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4 posts categorized "Food and Drink"


La Leche? Food in Madrid

By: C. Gallati (U. South Carolina)
The barista looks over her shoulder at me as she finishes pulling the shot of espresso for my cortado, her question hanging in the air for only a second. "Caliente." I reply, digging into my pockets for a loose euro.
Spaniards treat their coffee like a tool, often opting to stand at the bar for just long enough to finish it before heading back into the streets. When it comes to ordering your coffee (always espresso, never drip) your choice of drink depends on the amount of milk you'd like and, as my barista had just queried to me, the temperature of the milk.  ES Chad coffee
For the steely eyed and steady handed, café solo will get you a shot of the black stuff with no adulterations. If you're like me and want the bitter edge of straight espresso softened some, café cortado will come "cut" with just a splash of milk. The ever popular café con leche is an equal part milk to match the espresso shot and is usually consumed as a breakfast drink (and sometimes making up the entirety of a Spanish breakfast). At the other end of the milky spectrum from café solo is the café manchada, a large glass of warm milk "stained" with a shot of espresso. And for those longing for the coffee of home (well, my home at least), a café americano will simulate a tall drip coffee by adding hot water to espresso. 
            And now, a lightening round for those drinks that exist a little more on the fringes of the Spanish coffee scene: 
  • Café con hielo: with ice (can be applied to any drink- solo, cortado, con leche, etc.). Especially popular in the summer.
  • Café bonbon: with sweetened condensed milk (!!!). 
  • Café carajillo: with brandy or whiskey, for when you're feeling more adventurous in the afternoon or evening.
  • Café descafeinado de máquina: decaf espresso. Leave out the de máquina and be  prepared to receive a warm glass of milk and a packet of powdered decaf coffee.

When the barista asks "the milk?" over the roar of the coffee grinder, she's referring to the temperature of the milk. Your two options are templada or caliente, room temperature or hot. Simple, right? This question also brings to mind the cultural significance of la leche (the milk) in the Spanish language. For example, ser la leche (to be the milk) can mean to be incredibly great or horribly awful, depending on the context. If this is confusing, think about an English equivalent like "sick". Mala leche (bad milk) can mean bad luck or a bad mood or temperament. It only makes sense that an ingredient with this cultural weight pairs so well with a drink that plays such an important role in the average Spaniard's day. Now that I've sufficiently showed my cards as a coffee addict, lets explore some other typical Spanish foods that are very much la leche (the good version). 

No, not the thing that comes wrapped around your burrito. In Spain, a tortilla is similar to an omelette or frittata with potatoes and onions. While they may have all sorts of ingredients, the most traditional (tortilla española) contains just eggs, potatoes, and onion. It’s made by frying off sliced potatoes and slightly caramelizing onions in a generous pour of olive oil before mixing them into scrambled eggs and returning the mixture to the same pan. ES Chad Tortilla
Halfway through cooking, a plate is used to carefully flip the tortilla so that the other side may set. A proper tortilla should be golden brown on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. This has quickly become one of my favorite Spanish dishes (no doubt a product of my love of all things eggs) and it has the added benefit of being a very cheap lunch when placed in the middle of a halved baguette to make a bocadillo de tortilla
If you order a drink in Spain, you can be sure that won’t be the only thing you’ll receive. Most Spanish bars and restaurants serve a tapa with every round of drinks, whether it be as simple as a bowl of mixed nuts or as extravagant as a slice of tortilla on toast topped with lettuce and tomato. While tapas have become synonymous worldwide with small dishes meant to be ordered in twos or threes, they aren't typically ordered in Spain and the selection is made by the bartender or waiter. ES Chad Tapas
They have their origins in old bars where legs of ham hung from the ceilings. To keep dripping fat from falling in drinks, bartenders would offer a plate to cover (tapa) the glass and naturally, some began offering small snacks to go on the plates. Clearly, this was popular with the patrons and the rest was history. For the best tapas in Spain, head south towards Sevilla and Granada.
Perhaps the most well known Spanish food worldwide is paella, a rice dish flavored with saffron (which gives it a distinct yellow color) and topped with any combination of seafoods, meats, and vegetables. It originated in Valencia and is typically cooked in a large, shallow pan over a wood fire. The most traditional paella contains rice, saffron, chicken, rabbit, duck, snails, beans, artichoke, and tomatoes. While you can get it all over Spain, most Spaniards tend to consider more of a Valencian dish than a Spanish dish. If you have a chance to have it in Valencia, it’s an opportunity you cannot pass up. Here is the paella that we ate while visiting Valencia. ES Chad paella
You and your friends are walking through Puerta del Sol, Madrid's version of Times Square, at around 3:00am (don’t ask me why you're here at this time, that’s on you) and your stomach growls. After a quick exchange of knowing glances, your party turns down a side street towards la Chocolatería San Ginés to get some of the best churros and chocolate on Earth. But Spain doesn’t play favorites with its pastries (pastels)- its love for sweet baked and fried foods is wide and far-reaching. When the sun comes back up, be sure to stop in La Mallorquina (also on Puerta del Sol) for the best napolitana (a sort of flat croissant filled with dark chocolate and topped with sugar) in the city. ES Chad napolitana
And each city has its own delicious creation:
  • Sevilla: Torrijas- imagine the sweetest french toast ever soaked in syrup
  • Granada/Santa Fe: Piononos- a cylinder of thin pastry fermented in different kinds of syrup and filled with toasted cream
  • Segovia: Ponche-  sponge cake layered with cream and wrapped in marzipan
  • Bilbao: Bollo de Mantequilla- a delicate bun filled with sweet butter paste
One could write an entire book on Spanish cuisine and there is no way I could capture it all in a single blog post. So come to Madrid and experience some of the world’s best food it in first person!


