Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bullfighting in Spain

Finally, my post on La Corrida de los Toros (The Running of the Bulls/Bullfighting)!

A few weekends ago, three of my friends and I decided to check off another "Spain Bucket-List" activity and headed to a bullfight.

For those of you not familiar with the sport, bullfighting is a tradition in Spain in which several bulls are enticed into a bullring to "fight" with matadors.  The tradition goes back to prehistoric bull workship and sacrifice.  Spanish-style bullfighting is called la corrida de toros (running of the bulls).  In a traditional corrida, there are three matadors.  Each matador has six assistants--two picadores (lancers on horseback), three banderilleros, and a mozo de espadas (sword page).  The whole event lasts about 2 hours with the sacrifice of six bulls in total.

Of course, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this ritual.  I will admit that the first sacrifice was difficult to watch.  I was unable to understand the significance of the sacrifice and the bueaty in the tradition.  But, as I continued to watch I developed an appreciation for the art behind it.  To me, it was as thought the matador and the bull were partaking in a dance--a dance in which the matador seduced the bull to his triumphant end.

I could go on and on about my many thoughts regarding this experience, but that would be boring and perhaps a bit too tendentious.  Instead, I will simply say that I am glad to have experienced a bullfight; it is a part of the Spanish culture that I felt was important to be exposed to.

But what about you; what are your thoughts on bullfighting? Are you against the sacrifice of animales for sport? Do you see this as a form of animal abuse?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts--if you'd like to share please leave a comment in the comment section and I'll be sure to respond!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What I Ate [This Weekend]

I know, I said that my next post was going to be a re-cap of a Bullfight. That's next, I promise. But first, since it's Wednesday, I wanted to do another WIAW post! This week I'm doing a WIA[This Weekend] because my friend Vivian was in town to visit and we had some really delicious eats!

Since Vivian has never been to Spain before, I knew that we needed to start her trip off on the right foot with a Tapas dinner!
Patatas Bravas: typically consists of white potatoes that have been cut and then fried in olive oil and served warm with a spicy tomato sauce.
Croquetas: typically filled with bechamel, jamón, onions, or mushroom.
This is not a typical Spanish tapas but the "grilled chicken with caramelized onions and a warm curry sauce on top of a crisp piece of toast" was enough to sell us. :)
I'm not usually one for salmon dishes (especially bagels and lox--I know, who am I?!) but this also had caramelized onions and we were loving the flavors from the last dish. This came with the most amazing cheese--I could just eat a block of that creamy cheese!
And well of course a night in Spain could not be complete without a generous helping of Dulce de Leche gelato.
In staying true to our Spanish weekend, I took Vivian to a cute cafe for lunch for a menú del día. We decided to order all different dishes so that she could try a little bit of everything! First up were our primero platos (first course). This dish was incredible. Imagine perfectly baked potato rounds topped with fresh jamón de miel (honey ham) topped with queso ibérico (Iberian cheese) and finished with a sprinkle of paprika. Do these pictures even do it justice? This was by far our favorite dish.
Next up: the classic, Paella Mixta. This particular paella was very good--not too seafood-y and just enough for the both of us to try.
One of our segundo platos (second course) was baked chicken drumsticks with patatas bravas (these come with just about every entree you order in Spain). The chicken was literally falling off of the bone, and cooked in the most amazing sauce. Amazing.
Our other entree was typical albondigas con patatas bravas (meatballs). Again, perfectly cooked. The sauce on the meatballs was spot on!
A menú del día is not complete without a postre (dessert), so we chose the chocolate cake which was a puffed chocolate sponge cake with just the right amount of sweetness and a Spanish custard with a delicious sugar cookie.
...and then we decided that we needed some chocolate from one of the oldest pastry shops in Madrid. When in Spain, right? This little white chocolate mouse-guy powered me through an entire afternoon of shopping!
On Vivian's last day we went to both El Museo de Prado (The Prado Museum) and the Reina Sofia. Vivian is an art history major so this was right up her alley! In between museums we grabbed lunch at one of my favorite spots, "Cervecería 100 Montaditos." We split the sandwiches below. I don't remember exactly everyone that we ordered, but I do remember we got a classic montadito con tortilla española (mini sandwich with the traditional egg quiche), con jamón y quacamole (ham and guacamole), y con pollo asado y queso (roasted chicken with cheese). They were delicious!

Will you look at that sauce? It was to-die-for-amazing-garlic.
With a café con leche for Vivian.

We had a great weekend!

I'm so glad that she came to visit me and that we got to eat some of the best food I've had here in Madrid, which is saying a lot because I've had a lot of good food here! I can't wait to learn how to make all of these amazing dishes from my friends here so that I can share it with everyone back home. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hiking: Los Cotos, Spain

First, Happy October 1st! Can you believe we're already into October? Where did September go? I've only got 2 1/2 more months here! Not enough..

Anyway! I promised you last time I checked in a re-cap of my hiking trip from a few weekend ago and now I am keeping to my promise!

