where exactly to eat for a weekend in Madrid

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There is nothing more special and lovely than a few too few days, eating far too many churros, and laughing just enough bellyful. The squad and I spent a whole 3 days in Madrid this past week, and ate our way through the city, leaving just a few hours to consume the culture and drink in the harried, important air.

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Madrid’s capital-ness was self-evident: the grandiose buildings, the meandering streets that followed a non-grid drawn by a toddler, the way the light on the street sparkled post rain, the jungle planted mid-train station. Just quite everything was larger than life AND death, and old and busy and dirty and beautiful – I felt like a truer-than-true tourist.

Staying in the midst of the town, we almost overdid our budget by buying a 2 day train pass for a whole 7 euros and never using it: instead we worked off a bit of our Madrid calorie layer by walking. everywhere. Which is refreshingly the primary mode of transport everywhere I have been in this land ~ no workout, no problem. (some problem. shhh conscience) I brought one pair of true close toed shoes to Spain, and these boots were not really made for walking, so of course I’ve used them to walk/hike/run for a plane quite a few times in the past two months.

But I digress, FOOD recs coming up.

Pre Madrid, I avoided all semblance of homework for any “classes” I’m taking here on my “semester” abroad, and instead fell into the internet vortex, accidentally only earmarking eateries. oops? If we had eaten all the places I had pegged, I would still be in Madrid, having not fit through the plane doors, but alas we could only eat a few meals a day. In addition to some *bomb* microwave popcorn with freshly ground pepper, to be consumed only if sitting on the floor of a hostel, here are the winners ~

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Friday eats:

Ojala – Urth Cafe, meet Spain, and add a basement full of sand to sip a landlocked beer on the beach. My inner basic was doing cartwheels as I ordered an arugula salad with my brunch eggs, right after they served me orange juice with a stripy straw. If your eyes are done rolling to the ceiling, you could kindly rest them upon the best toast I’ve had since coming here. We came straight from the airport, because that’s how priorities work.

Mercado de San Miguel – Post a 5 hour nap (oops) we salimos de la marcha to the classier, prettier, less crazy little sister of Barcelona’s Boqueria – soft lighting and a warm conversational buzz set the perfect romantic date for 4. The concept: you order a tapa or two and a copa around the market, until you can’t walk anymore. (or something like that?) We had the creamiest burrata in the entire world, a bite size bitty of decent paella, a coupla leggy copas of Rioja Crianza for 3 euros (learned from my trip to Logroño, am I cultured yet??) , and blue cheese mushroom pizza to share. Avoid the quiche, have the froyo (thanks Aradybaby for the reco). Those are both mandatory requests. I was too distracted by the bright white spreadable lightly savory cheese to take any pictures.

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Saturday eats:

Chocolatería San Gines – Need I say anything more? Honestly. Churros con chocolate. Churros with dippable drinking melted chocolate. They’ve been doing it since 1894, they’ve had a little practice – we went twice. That is all you need to know. Thanks to a course taught at our school about Spanish culture for the reco.

Subiendo Al Sur – Found in the blogosphere. Love/hate the fact that that word has become a regular part of my vernacular, but I’m accepting it as a piece of my being. Run by two brothers and a (son? nephew?) – everything is fair trade, etc. etc. Yet another home for LA baby bitches vacationing in Europe, but also wildly affordable and adorable. We were the only ones in the restaurant at 8 pm, and it was absolutely twinkly. What to get: A sweetish marinara sauced vegetable lasagna, or the most flavorful ceviche in the entire world. Or both.

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Sunday eats:

Circo – Don’t stop til you get enough. Day 3, and we obviously hadn’t gotten enough ~ after a late night *cough* early morning burning up the floor of the kapital, we awoke in time for an afternoon brunch. Unfortunately, my googling skills failed us with their accidental success – famous ‘La Bicicleta’ was full. So I hung my head in the back of the line til for about 3 minutes til squad walked into this absolute GEM. Let me paint this picture for you ~ Are you ready? I’m not sure you’re ready. Ok now perhaps?

