Better late than never I suppose. In order of the places visited…
Dry rice with pigeon at Lakasa (Madrid) – Starting with the best meal in Madrid and a challenge. Hard to pick from a flawless meal with so many hits (Cecina, Hake, steak, clams), but this rice dish was the most memorable. Tender, succulent bird, on top of flavor packed, socarrat filled rice. First of many amazing rice dishes on this trip.
Shrimp and Garlic La Casa del Abuelo (Madrid) – Years ago, Ramiro in Lisbon introduced us to the wonderful world of Shrimp swimming in sizzling garlic sauce, and we’ve been looking for this dish ever since. La Casa del Abuelo is famous for it and I can see why. The shrimp was plentiful and plump. What they lacked in crispiness, they more than made up in flavor
Cocochas de Merluza con Yema de Huevo at El Paraguas (Madrid) – This was exceptional although its not exactly clear what it was. The restaurant translates it to “Hake’s Barbel in green sauce and egg yolk”. Confusing because Barbel is a another fish, and Cocochas is the second chin or jaw of a fish which we had in Getaria some time later and it looked nothing like this. Whatever it was, it was excellent. and I would go back just for this.
Suckling Pig at Jose Maria (Segovia) – When in Segovia, a carnivore foodie experience like no other awaits. From the theatrical presentation to the cutting with a plate, to the crispiness and juiciness of the meat. A rather simple cooking process but the result is heavenly. Thats because these guys got this thing down to a science. From the weight of the pig, to the timing of the kill and what it had for breakfast on days 4 to 6. And dont leave town without trying the Segovian beans.
Dessert Sampler at El Almacén (Avila) – Overlooking the dramatic walls of Avila is this mature gem producing splendid meats (although really on the rare side) and other creative dishes. But it was the shockingly good dessert sampler that will make me come back.
Farinato at Mesón Cervantes (Salamanca) – Salamanca, an underrated university town is not exactly known for its cuisine. But one of the local specialties is Farinato, sausage made of lard, bread, and onions. Its usually served with fried eggs and/or potatoes. A local took us to this place on the main square for one of the best Farinato renditions in town. I was also considering listing the Tostas (open sandwiches) at the uber local Taberna Dionisos
Cachopo at Chigre El Antoju Sidrería (Llanes) – The formidable Cachopo can be criminally overlooked when researching Asturias. How to describe this dish. Its like a veal schnitzel gone horribly great. Two mammoth fried veal fillets sandwiching ham, cheese, and whatever else in season. And one of the best places to try it is this popular Sidrería in Llanes where you’ll be bathing in Sidra even if you didnt order it.
Pitu de Caleya at El Molín de Mingo (Peruyes) – In the country side of Asturias, apparently there are these 7 feet chickens roaming around the area answering to the name Pitu. Pitu Caleya Con Arroz, a rice dish made with those chickens is a local specialty and locals swear by El Molin de Mingo’s version. Even local Michelin heavyweights try to replicate it’s exceptional depth. Another must try is the Jabali Estofado, a slow roasted, super juicy wild boar that can be served with fried potato. This place is well off the beaten path but well worth finding.
Fabada at Casa Marcial (Arriondas) – The Michelin crowned Casa Marcial produced one of the most memorable meals we ever had. The set menu is a smart blend of inventive starters and perfected classic mains like the Fabada. Calling it a bean stew doesnt feel right. But it is. And you need to try it. Other than the occasional showing at Despana, I havent seen it in NYC.
Seafood Rice at Guernica (Luanco) – Once you step inside this local seafood mecca, there’s no mistaken its signature dish, as you see it served all over. We opted for the Pixin (monkfish) and clam infused rice dish (there are choices) which was stellar and huge. Its a good place for families and groups. And I also wouldnt miss the best of the trip octopus, and scallops.
Seafood Soup at Adolfo (Comillas) – Sometimes its the unplanned spur of the moment finds that are most memorable. After we finished admiring El Capricho, one of Gaudi’s only works outside of Barcelona, we found Adolfo where seafood reigns supreme. For us four it was a mega bowl of soup with heaps of fresh seafood, and quite cheaper than anticipated. And the squid wasnt too shabby either.
Turbot at Elkano (Getaria) – A fish experience like no other. Tourists take expensive taxi rides from San Sebastian to eat here, while we just rolled from our hotel/winery nearby (The brilliant Gaintza). The grilled Turbot dominates the entire fishing village, but at Elkano, they perfected it. The owner, if around, will present the fish and explain the various textures and flavors from its parts. This is also a good place to try Kokotxas (fish cheeks)
Bonito at Mayflower (Getaria) – It was tough to choose from this fisheria featuring one of the most sought after terraces in town. We’ve had two great meals here and we tried most of the menu pretty much. So I turned to Mrs Ziggy on this one, and she fondly remembers the Bonito del Norte, the Tuna of the North that is essentially the best canned albacore you’ll ever eat. The peppers and Galician octopus need to be ordered as well.
Wild mushrooms with Foie and egg yolk at Araneta (Zestoa) – This is a simple looking Asador up on the mountains, very popular with locals. About 20 minute drive from Getaria. Here you can get a fantastic Ribeye, and an even better wild mushrooms with Foie and egg. When you have a group of mushroom haters (the rest of my family) wipe a mushroom plate clean you know you got something very special.
Steak at Néstor Bar (San Sebastian) – How to describe Néstor Bar? Imagine a dimly lit, romantic room. Soothing, easy listening in the background, mixed with the occasional laughter of a young loving couple celebrating their 5th anniversary. And a waiter that makes you feel comfortable and welcomed. Now imagine the opposite of that and you have Néstor Bar. Wait for your “table” in chaos, until you get standing room counter for the 4 of you, but can only fit two and half. But once you taste the steak, with tomato salad, and green peppers, you go “F$&ck Romance”