Day 1: Mercado de San Miguel

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A few years back, I chanced upon the tv travel show “From Spain with Love with Annie Sibonney”. She was featuring the Spanish food and wine in Madrid and this extraordinary place called Mercado de San Miguel (MdeSM) where you learn the art of eating standing up. I was so entranced by her dining experience of this place that I promised myself that one day I will go there and experience it myself.

This summer, I made that promise a reality. Accompanied by a friend, we made our way to a late dinner at the Mercado de San Miguel. Originally built in 1916, MdesM was renovated and re-opened in 2009. It houses many stalls offering libations and Spanish gustatory delights that makes you feel hungry and thirsty even when you’re not. Inside we waded through a sea of people as I realized that it was easier to just go along with the tide rather than against it. I made a quick decision to do a quick walk-around before finally settling on one or two stalls.

There were many varied choices, mostly food and wines from different parts of Spain. We found different kinds of tapas, cheeses, Iberico ham, fresh seafood for grilling or stewing, many kinds of wine, and of course, beautiful, eye-popping desserts.

I took a mental note to ignore the stalls selling seafoods as I come from the Philippines where I can always eat freshly-caught fish, octopus and shrimps. Instead, I queued patiently at Quesos where I ordered four kinds of tapas made of toasted baguette with different kinds of delectable toppings. I put off ordering a selection of cheese for the next day when I can burn the calories during a planned, long, afternoon walk.

Before my MdeSM trip, eating while standing up in a full restaurant in the Philippines was so annoying and one I associated with desperation. Mercado de San Miguel taught me that this can be a fun and chic experience.

So with a small plate of tapas in one hand, and a glass of white wine in the other, we slowly strolled through the narrow corridors and continued to check out the other stalls while nibbling on our tapas and sipping our wine. Finally, we found a free space to stand on, perfect for two people in a wine bar where we ordered a second glass of wine for the road.

Like in the travel show, I also wanted to be able to hop from one food stall to another and taste everything that looked good to my eyes. But I was finding this difficult to achieve as I already felt full. I have always wondered how they do it all night on tv shows, tasting plates of tapas and glasses of wine without getting drunk. In reality, after 4 tapas made of baguette with different cured fish topping and my second glass of wine, I was very full and very tipsy. And I didn’t even have my dessert yet!!! I know. I know it was too soon to go back to our hotel but MdeSM was also closing for the day and I was feeling tipsy on top of feeling jet-lagged.

I realized that Mercado de San Miguel called for another visit within my three-day stay. So many foods to try, so little time.

(Watch out for my next post on Cheese & Olive tasting in Mercado de San Miguel.)

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