There is always something cool going on in Madrid. One Friday back in November I was Googling a place called ‘Matadero‘ because I had heard about it from tour guides and locals alike who said there was a fresh market there on weekend mornings. Coincidentally, there happened to be a food festival happening there that weekend! A tapas showcase to be precise, where the most creatively designed tapas would win. I knew I had to check it out.
Matadero translates to “slaughterhouse” – this collection of buildings in the southwest end of Madrid is a historic site where pigs and cows were killed before being brought to the city’s markets. It was built in the 1920s but as the city expanded, it was shut down in 1996, and in 2007 Matadero Madrid was opened to the public as a converted contemporary art center and cultural hub. Now there is a huge greenhouse, the home of the National Dance Company/ National Ballet of Spain where cattle stables used to be, a theater that shows independent movies, two very trendy restaurants, super modern space-sharing offices for creatives, and large, open multi-purpose spaces where there are constantly different art exhibits, lectures, and events happening… such as tapas festivals!
This was actually the second annual ‘Big Food Grrrreat Market’ (not sure the reason for the English name… classic Spanglish), and was a total hipster magnet. All of Madrid’s grunge foodies flocked to spend more than a reasonable amount of euro on fancy-looking, average-tasting tapas. I’m not (only) trying to be funny – the contest was focused on design, so the flavor and the temperature of the two tapas I tried were slightly below par, in my humble opinion.
After seeing it more than a few times throughout Spain, I decided I would finally try some squid ink paella, also known as paella negra or arroz negro (black paella or black rice). I braced for a pungent flavor but was pleasantly surprised! Adding the ink of the squid that is also incorporated into the rice-based dish results in an enhanced umami seafood flavor, a delicious salty, savoriness.
I have to admit my favorite part of the event was eating a taco that was tied to the end of helium-filled balloon. It was one of those experiences you didn’t know you wanted until it happened and was delightfully ridiculous 😛
We washed the tapas down with a free caña of Mahou and explored the other buildings on site a bit before heading home. Never a dull moment in Spain!