Best Bites: Spain To Date

There are two types of people: Those who enjoy looking at pictures of other peoples’ food, and those who do not. This feature is for the first group. If you’re part of the latter group, can I direct to earlier posts on home decor or cats?

Welcome to a new regular The Dame in Spain feature where I highlight the best dishes I’ve eaten recently and post somewhat grainy iPhone photos of those dishes.

I have now been daming it up in Spain for five months. When I told people I was moving to Madrid, they generally said one of two things. Either “Oh. Barcelona is amazing,” or “The food! You’re going to love the food.” These comments made me 1) Wish I was moving to Barcelona instead and 2) Get really excited about the food here.

In both cases, my expectations were wrong.

After a brief visit to Barcelona, I can say I like Madrid just as much. (But I also prefer Washington DC to New York, so perhaps that tells you something). And the food….overall, I’ve been disappointed. Mr. Dame in Spain says I need to couch that statement with pointing out that I’m a vegetarian.  However, I think that I have at least some right to not eat animals and still expect delicious, occasionally creative food at restaurants in a world class city such as Madrid.

My main gripe about Spanish cuisine has nothing to do with being a vegetarian: The same ten dishes are on every menu. Ham. Croquettes. Cod. Spanish omelet. The one veggie option there – the Spanish omelet, or tortilla, as it’s called here, contains eggs and potato and no spices, and, correspondingly, no taste. I know I’m supposed to like it. But I get about as excited to eat a tortilla as I do to eat a saltine cracker and some fizzy water.

So, for me, creativity and variety are lacking in Spanish restaurants. But, the markets are wonderful and I can find every vegetable here besides kale and spaghetti squash. Some of the best meals I’ve had to date in Spain have been prepared in my own kitchen. I present to you, the best things I’ve eaten in Spain so far:

1. Negroni Cocktail

1 part gin, 1 part Compari, 1 part sweet vermouth.

Yes, my favorite thing I’ve had since I moved to Madrid is a cocktail. This has nothing to do with Spain, except that I had my first negroni at a hotel in Seville and have been hooked ever since. Also, gin, once the drink of old Spanish men, is making a major resurgence among trendy young people here, most often in the form of fancy gin and tonics. The negroni is super strong, bitter, and just slightly sweet. Eighty percent of people I’ve made this drink  for can’t finish one. But that’s okay because Mr.Dame and I will gladly finish theirs for them.

2. Homemade Pizzas

Cauliflower crust pizza with tomato sauce, asparagus and fried eggs
Cauliflower crust pizza with tomato sauce, asparagus, mushrooms and fried eggs

Like all other humans, I love pizza. I’ve tried a few pies in Spain, but I find them more like a flatbread pizza not to mention skimpy on the toppings. A few months ago I tested out the low-carb cauliflower crust pizza that I’ve been hearing so much about, and it has since became a (albeit rather labor-intensive) go-to for lunch. For days when I’m hankering for carbs, I’ll  make a regular pizza using this crust recipe from the New York Times to satisfy my nearly-incessant pizza craving and top it with a parmesan-garlic sauce and truffled mushrooms.

3. Cheeeeeese

The most beautiful and decadently creamy buratta at the San Miguel Market.
The most beautiful and decadently creamy buratta at the San Miguel Market.

Obviously I’m not going to have a food list without cheese on it. Spain did live up to its hype of having excellent cheeses. And a great variety, as well, it’s not all about the manchego. My favorite cheese experience in Spain is getting the truly decadent buratta (cream-filled mozzarella) at the Mercado San Miguel. They look so good that I usually get two, but that’s generally a mistake. They are so, so rich. There is also a wonderful little cheese shop/restaurant called Quesos-Fiambres González not too far from the Prado museum. I had a heavenly two hours in there with a plate of three different cheeses, a glass of wine and a book.

4. 30th Birthday Dinner at Teresa Carles in Barcelona

A shitake carpacio salad from Teresa Carles in Barcelona.

My parents were in Spain to help celebrate my recent 3-0 .After some menu-surfing online, I knew that Teresa Carles was the vegetarian restaurant where I wanted to ring in my new decade. Their dishes were creative and delicious and even spurred my Midwestern fisherman of a father to declare it was one of the best meals he’s ever had. That is something. Highlights included a salad with thinly-sliced shitake mushrooms, celery, fennel and a special Spanish cheese and spaghettini with black truffles. I so wish there was a place like this in Madrid.

5. Pimientos Padrones

I keep eating these too fast to take a photo, so this artful shot is from Aida Mollenkamp’s site “Pairs Well with Food.”

These delightful little bright and sweet peppers lightly fried and sprinkled with coarse salt always hit the spot. Granted, I only just discovered them last week when we were in Galacia, but I’ve seen them around in Madrid as well. Here’s one recipe.

Those are my favorites so far. I suspect I’ll be discovering many more favorites throughout my time in Spain.


To eating well,

The Dame in Spain



  1. I also think Spanish food as a whole is good but get ready until you get to Portugal. OMGGGGGGG. Blows Spain out of the water.

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