Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 Spanish Dishes I Can't Live Without

It's no secret that I've fallen madly in love with the gastronomy of Spain. Every week I try new dishes that seduce my palate and further convert me into a Spanish food addict. In addition, the abundance of eggs and potatoes in Spanish cuisine makes it relatively easy for me to eat gluten-free in Madrid! Although it's hard to pick favorites, here are the five Spanish dishes that I simply couldn't live without:

Tortilla de Patatas

Also known as tortilla española, this addictive omelette with potatoes and onions is by far my favorite traditional Spanish dish. I won't bore you with the details of my passionate love for tortilla de patatas because you can read all about it here, but just know that the simplicity of this delectable dish justifies my obsession.



Jamón Ibérico

Where to even begin with this heavenly national obsession. I was never a huge fan of pork back in the States, but coming to Spain has officially converted me. These decadently thin, cured slices of ham put their Italian cousin proscuitto to shame. The best part about this celebrated delicacy is that it undoubtedly tastes good with anything. Nothing quite beats jamón ibérico de bellota (Iberian ham that comes from free range, acorn fed pigs) alongside some Manchego cheese and a glass of Rioja.


Patatas Bravas con Alioli

Patatas bravas are traditionally fried potatoes with a "spicy" tomato sauce poured on top (and by "spicy", I actually mean "mild" considering the majority of Spanish people generally can't stand spicy foods). However, some genius decided to add alioli  (the Spanish version of aioli) atop these already magnificent treats, rendering them completely irresistible.


Paella

It's hard to find the good stuff in Madrid, but my old host mom in Cádiz used to make truly amazing paella. I'm one of those crazy people who hates seafood, so my host mom occasionally spoiled me with chicken and veggie paella that was to die for. I'm still on the hunt for the best paella in Madrid, so please send any recommendations my way!



Huevos Rotos

This is my go-to comfort food, probably because it's the most unhealthy dish that one could possibly imagine. "Huevos rotos" literally means "broken eggs", which refers to fried eggs usually atop french fries and thin slices of jamón. I try not to think about how my chances of cardiac arrest significantly escalate every time I indulge on this highly addictive dish, but #yolo. I walk a lot in Spain, so it's fine, right???



What are some of your favorite Spanish dishes? 
Are there any that you can't live without or are dying to try?


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Me Gusta Malasaña, Me Gustas Tú


When I first arrived in Madrid, I searched far and wide for a decent apartment in the center of my favorite neighborhood: Malasaña. Unfortunately, such a feat was truly impossible considering the immense popularity of this charming hipster barrio. So instead, I found a place about a 7 minute walk away. Lucky for me, this lovely little indie paradise is just a hop, skip and a jump away from where I live, so I can enjoy it's quirkiness anytime I want.

Malasaña was the epicenter of la movida madrileña movement back in the 1980s, and it still thrives on the unique alternative and retro vibes that put it on the map several decades ago. The neighborhood is abounding with vintage-inspired shops, bars that pay homage to the 80s, and cafés that make you feel like you've stepped back in time with their colorful 1960s decor. There are countless places to explore in this area, but here are some of my favorite spots in Malasaña:

Food:

Antigua Huevería | Serving classic Spanish dishes with a darling vintage twist
La Mucca | Hip and eclectic restaurant with a modern take on Spanish-American fusion
Ojalá | Funky atmosphere, quirky yet delicious tapas
La Blanca Paloma | Because who doesn't love free food when you order a drink?
Bar El Pico | Traditional Spanish food, go for lunch on a weekday for their tasty menu del día
Restaurante Conache | Go for their lively outdoor terrace, stay for their mouthwatering huevos rotos

Coffee:

La Bicicleta | Delicious coffee, hipster paradise, always playing good music
Toma Café | Arguably the best coffee in Madrid

Drinks:

1862 Dry Bar | Channel your inner Gatsby at this speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar
Kikekeller | Charismatic bar hidden behind a furniture shop
Gymage | Chic rooftop bar with great cocktails and even better views
Lolina Vintage Café | Sip on delicious mojitos while feeling like you're on the set of Mad Men
La Realidad | Another retro paradise with good drinks & amazing tortilla española
Tupperware | Colorful and kitschy with contagious indie rocker vibes 

