:Toledo is a beautiful city about an hour southwest of Madrid and a couple of weeks ago Danielle and I had the opportunity to do a day trip there. If you have read Don Quixote, you might be interested to know that the author Miguel de Cervantes resided in Toledo for periods of his life. This city is also well-known for being “the city of three cultures” – Christian, Muslim, and Jewish – all coexisting here in perfect harmony for many years. Imagine that. But as always, there were so many interesting food-related things to learn about too!
When we were researching Toledo before our trip, we realized it was named the 2016 Capital of Gastronomy of Spain. Every year, the Spanish Restaurant Industry Federation and the Spanish Federation of Travel and Tourism Writers and Journalists vote in a different city to be honored with this distinction. Then, for the next calendar year the cuisine of this city is highlighted in advertisements in an effort to increase tourism to that particular area. We were intrigued to discover upon further reading that one of Toledo’s most traditional dishes is stewed partridge (sans pear tree). Strange as it sounds, I do wish I had the chance to try it.
Our tour lasted most of the morning and after it had ended, our guide mentioned that the tour company is partnered with a certain restaurant in the city, so we could enjoy lunch there for a discounted price. We’re always lookin’ for a good deal, and so pretty soon we found ourselves seated in a quaint restaurant, each with a little loaf of bread for starters. I have to laugh at how much bread Spaniards eat in comparison to the majority of Americans who wouldn’t dare eat “carbs” like that (at least not in public) (did I say that?!). Anyway, this was the first time I had Spain’s classic ‘menú del día’. This is the normal way restaurants offer lunch here- like a lunch special, but lunch is their largest meal so it includes multiple courses. With the menú del día, you receive bread (we’re talking like a 6″ hero roll…EACH), a drink (water, coffee, soda, beer or wine!), a first course and a second course, AND a dessert all for approximately 10 euro (11 dollars)! And the portions are pretty generous! I love it! I wish this was a thing in the US. For the first and second courses and the dessert, there are about five options to choose from, and these options change approximately every week. First course choices are typically salads, soups, or rice dishes and the second courses are heavier, either meat- or fish-based.
I chose paella for my first course. Can’t go wrong with that. Except that the shrimp in it had everything from the eyeballs to the legs and that freaked me out 🙂 . For my second course, I chose the bacalao con salsa (cod with a tomato-based vegetable sauce) which came with French fries. At first I was surprised because that seemed kinda cheap when all the other parts of the meal were very traditional, but then again… Spaniards love their patatas. I’ve since realized that these patatas fritas are served as the second course side dish quite often.
For ‘postre,’ I went for the flan! Fortunately, it tasted better than it looks 🙂 . For those of you who have never tried flan before, it is a custard dessert (with the consistency of scrambled egg) flavored with vanilla and sweet syrup, and this one was served cold. We left there feeling veryyy satisfied and ready to explore the rest of the city!
Another thing we learned on our tour is that Toledo is hugely famous for marzipan. Marzipan is a sweet little treat that resembles a cookie, originally made with just two ingredients: almonds and sugar. The confection was actually created by necessity – there was once a widespread famine and since there were many almond trees in the region, the only things they had in abundance were almonds and sugar. Since then, the recipe has been adapted to include honey and egg yolks. One stop on our tour was outside of a famous marzipan shop named Santo Tomé, which has been in operation for over 160 years. Now they have different varieties with jams and pine nuts and such. Obviously we had to try some, so we bought a cute little variety box to take home. They are dense and sweet with the perfect almond flavor; they reminded me a little of almond horns. So yummy! (We ate them faster than I could snap a picture, but the one below is the exact box we got!)
Toledo is beautiful, as is Madrid, but I am definitely looking forward to more trips to cities within both Spain and Europe to taste cuisine from even more different places!
¡Hasta la próxima!