El Botin – Madrid, Spain – a quick tour: See the Cochinillo Asado

The oven at El Botin with suckling pigs

The oven at El Botin with suckling pigs

Order up. Cochinillo Asado ready to go.

Order up. Cochinillo Asado ready to go.

The tag on the ear - Authentic suckling pig.

The tag on the ear – Authentic suckling pig.

The tour guide organized a tour of the facilities in El Botin, oldest working restaurant located in Madrid, Spain for me the chef…I’m blushing like pink sea salt. I met chefs going about their morning business prepping for the start of lunch service. I feel as if I’m in a candy store tagged with bundled energy, I miss that sometimes. In this epicenter, pots are boiling, oven doors are clanking, meat is getting butchered, vegetables being peeled, monk fish is being expertly fabricated…and oh yes, suckling pigs are getting seasoned and roasted. Roasted in an oven that has been lit and operating since 1725 having never been extinguished… I touched the worn granite, it was so surreal. In this kitchen and in Spain the pig is king. 50 -60 suckling pigs get roasted here daily. The little 35 pounders each take about 2 – 3 hours to get done. Seasoned simply with Thyme, Bay leaf, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, salt and Spanish Paprika – prepared so differently than in Jose Maria in Segovia, Spain. No authentic suckling pig seal on the ears of every pig, it doesn’t get purchased. I chatted a bit with Chef Michael, a Filipino national that has worked at El Botin now for 10 years, roasting suckling pigs. With that smile, I know he enjoys his work.

Chef Irie, Chef Michael & suckling pig in El Botin - Madrid, Spain

Chef Irie, Chef Michael & suckling pig in El Botin – Madrid, Spain

One of the dining rooms in El Botin

One of the dining rooms in El Botin

El Botin is a charming place with multilevel dining rooms, both above and below the kitchen. This was the favorite restaurant for Earnest Hemingway as he mentions in his book “The Sun also rises”. They said he wrote that novel while dining there at the restaurant. The building is even more fascinating when you understand that the many hallways, rooms, hidden stairways were used not just means of egress but were used to hide people during perilous times. One of which lead down to a wine cellar housing priceless bottles of wines. The dust was so thick on some I was expecting Christ to come out and pour me a drink. Of course you know I had to take a closer look. Squeezing my way between racks of wines. Upon leaving this cellar I began to think of the craziness of what I just did. Break a bottle and I might still be in Spain roasting suckling pigs to pay my debt. Hey, no risk no glory. I enjoyed this tour because as a chef it truly allowed me to feel connected to Spain. I never got to try the pig there but maybe they can ship me one of these little suckers. Food on Fiyah!!!

Chef Irie at El Botin - Madrid, Spain

Chef Irie at El Botin – Madrid, Spain

Rows of wine that I walked through. Clearance- less than 3ft.

Rows of wine that I walked through. Clearance – less than 3ft.

Passageways that  reveal sub-chambers and other hallways

Passageways that reveal sub-chambers and other hallways

Old & EXPENSIVE!!! bottles of wines in cellar at El Botin

Old & EXPENSIVE!!! bottles of wines in cellar at El Botin

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Eating my way through Madrid… It’s Tapas Y’all.

tapas Asturia

Apple cider with olives, Tuna Empananda, Cabrales Cheese, Chorizo with Paprika Sprinkled Potatoes, Potato salad

You know, I hadn’t realized how difficult it can be to blog while you are travelling. At the present time, I’m here in Madrid, Spain. Yes, that’s where I have journeyed to and have been for the last four days. I’ve been walking, drinking and eating Tapas every chance I get. Any place or persons that can offer me pig from appetizer to dessert, you are my friend. I have been hoodwinked and lead astray. Time to be reeducated, time to set my sails straight. Spanish tapas, you are a joy, you are a delight… hot damn you are a beloved inspiration. They say tapas provide you with small “plates” but that’s not where the origins came from. I took a tapas tour in and around Madrid and as told by the guide, the taverns in the old days would put pieces of bread over the beer or sherry to keep the flies out. This graduated to them putting meats on the bread and this was given as a free sample when drinks were ordered. It is now customary here in Spain to be served a small tapas offering when you order drinks at the bar. You see my friends, Tapas comes from the verb Tapar which means to cover, not small plates.

tapas peppers and morcilla

Fried peppers from Padron, Morcilla with rice, Jamon Croquetas with Bechamel, Lentil stew, Leeks and Mushrooms from Padron with roast pork

The tapas tour was great, libations varied from Apple Cider fused with olive to cheap Sangria to beer to the Riojas of Spain. Free Tapas were often simple and sometimes more complex in flavors. The first samplings I had on the tour were that of potato salad, warm Chorizo with potatoes sprinkled with Spanish Paprika, Empanada with – tuna, roasted onions, peppers, garlic , salt and of course olive oil. This Empanada not the half-moon shape you typically see from South America is from Asturias in the North of Spain. It is made like a square tart with a light flaky pastry dough. Being from the islands you realize quite quickly that Spain is not the place for spicy flavors. My friends, I almost went into an orgasmic spasm when I was given Callos con Garbanzo, simply tripe with chickpeas. That one dish made my night damn it. So tender it was, hint of spicy, gooey, flavors of paprika and other spices covering my tongue, it was delish. Jesus, I would lick myself if I had it drizzled all over me. I also sampled fried peppers from Padron – delicately sweet, moderate heat with a hint of sea salt; Morcilla with rice – blood Sausage – this tasted nothing like the ones I’ve had in Miami from the Columbian markets, this was creamy and tasted like butter. The end of the tour had me sampling garlic Langoustines and Pulpo Gallego – Octopus cooked with garlic, olive oil and sweet paprika and served with potatoes. This was the tenderest octopus I’ve ever eaten. Each thin slice seemed to just melt in my mouth. My tour guide joked that they slapped the Octopus against the wall in the back, but she did say that the tenderness comes from how it was cooked: Frozen then boiled for an hour and cooled after
Most tapas bars will have the daily tapas written on chalkboards for you so making your selections will not be difficult at all. It is also customary to drop your litter – napkins, toothpicks etc. on the floor when done eating your tapas. This was indeed a weird sensation, reminds me of breaking plates in a Greek restaurant. Hey, when in Spain right?
The education about tapas will now continue in my kitchen, stay tuned. My stomach allowed me to write this bloody blog after all…Jesus I need some Callos..NOW!!!
Food on Fiyah!!!