Flexing My Food Familiarity

By: A. Chaplin, Claremont McKenna College

My study abroad semester in Madrid has been filled with learning opportunities. Anders in Madrid 2
My Madrid hosts, Andrés and Monica, are almost completely vegetarian. Fish is an occasional event, but garbanzo beans, lentils, cheese, quinoa, couscous, and rice are majority stake (steak, for a pun) holders for presence at the dinner table. I’ve never eaten a lot of red meat, but the lack of chicken and turkey has me missing Collins Dining Hall at my home campus. Yep, I am missing U.S. campus Dining Hall. Andrés is a yoga instructor, and Monica likes to watch YouTube videos about things like the Mayan calendar, lunar eclipses, and conspiracy theories. Andrés and I have compared the Spanish lifestyle to that of Americans and it is an at least a few ways drastically different. Spaniards don’t seem to ever really make solid plans; they’re schedules are permanently in a state of ambiguity. I don’t think Spanish work less because of laziness, they just aren’t haunted by ambition in the same way that Americans are. My host Andrés tells me that many Spaniards regard work as a fourth or fifth priority behind health, family, friends, relaxation, and overall happiness. Spanish are supporters of enjoying as much of life as possible and this usually translates to working a lot less. Perhaps it’s a style of living worth considering. With the exception of the vegetarian diet of my host parents, the eating style in Spain in general was challenging for me at first. Most Spanish absolutely love olive oil. It’s on everything, and I mean it seems to be on everything. In my home stay, we go through a bottle of olive oil a week. Most students on campus don’t eat lunch until 2 or 3 pm, and dinner isn’t usually until after 9pm. Anders coffee
Now that, I can tell you, is a struggle when you are used to American eating schedules. But meals are also a much longer event in Spain, as they are a means of socializing and spending time with friends and family. Going out for dinner can often be a three or four hour ordeal, and perhaps this may seem excessive. However, I think it also provides a nice contrast to treating a meal as a task, simply to fill one’s stomach before moving on to the next agenda item.



On January 8, CIEE Madrid staff welcomed a very diverse participant group which arrived for our spring 2015 semester. The CIEE students profile consists of science participants who study in the U.S. and who have strong links to their cultural backgrounds (Ecuador, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Colombia to name a few). The group learned right away about safety and security in the city as well as how to use public transportation to the university campus in Leganés. 20150109_150913

During our university campus tour, students ate in the buffet-style cafeteria and got to see the gym facilities, library, bank branch and some of the local shops and restaurants around Leganes.  The program also organized a welcome event with Spanish students and CIEE hosts at a local “chocolatería” venue where everyone shared a typical serving of chocolate con churros. ES churros Funny choco con churros ES 2 Churros

Students completed their intensive language sessions of Spanish (beginner, intermediate or advanced) at the the Study Center located near Sol in downtown Madrid. Every morning at 9 am students had language class with faculty who have linguistics degrees in Spanish filology. Morning classes ended with combined teacher-led outdoor activities for students to practice their Spanish at a local market, a traditional pastry shop, the City Museum of Madrid and Flamenco dinner night. 20150116_221135 (3)  Cortijo dancers night

All students have been placed in local homestays and from their apartments student have easy access by public transport and many of them use the metro or just walk to the Study Center. Now registration starts for the university in a couple of days. After orientation, science students participated in an optional one-day excursion to the La Mancha region in a private bus.  Part of the day trip was so that they got to see some typical rural villages, try local foods, visit an old 16th century Corral de Comedias theatre and a windmill museum. All very different scenery from the urban sights in Madrid. La Mancha

We are looking forward to having a rewarding semester and keeping you posted.



Going Underground in Madrid

By: P. Hoovestol (Stanford University)

Madrid has many surprises under its earth surface. Underground metro 1

Last week the CIEE group visited an old subway station in Madrid. This early twentieth century station closed down in the seventies and now no longer works, although metro trains still pass through the station. The station is now a museum. Underground metro 2 Underground metro 3
It was very interesting to see such an old station and compare it with the modern day technology that we use today. The public underground stations in Madrid are all new to me, because I'm new in this town, yet their vibe is quite cool. Underground metro 8

Upon reflection, I do think that the overall design and structure of this old station resembles metro stations today. A visual difference that we talked about was that the walls and ceilings were made of many tiles that you can see individually placed. Modern stations are not made of these tiles anymore and texture of contemporary station walls are smoother. Here is a picture of a new, more recently built Madrid metro station. Metro madrid crowder

Another underground surprise was the basement café of a chocolateria in down town Madrid, near Plaza Sol. We ordered chocolate con churros, a well-known Madrid delicacy. Together with the CIEE group we had some of this sweet chocolate in the form of a beverage. Alicia 1 Churros Alicia 3 Churros.

It was the Spanish equivalent of U.S. hot chocolate. Yet the Spanish version is incredibly thick and creamy and you are supposed to dip“churros” and “porras” into the hot chocolate. Churros and porras are essentially the same thing, a sort of fried dough pastry.