Prior to our fall trip to Spain, while I was researching tapas joins and all the interesting dishes I was going to be trying, my wife had resigned herself to two weeks of jamón ibérico as a staple of her diet on the account of her Celiac. Not that plates of jamón ibérico are a bad consolation prize, but for her, she had accepted that she wouldn’t be sampling widely from the menu as we saddled up to bar after bar.
Thanks to Taberna La Concha in Madrid, my wife got the Spanish tapas experience she thought she would miss out on. On our second night in Madrid, we wandered about ten minutes from our La Latina apartment and held court at a little table in the basement of the bar. My wife’s face lit up when she was presented with a dedicated gluten-free menu and I turned the night’s ordering over to her. The first dish: anchovies in pesto
Up next was what ended up being the favourite dish of the night, and on reflection, outside of plates of thinly sliced Iberico ham, the best thing we ate on the trip: lentils with caramelized duck and foie gras:
This unexpected bit of freedom to order tapas in Spain had my wife pretty happy. One of my favourite memories of this trip was watching her try to make up her mind as to what we would be sampling next.
Perhaps with a nod to me, she ordered the pork cheeks (I have an inordinately difficult time not ordering pork cheeks if I see them on a menu) in red wine sauce. The cheeks were perfectly tender. Another outstanding dish.
Still on a food and cava fuelled high, we tried a dish of fish cakes with a green curry sauce. I’d say my wife ordered perfectly on this night – everything was amazing!
One of the great things about tapas-style eating and drinking is the ability to try lots of different things. Over the course of two weeks we had sampled a number of beverages, but nothing came close to the sangria at La Concha. By far, it was our favourite drink of the trip:
Our meal on that night was so good, that in a city renowned for its restaurants and bars, we elected to go back a few evenings later. Sometimes returning to a place a second time is a letdown. Certain nights in a bar or restaurant just have a magical quality that can’t be replicated. But there was no drop off on our return visit. Upstairs and standing across from the bar, we had another incredible meal. Squid in their own ink anyone? Delicious!
And of course, more of that amazing sangria:
I’m glad my wife ordered salmorejo, an Andalusian specialty, similar to gazpacho. Made with a puree of tomatoes, gluten-free bread and herbs and topped with bits of fried ham (!!!), it was as delicious as other versions I tried over the rest of the trip. I’ll be trying to recreate this here at home in the near future.
Another standout was this simple and rustic dish of meatballs in a tomato sauce.
One of the things, other than the food and the glasses of sangria, that made this evening special was how the bartender took care of us. When I asked for a gluten-free menu, he brought over a starter snack he put together so we’d have something to munch on while contemplating our first dish order (and not to feel left out compared to the others at the bar with their gluten-filled pre-ordering tastes). And at the end of the meal, there was another surprise dish to send us on our way. Not only was the food outstanding at La Concha, but on two nights they made us feel at home. The unique slice of Spanish food culture that my wife could experience fully here, and her enjoyment of that, will always bring a smile to me when I think back on our week in Madrid.