Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: El Capricho Extremeño

This is what Spanish food is, guys - simple, unpretentious, (often) inexpensive and marvelously delicious.

My girl B³ and I were strolling around El Rastro fleamarket a few Sundays ago while she was visiting me, when suddenly, we walked into a street and noticed that everyone around us was holding little, white trays with food on it. I could vaguely see that they were slices of bread covered with all kinds of different toppings (called "tostas" here in Spain). Literally everyone up and down the street were eating these things, so we knew right away that we had to do the same because they must be good!

Several paces later we noticed this teeny hole in the wall with a narrow doorway. A steady stream of people were trying to squish their way in from the outside and squeezing out of it from the inside, carrying those little trays. Bingo! Hauling out our inner españolas, we braced ourselves and pushed our way in.

We were pressed tightly against people from every direction in a small room. Everyone was trying to shove their way to a counter on the left side of the store, behind which laid trays upon trays piled high with yumminess, on many shelves.

A lady and an elderly gentleman worked the counter with incredible efficiency. It was sweltering hot in there, but they went about their business like it wasn't affecting them at all. Every so often they'd shout what they needed more of, and from a window at the back of the store, large, heavy trays of what was requested would magically appear.

Once people actually managed to get to the counter, they would try to flag the attention of one of the people behind it and shout their order. There were no menus nor were there prices, but everyone seemed to know what they wanted, and at this stage of the game, B³ and I were determined to get ourselves a bite, regardless.

As I surveyed the selection and listened to what people were ordering, I deduced that all the tostas cost about 3 € apiece, and I tried to tell B³ what the choices were. When we decided that we wanted jamón ibérico (the highest-grade Spanish ham) and mushrooms, we steeled ourselves and jostled our way to the front, elbowing people aside, just like the locals were doing to each other.

The lady took our order, placed the food in front of us, drizzled a generous swirl of Spanish olive oil over it (which, by the way, is underrated and delicious), took our money, and gave us change in the space of about, oh, ten seconds.

We then managed to squeeze our way back out to the street where we could breathe again, and we took our precious cargo to an empty spot on one side of the road where we could enjoy it in peace.

And, oh my, was it delicious!!! The mushroom tosta didn't look very impressive but I could taste that the oyster mushrooms were sautéed with garlic, onions and some other savoury, fragrant spices before they were layered on the bread with walnuts - SO GOOD. And the jamón ibérico? Well, they don't sell that stuff for hundreds of euros a kilogram for nothing. The fat to lean ratio was fantastic, it was sliced perfectly paper-thin, and the meat was just...very full-flavoured and pungent and tasty. The olive oil was also very good quality and rich. It was so, so savoury. And both enormous tostas rang up to a total of only 6 € (2.50 € for the mushrooms and 3.50 € for the ham) - very reasonable.

So if you're in the El Rastro/La Latina neighborhood one day in Madrid, I'd highly recommend visiting El Capricho Extremeño*, located:

C/ Carlos Arniches, 30
28005 Madrid

*Only open on weekends and public holidays

1 comment:

wandering-woman said...

Oh, you´re killing me here! What I'd give for a mushroom tosta....