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12.50 euro. A choice of drinks to begin; we all opted for orange juice, because #healthiswealth and #nextdayhydration. A bulging basket of bread and olive oil for a table full of loud, hungry girls. A choice between four entrees, of which I can remember two: Salmon on a savory pancake, or eggs benedict with sausage. Freshly fried, thick cut potato slices. Side salad. A ‘tasting plate’ of dessert which really consists of three full sized slices: an apple pie, a brownie a la mode, and a cheesecake, or a choice for creamy Greek yogurt topped with muesli. And a coffee in case you’re still a bit peckish.

We sat around for 3 hours, formulated the idea for a 6 way business plan, talked about life futures, and extolled the oh-my-gosh-ness of the potatoes.

La Rue – A good 6 or 8 hours after that marathon brunch, we found this lil guy to just tie up the tiny stomach pits that had made themselves heard, for some crepes. Order the one with chicken, brie, and onions, and the chicken salad, and the blackberry tea. And then order again, once they forget about you because you had the misfortune of sitting in the back.

Also, we saw the Prado, the grandest post-office I’ve ever seen, a chill-giving sign welcoming refugees to Spain, Museo Nacional de Reina Sofia, and JUST missed Parque del Retiro – it was raining and churros round 2 called. We came, we saw, we cultured. Thanks Madrid!

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fig ricotta honey pizza // home

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It happened!

Almost 3 months later, I am sitting in sunny *northern* California, relishing (and shriveling in) the dry heat, the cool morning air (hello jetlag) and free and available toilet paper. That last one especially.

For a long time, I didn’t really love being home; it wasn’t cool or exciting or college. But the more time I spend away, the more I see this as another destination, and am able to see the true beauty of dear ol’ Danville, its own dry but verdant hills and clean air and manicured-ness. I can’t look past the soccer moms in Escalades though, and could definitely go another couple months without those.

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I have three weeks of countries to recount, and lots of silly insights and attempted photography to share with all 3 of my readers (Hi Pati Atya!), but in the mean time, here’s a lil piece of home in the form of my people (and FOOD).

In Thailand, I was lucky enough to reunite with one of my high school tribe, and it was equally bitter and wonderfully sweet to realize how little had changed between us even though the whirlwind of our young adult years swirled forward. But seeing her made me miss the rest a little (a lot) more, so first order of business was meeting up with my secondary mama, aka my friend Alyssa, and making some füd. If you think I cook, I dabble. She COOKS, and has always been the resident feeder of our crew, making macarons from scratch for our Christmas parties, and whipping up fancy ramen in other people’s kitchens.

Yesterday, she picked me up and told me, quite offhand, of the afternoon’s projects: fig ricotta pizza, and a nectarine galette. Casually.

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In Marathi, we have a couple ways of describing a good cook (food is pretty important to us). My favorite literally translates to “flavorful hands” – that a person’s hand imbue a dish with the flavor of their personality. It’s similar to the idea of baking with love, etc. and I can attest that Alyssa definitely has flavorful hands.

We spent the afternoon baking, giggling, and climbing on apartment balconies for aerial galette shots, and I couldn’t imagine a better first day back. (Also shoutout to techie, fellow giggler and pizza eater Courtney for her musical contributions to the afternoon and holding the pizza out just so, so I could food porn at the proper angle. Oops that sounds dirty.)

[Click through for the recipe]
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if you love food, eat a mango like this

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Step 1. Let go of the traditions you have steeped in your head of childhood summers in sweltering Mumbai heat, cooled only by turtle backs cut by grandmotherly hands of lawlessly sweet Alfonso mangos from the family orchard. Recognize there is more than one way to eat a mango, and more than one way to remember a person’s loving legacy. Make peace.

Step 2. Become frustrated with the lack of fresh vegetables available in a restaurant setting in your current location, and set off in search of street vendors.

Step 3. Befriend the owner of the fruit stand across the street from your workplace without speaking a single word of each others’ language. Simply show up everyday, point to sample every single thing, grin enthusiastically, and buy everything.

