Madrileño Queso

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Janel showed me a very secret spot this morning.  It is the library in Las Huertas.  From Google Maps, I’m going to guess this place is called Sabini Automatizacion de Bibliotecas Sal, but the name doesn’t really matter.  Inside is a chic café, quiet and beautifully tiled and lighted in a 1960s type décor.  Tasty jazz music plays, great coffee is served, and strangely numbered wine bottles line the walls.  A great way to start the day.

The library cafe in Las Huertas

We needed a 2nd cup, and headed north.  On the way, we strolled past a dear restaurant called Cisne Azul, which focuses on fungi, one we were counting on visiting.  Alas, we found it was closed for the month of August, like many other establishments in Madrid.

Strolling north

After a longish walk (about 3 km), we found Plaza de Olavide and sat down at an outdoor café in the filtered sun beneath some trees, catching a bit of the morning breeze.    During our coffee, a guitar player and tenor sax player (a cool lanky guy with shades and long hair) started up on jazz classics.  Our coffees turned into beers, with added greasy Spanish sausages.  A perfect way to spend Sunday morning in Madrid, doing absolutely nothing.

Plaza de Olavide (and hip sax player)

By 3:30pm, we’d retraced the 3 km back near Centro to find LaMucca restaurant, but found all its tables full.  Janel submitted her name for a table, and soon we saw it scrawled up on the Lista de Espera (I read this as the “List of Hope”) as “Yanel.”

Great late lunch of shared:
·    Mucca burger w/ gorgonzola and red onions
·    Fries
·    Grilled veggies with truffle oil
·    Tinto de verano

Lamucca

For at least a few minutes, we also shared the very worst street singer either of us has ever heard.  A raspy two-note screeching of “luna-luna-luna…” while fumbling on the beat-up nylon strings of a cheap guitar.  Need a new profession, man.  So bad we were laughing.

Siesta time!  Janel worked 100 Floors again while I worked the large pillow.

Then we took a long evening walk north for dinner.  Our walk took us more than 4 km northeast up into a business district, and finally to a sleek restaurant called simply  “Cheesebar” (http://www.ponceletcheesebar.es/)

What?  Cheese for dinner?  My stubborn American sensibilities were thinking, “Well, OK, maybe I can do this for one night.”

I immediately noticed a huge green wall as we were seated at a reserved central table.  The wall was covered with beautiful live plants all the way to the ceiling – very well done.  Waiters hovered on both sides.  A beautiful modern bar curved around one wall, with a parallel cabinet of hundreds of cheeses lighted like biology samples.

We dove in to the menu.  A book!  Of cheeses!  The information was dizzying – milk types, animals, fermentation methods, countries, for starters, but esoteric details like textures, crusts, bloom, curd, mold, rind, and pasteurization.  Interesting and overwhelming.

Poncelet Cheesebar

Janel saved the day.  She recommended that we go with the Cheeses of the Day, a selection of those the staff feels are at their peak.  On the side, we also ordered a plate of Jamon iberico, only the finest ham in the world.  You know, just as a palate cleanser.

Waiters immediately brought us a cheese amuse, bread, white wine, and some really tasty “smoked” butter, which tastes exactly like it sounds.  The service here – impeccable.  The waiter even remembered Janel from her previous visit in March (https://buencamino1.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/a-tale-of-two-cities/)

Our entrée comes out, 6 slices of cheese with a sprinkling of dried fruits, and a printed card that fully describes each cheese.  The card:

Our 6 cheeses

1- Burrata di Corato (Italian)
2 – Pouligny St Pierre (French)
3- Langres (French)
4 – Camembert Normandia (French)
5 – Castellot (Spanish)
6 – Stilton (UK)

How we enjoyed this meal!  I’d have never guessed it would take us 3 hours, savoring every speck on the plate.  Our favorite, by only  a narrow margin, was the Pouligny St Pierre, a goat milk cheese, (sometimes called a pyramid or Tour Eiffel cheese), so good it just cannot be described.   [I must get some for home happy hours.]  Each tiny side addition to the plate, a wine grape raisin, an apricot, an herb, was selected as a wonderful complement to each adjacent cheese.

We cautiously approached the last and strongest cheese, a blue-veined Stilton from the UK.  Known to be stinky. Enjoyed with a waiter-recommended dessert wine from Spain, it delighted us (and we nearly awarded it 1st place).  In short, I found the experience a total treat, and it has modified my American sensibilities forever.

3 hours worth of food

Metro home to relax in the room.  Janel then endured a 90-minute hassle involving her annoying renter (fortunately on the way out), who was refusing to pay her fair share of the piso utility bill.  Middle-of-the-night phone calls were involved.  Janel finally ironed out the wrinkles but felt especially bad about the disruption to her housemates.

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