On our first evening in Madrid, we decided to check out the recently renovated Mercado de San Miguel after reading this short article in the New York Times. A short cab ride from our hotel, and just off the Plaza Mayor, this small but beautiful market is housed in an amazing Beaux Arts structure with incredible architectural detailing on the outside of the building that is now enclosed with lots of glass. Almost a hundred years old, it was refurbished by a group of investors and now houses some 50+ food and related vendors in a very chi-chi market. It is a bit contrived, but still wonderful, in my opinion. Certainly lightyears away from a giant food court in a North American mall… :)
More Dean & De Luca than Union Square Market, this has become a watering hole for yuppies and foodie tourists it seems. I sincerely doubt that many locals come here for their daily food shopping.
The first vendor that caught my eye was this fishmonger or more accurately fishwife since it was a lady manning the stall. The fish were beautifully displayed on crushed ice, a still life begging to be admired. Some of the fish didn’t look so fresh, but the variety was impressive. There were some locals buying seafood at this shop, but I suspect their biggest customers were the nearby seafood bars that served cooked dishes and tapas. I do love how the displays were set-up however, particularly when compared to our own large markets that have fish laid out on tiles, hopeful that they will be sold quickly without need for ice…
I have to say that Atlantic or Mediterranean fish can be wickedly ugly in the looks department. Bug-eyed, malformed heads, strange colors. Nothing like the Miss Universe ready cousins from the warm tropics. Heeheehee. Yes, I am biased, but our fish are far more beautiful. :)
These stunningly fire red prawns were an exception in the looks department, but isn’t it so unusual to have raw prawns be so red?
Razor clams, cockles, lobsters, prawns, squid, octopus, etc. made for a really striking display. In the 20-30 minutes we were in the vicinity, they made 2-3 sales, so I can’t imagine they had the retail volume required to pay the rent…
But I suppose if they managed to sell a few kilos of these Percebe Gallego, or gooseneck barnacles that are a HUGE Spanish delicacy, very pricey at Euro100 per kilo (PHP6,000 a kilo). I have never tasted these, and regret now that I didn’t look harder for a place serving them, but they are supposed to definitely worth the money. More info on Percebes here and here, for the curious.
The lone vegetable and fruit vendor was housed in a large corner stall. On the afternoon we visited, and again on a subsequent day visit, they had hardly any vegetables at all. Some 80% of the stall was dedicated to fruit, beautifully displayed and wickedly overpriced fruit. :)
They did have a huge case of wonderful chanterelles on offer, and at Euro19 a kilo, a bargain compared to the percebes…
Peaches, apricots, and other expected fruits vied for space beside more exotic pineapples, guyabanos, mangoes, etc.
This corner half-pyramid of carefully arranged cherries was anal-retentiveness to the extreme. I figured 20% of the price must have paid for the labor to put up such a display! And forget about picking out your own cherries, you CAN’T touch the fruit, buddy!
Mrs. MM purchased a few peaches to eat back at the hotel for dessert…
…and i was thrilled to see such humongous and ripe figs on offer as well.
I spied these two cases of wild asparagus or “mountain asparagus” with very thin stems. If we had access to a kitchen, I would have definitely tried some of these…
There was also a vendor selling all manner of spanish beans/legumes…
…nicely displayed in little sacks.
And if feeling flush, yet another vendor had some pretty pricey black truffles on offer.
But how, oh how could you not step back in awe, mouth agape, at the selection of premium hams on offer? This is a view that makes my knees tremble, or just about. The line for this stall was so long you would have to wait 20-30 minutes just to get a plate of hand sliced Jamon Iberico! And from folks dressed in ties and vests to boot!
Next up, a post on what we had for dinner at the Mercado de San Miguel.