Don't get the title's reference? It's a lyric from one of Manu Chao's most popular songs. Apparently he loved hanging out in this neighborhood back in the day, and I don't blame him for it! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014 Spain Bucket List

I've been lucky enough to see many different parts of España thus far, but I'm still dying to see more of this beautiful country. In the past four months I've visited Sevilla, Segovia and Toledo - and four years ago I explored Cádiz, more of Sevilla, Granada, Córdoba, Málaga, Fuengirola and Barcelona.

While I feel like I know Madrid and Andalucía pretty well by now, I've never stepped foot on the gorgeous beaches of the Costa Blanca in the east, nor have I explored the luscious lands of Basque Country, Cantabria or Galicia.


San Sebastián | Alicante | Santander 
A Coruña | Ibiza | Pamplona

Clearly I don't have beaches on my mind at all. I like to think that Madrid is it's own little perfect world... until I remember that there's no body of water here. Seattleite problems, much? I also have an inherent distaste for winter, so naturally I'm obsessively day dreaming of all things related to summer. Plus, how fun would it be to see the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona? I wish I had the chutzpa to let myself be chased by these magnificent beasts, but more likely than not, I would be enjoying it from afar. So who's coming with me?

Do you have any recommendations on where to go in Spain this year? I'm all ears!

all photos via

Friday, January 10, 2014

USA via Instagram

Seattle, I love you forever.
On my first morning back in Washington, I woke up to snow! It was the most magical welcome home present I could ever ask for.
We're the three best friends that anyone could have :) Finally reunited at our (postponed) 7th annual Friends Thanksgiving!
Kitty Purry and Chariman Meow, I miss you so much already.
Meghan's birthday brunch at the world's best breakfast locale: Portage Bay Café!
My mom and stepdad just moved to Arizona, so after spending a week in Seattle with my dad & lovely friends, I flew down to visit them for a week of desert sunshine!
Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix.
Prickly pear margaritas at the Montelucia Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.
My first In-N-Out Burger fix since July!
Working off our In-N-Out burgers by hiking through the desert.
Soaking up as much American goodness as possible with manis/pedis and Coffee Bean on my last day in Arizona.

I had a wonderful two weeks back in the States for Christmas, and while I do miss some of the creature comforts of home (ahem, Whole Foods), it feels really good to be back in Madrid. My current case of incapacitating jet lag was well worth it. 

I halfway expected to dread coming back to Spain after going home for Christmas, but in a way, Madrid feels a lot like home too. As much as I loved being back in Seattle for a short while, a part of me also felt like I almost didn't belong there anymore. Is it possible that I've outgrown it? Of course I miss my parents like crazy, as well as my friends, my house, my neighborhood and my cats. Washington will always be my home in the truest sense of the word, but being here in Madrid feels so right too. 

That said, two weeks of spending quality time with my parents, hanging out with my friends, cuddling with my cats, drinking chardonnay and mimosas, watching lots of 49ers games, shopping at Nordstrom & J.Crew, and eating tons of kale and P.F. Chang's was the perfect way to spend my Christmas break.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Highlights


I can't believe that 2013 is already over. The year started off on a particularly rough note, but the challenges at the beginning of the year prompted a lot of hard work and self growth - all of which paid off in the latter half of this year. While the first three months of 2013 were arguably some of the most difficult of my life, the past six months have undoubtedly been some of the most fun. I turned 23, adjusted to life as a college graduate, welcomed new additions to my family, moved to a new country (and a new continent for that matter), started my first "real" job, and met some pretty amazing people along the way. 

2013 was a monumental year, but I feel confident that this year will be just as epic. On the horizon for 2014: Amsterdam, Budapest, Lille, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Greece and much more! Not to mention countless adventures in Spain, of course.

Overall, I have a really good feeling about 2014. Happy New Year!