Step 4. Ignore his uncomfortably long fingernails.

Step 5. At his mimed and yelled encouragement, buy the mildly pricy sunset-hued and fragrant fruit. Buy more than one.

Step 6. Leave them in the fridge at work for a day too long. Forget about them until the moment you cannot endure another second sitting still in your cubicle. Remember. Rejoice.
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I googled egg puns but nothing cracked me up

IMG_0492I mentioned in a previous post that I am Marathi. This means most of my family cooks and eats vegetarian food not sold in Indian restaurants, speaks the language that is concentrated in the state of Mahrashtra, is frugal, precise, and does well in school.

We’re basically the kind of Indian known for being sticks-in-mud, but with hazel eyes (THAT I DIDN’T EVEN GET, THANKS MOM)

Of course, I’m kidding, and not trying to offend or distance myself from my cultural roots. That being said, I don’t think any of my Marathi relatives would have taken me for lunch at the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I visited last week . It has been across the street from my grandparents’ home for over 50 years since they first moved in, but I may be the first from my family to step foot inside.

And guys, it was so. freaking. good.

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Spherical sweet things make the world go round

IMG_0243-1I had a lot of trouble writing that title, because my college student mind could not get around the fact that I wanted to say all my favorite desserts in the past week have been sweet balls. Sorry to everyone past the age of (me) that is reading this.

Been spending the past few days in Parle, a majority – Marathi area in Mumbai [the artist formerly known as Bombay]. (For the uninitiated, Marathi is the type of Indian I am + the language I fail to speak with my family)

Parle is also home to the biscuit factory known by brown kids around the world for producing that ubiquitous lightly-sweetened ‘glucose biscuit’: Parle G.

According to Wikipedia, it is the largest selling brand of biscuits (read: crackers) in the world. That makes sense, because Indian people can’t go a day without chai (stereotype based in truth) and chai cannot be had without Parle G, since production began in 1939.

I’m not going to say I digress because I think that’s the whole point of this whole shindig: to digress.

But I digress.

So I’ve been staying with my aunt and uncle in Parle, and utilizing my beloved-niece-returned-to-India status by requesting all of the sweet things I can of my culinarily-gifted aunt. This lady also has a degree in library science, a 30 year career in managing portfolios, the same hands as my grandma, and a general reputation as badass in residence.

She was somewhat disappointed by the simplicity of the food I requested, but of course we set about making it anyways: besan laddus.

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Seoul food

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Bulgogi at the bottom, with a spread of condiments across the center, and soju-branded water bottle: stage right


He.

He.

A few days delayed, but I’d like to document my lame puns and eatery experiences from the 12 hours I spent in Incheon and Seoul en route to the motherland this past weekend. Though the thought of a 12 hour layover about keeled my mother over (girl? alone? Korea?) I had the BEST time in a country I never even quite considered as a destination. But my faux pas was proven wrong by the food (hot things to defrost frozen noses), the kind people, and the fascinating mashup of culture.

I took a prescribed “Seoul City Tour” organized by an airport tourism agency, led by the verbose “Mr. Bob”. Yes sir, I do believe that is your given name. We were led through a (really cold) palace, a (really cold) temple, and ended up in the (really cold) shopping district of Insadong, where were served a (really warm) and delicious meal.

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of or relating to food, sustenance, and nourishment

IMG_0018-1 I can’t say HOW excited I am to be typing this right now HELLO WORLD. It’s like a different way of living now. My name is Shalaka. I am a student living, working, learning, loving in the Los Angeles area. Welcome to Alimentarily : a way to record my forays into feeding myself in a grown up, responsible way (just say no to ramen). I get it from my Indian mother: there are not many hours in a day that pass in which I don’t think about food to some capacity. Planning my grocery list and dreading the mile-long bike ride back from Ralphs with 300 lbs of produce slung over my shoulders. Perusing my favorite cookie makers and stir fryers websites. Convincing my family I eat real food via Google Video. Doing dishes. Planning outings to bougie brunches and hip burger joints. Read More »