Madrid is a city for those who love to walk. I frequently find that the best way to explore and discover a city is to walk it and get a little lost. I did that in New York and I do that here everyday in Madrid. There is no grid-system like in New York. The roads go each and every way and street names are so similar that you easily forget which road you meant to take. Was is "Calle Segovia" or "Ronda de Segovia"? But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, because if it weren't for the crazy winding roads, I wouldn't have discovered some of the best kept secrets of Madrid--like where to eat, what plazas to sun bath in, or where to just people watch! And of course, Madrid is pregnant with history that is evident in every building, cathedral, sidewalk, bridge, and fountain. I'm so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to be here. Hmmm...what does this have to do with hiking? Get to it already, Cindy!

Despite how much my friends and I love this city, we wanted a day in nature, to explore yet another part of Madrid and the wonderful country side of Spain. So we ventured to Los Cotos, a town about 2 hours via train outside of the heart of Madrid. There's really no way to describe the beauty of the mountains we climbed and paths we hiked, so I'll leave you with these pictures.

Stay tuned for the next post about my experience at a Bull Fight. It might be a bit graphic so if you're a vegetarian, animal right's activist, or bothered by slightly explicit pictures, you may want to skip reading the next post.

On a happier note, I hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What I Ate [Friday]

I thought it might be fun to join in on the "What I Ate Wednesday" blog-world event where every Wednesday bloggers share their eats of the day. In my WIAW edition, I'd share my Spanish eats and kitchen creations from the week.  I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, so this this week I'm sharing my creations from the kitchen! These creations aren't fancy, time-consuming recipes but rather creative spins on classic meal options that are satisfying and nutritious. (Note: I'll normally do these on Wednesdays, but today we'll start with Friday)

 Veggie filled salad with lots of chickpeas, my favorite!
 Brown rice cooked in chicken stock with sauteed red peppers, onions, and fresh tomato. Topped with hummus and goat cheese.
I'm really proud of this one! I know it looks a little funny, but it's a quick dinner and fulfills all of the important food groups: vegetable, carbohydrate, protein, and fat: Two eggs steamed in the microwave with curry powder, sauteed onions and bell peppers, 2 pieces of toast topped with goat cheese and homemade hummus.
Not great picture quality here, sorry, but I've become a master at making paninis. It's another great way to make a quick and healthy meal. Here I've got two pieces of multi-grain toast with a spread of jelly (this is key--sweet and savory is the best!), roasted red peppers, deli turkey, sliced cheese, hummus, and cucumbers. And a side of roasted broccoli and onions.
 I told you I love paninis. I just can't get enough! This one is very similar to the last but I also added some fresh tomato slices.

This was another good one--especially since I utilized some left over chicken I cooked up the night before. Roasted broccoli, chicken, onions, and tomato atop a toasted WW pita pocket with hummus and goat cheese. Yes, I'm on a hummus and goat cheese kick--I'm officially an addict.

Now that I'm on a relatively normal schedule here with school and daily activities, I've had more time to devote to making my own meals, which I love to do. Of course I go out and enjoy the occasional Spanish menú del día, but the kitchen always calls to me after a weekend of eating out. 

I anticipate some great eats this weekend since my friend Vivian is coming to visit me! Obviously I have to introduce her to the wonderful Spanish cuisine! Sangria Paella anyone?
Be back soon with a post on my hiking adventure from a few weeks ago. The pictures will blow your mind.

Of Possible Interest: I recently read this article, "Nut Butter Gets Better" on Rachel Ray's website. I love peanut butter, but my favorite type of nut butter is sunflower seed butter. It's nice to see the nutritional benefits of the different kinds of nut butters. I can't wait to try walnut butter! Go out and buy yourself a jar of your favorite nut butter, or *gasp* if you don't like nut butters, you can buy me one! ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

3 Weeks

Sorry for my brief hiatus. I really don't have an excuse, other than I've been living and loving my life here in Spain. I've only been here for three weeks but it feels like forever :)
Salamanca, Spain
Boating in Retiro Park (Central Park of Madrid)
Hiking outside of Spain
Tapas bar hopping! Trying to find the best tinto de verano (typical Spanish drink of Red Wine, Seltzer/Sprite)!
What have I been up to for the past two weeks? Well, classes started on the 5th and it's been non-stop ever since! Classes are great--albeit super challenging, but in the best way possible. I'm talking all of my classes this semester in Spanish in an attempt to master the language and leave (tear...) this country fluent. 

I'm not quite there yet, but each day I feel myself getting a little bit better, whether it's learning new vocabulary, picking up on colloquial phrases, or being able to understand an entire conversation (eavesdropping) about "dinner last night" on the metro.

I really wish that these pictures could dispense all 5 senses, but since they can't, try to use all of your senses to enjoy these pictures.
Can you taste these churros? The rich pure chocolate?
Oldest University in Spain and 3rd in Europe: University of Salamanca (1134)
It's Sunday today, which means two things. First: homework day. Second: Bull Fights. Yep, we're going to a bull fight tonight. I've been warned many times that the bull fight can be quite scary, but I'm in Madrid and it's a must-do! I'll let you know how it goes! Perhaps in words, pictures might be a bit emotionally scaring...?

Until then!
Tengan un buen domingo! (Have a great Sunday!)