind the labels we see on the store shelves. This conversation and dialogue, and of course taste, gives my final stamp of approval for why I want a product in my house. Very cliche I know, but if all of us that were conscious enough to make decisions about our buying habits would make smarter choices based on some simple human and animal rights, these would add up and together as a collective whole we could make changes to our agrarian communities and our produce. Our demand would force larger corporations to enevitably change based on consumer discontent and then maybe we would arrive at the day when the government subsidizes a different kind of farming, and in turn it would be accesible for all.

Hump Day: Moulin Chocolat Madrid, Spain

A couple months ago I brought to your attention Barcelona, where some artisans are getting serious about bread again. Madrid still is waiting for their gluten master to step up to the plate, however you can find some kick-ass pasteleros (pastry chefs) - and in this case with almond flour - doing good things in the Spanish capital. One of those masters is Ricardo Martínez of Moulin Chocolat. I was first introduced to him at Madrid Fusion this year and since discovering his "I feel like I am in Paris" macarons I haven't stopped craving them or consuming them, and always insist that our walk to the city center from our apartment passes by their swank establishment right in front of Madrid's Retiro Park.

A fine specimen of macarons if I should say so myself. Clockwise from top; lemon, violet and rose. 

Joselito: Deemed the Best Ham in the World

         Photo Source Joselito

Tucked into a secluded corner of Alimentaria sat a selected number of brands in the "Premium" zone of the trade show. Included in this distinction was Joselito, a brand I've admired for some time and have had the pleasure of enjoying on various occasions. I can't speak for all, as I still have much of Spain and the world to explore, but the best of the best generally put Joselito at the top of the jamón and cured meats pyramid.

Locals Only Madrid: The Organic Shop, Chueca/Gran Via

When I arrived in Spain and began to settle into a normal life rhythm, I found that what I missed the most about the U.S. was my weekly farmer's market or organic markets like Co-opportunity in Santa Monica, California. As I learn more about Madrid and discover it by foot, I continue to bump into individuals with a passion for health food, non-GMO, organic and local produce. The Organic Shop happens to lay just steps from the busy and touristy section of Gran Via in the neighborhood of Chueca. Daniela, the owner, a friendly and positive woman, allowed me a sneak-peek into the store, which sells only organic products. Whether you are a resident looking for alternatives to the supermarket, or just passing by, the store's variety of produce, as well as to-go items such as ready-to-eat salads, rice dishes or pastas and fresh squeezed juices, will help you fill your organic void.  

Hump Day | Traditional Desserts and Flan de Matò at Granja M.Viader Barcelona

I would say it's impossible to truly appreciate Barcelona without visiting Granja M.Viader. A quaint and yellowish colored glow (if open) radiates from a narrow alley behind Las Ramblas. Inside, this milk-bar and café established in 1870, holds on to its history, allure and retro-look. It's an authentic part of the gastronomic history of the city. The truth is, Spain in general and specifically regions like Cataluña take their flan very seriously, as well as their dairy products. Matò a Catalan fresh cheese made from mostly cow's, but occasionally sheep's or goat's milk - with no salt added - is typically served as a dessert cheese with honey and walnuts or alone as an ingredient, much like Italian ricotta. There have been matò (requesón in Spanish) recipes discovered from the 14th century, emphasizing the importance of this component in Catalan cuisine since the Middle Ages.

Granja M.Viader offers a unique introduction to matò and flan in their flan de matò; silky, not overly sugared, allowing for the tang of the lactose flavors to shine through, while you still recognize the dessert texture and sweetness. ¡Riquísimo!

Locals Only: Poncelet Cheese Bar | Madrid Spain

If you've been following this blog, you know that I LOVE cheese. This past year in Spain I've had the opportunity to become quite intimate with the product; meet many folks and cheesemakers who are making a difference, or in the very least giving a damn about the food we put in our mouths. Poncelet Cheese Bar has created an oasis for lovers of the world's politest form of mold, being a restaurant dedicated to cheese. The pictures I've enclosed below speak loads to their attention to detail and style. However I wanted to share that they are now offering informative classes and activities celebrating various types of cheeses and diving deeper into the discussion of where they come from, what a D.O. has to do with it, what to pair it with, or even to calm the doubt of what cheese to accompany or adorn your salad. You can view the full list of the coming months here, Poncelet events and cheese courses.  

I attended the course on Sheep's Milk Cheese. Six samples for my tasting pleasure, ranging from smooth to intense, semicured to cured, and others with the consistency I reckoned to a torta

Alimentaria 2012: A Photo Journey Part 1

Alimentaria 2012 in Barcelona; a sensory overload, easily the size of a city, with worldwide presence and representation of the biggest names in the food industry as well as the up and coming. Part One follows my adventures through the Dairy and Beverage sections of the expo. 

Enjoy and stay tuned for Part Deux. 

Anticipated participants await entrance into the expo center at Fira de Barcelona in Llobregat. 

Hump Day: Quinta Apolonia Belondrade Wine from La Seca, Valladolid, Spain

It is with great pleasure that I bring you Sobremesa In Spain's first wine recommendation! This Wednesday, or Hump Day, feast your eyes and hopefully your palate on this inspiring white wine from La Seca, Valladolid, Spain in the community of Castilla y León (Castile and León in English), which holds the Domination of Origin - or DO - of Rueda. The kind and knowledgeable winemakers and marketers of the brand Belondrade sent me a magnum (1.5L) bottle to enjoy with friends and family for my participation in the photo contest of one of their premier wines, Quinta Apolonia. I feel very lucky because it was one of 300 magnum bottles produced in 2010.

Monas de Pascua: Easter "Eggs" in Catalonia and other Spanish Regions

Today in some regions of Spain they'll continue the Easter holiday and local traditions with Lunes de Pascua or Dilluns de Pasqua (in Catalan). In Madrid, where I am now, the city is back to work and the stores and people are adopting to their normal routines. However, in Barcelona where I spent last year, as well as the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Aragón and Castilla La Mancha, even Murcia, this Easter Monday they'll celebrate a holiday in which the focus will be centered around being with family and for children, or kids at heart, the partaking of the mones de Pasqua (monas de Pascua in Castilian).

For many the end of La Cuaresma (Lent) is marked by giving in to their hunger-strikes or 40-day resistance to meat, coffee, or perhaps the ever popular self-denial of chocolate. Maybe for this reason, the traditional monas, which were originally constructed of a sort of enlarged donut with hard boiled eggs baked in, have found a new affinity with the general population in the likes of chocolate eggs, baby chicks, or football team and Dora the Explorer figurines. Even the avant-garde have stepped up to the plate, were monas have been reinvented by pastry chefs and chocolate masters such as, Christian Escribà and Oriol Balaguer, creating hand-crafted works of art that seldom show a price tag.

Custom designed "mones de Pasqua" eggs by Oriol Balaguer