The International Living Podcast

Episode 38: Madrid's Three Historic Culinary Gems

August 16, 2023 International Living
Episode 38: Madrid's Three Historic Culinary Gems
The International Living Podcast
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The International Living Podcast
Episode 38: Madrid's Three Historic Culinary Gems
Aug 16, 2023
International Living

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This week, the Bigger, Better World podcast takes a trip to Spain, talking to International Living Spain Editor Sally Pederson about her recent scouting trip to the center of the country and the city of Madrid—Spain’s political…and gastronomic capital.

Hailing originally from Canada, Sally’s been an expat for years, having started her overseas life in Costa Rica before making the move to Spain. She had a list of non-negotiables for her new home: efficient public transport, somewhere with a beach, and a good international airport nearby. For Sally, the city of Barcelona checked all the boxes, and she based herself there. But, as she explains in the podcast, it’s so easy, comfortable, and convenient to travel in Europe, that she’s not tied to one city. In fact, she sees Barcelona foremost as a base for her extensive travels.

“Compared to North America,’ Sally says, ‘it's so cheap to travel around Europe, and it's one of the things that I love. So it's very easy and convenient. There are so many trains every day, so many flights every day. So whether internationally, within Europe, or even just within Spain, I can't even tell you how many trains leave Madrid or Barcelona or any major city. There's so many every single day.’

And that means she can explore and enjoy everything that Spain has to offer, whether that’s in her home city of Barcelona, or farther afield. That’s how she came to learn about the city of Madrid and its unbeatable cuisine and dining options. Who wouldn’t like to eat at the capital city’s oldest restaurant—which has been serving up local dishes since 1725? Or share a range of tapas with friends at a sidewalk café, or indulge in seafood paella with at Casa Labra—one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite joints in the city?

In her article for International Living magazine, and in her discussion with podcast host, Jim Santos, Sally explores what it is that makes dining, drinking, and ultimately…living in Spain such a rewarding experience for discerning Europhile expats. She paints an evocative picture of centuries-old restaurants; seasonal, regional fare; delectable tapas; unhurried atmospheres, and a commitment to the art of good living in two Spanish cities that are unrivaled for energy and sophistication.

Read Sally's article here.

Join host, Jim Santos, as he meets Sally Pederson in the latest episode of Bigger, Better World.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform: https://lovethepodcast.com/internationalliving.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

This week, the Bigger, Better World podcast takes a trip to Spain, talking to International Living Spain Editor Sally Pederson about her recent scouting trip to the center of the country and the city of Madrid—Spain’s political…and gastronomic capital.

Hailing originally from Canada, Sally’s been an expat for years, having started her overseas life in Costa Rica before making the move to Spain. She had a list of non-negotiables for her new home: efficient public transport, somewhere with a beach, and a good international airport nearby. For Sally, the city of Barcelona checked all the boxes, and she based herself there. But, as she explains in the podcast, it’s so easy, comfortable, and convenient to travel in Europe, that she’s not tied to one city. In fact, she sees Barcelona foremost as a base for her extensive travels.

“Compared to North America,’ Sally says, ‘it's so cheap to travel around Europe, and it's one of the things that I love. So it's very easy and convenient. There are so many trains every day, so many flights every day. So whether internationally, within Europe, or even just within Spain, I can't even tell you how many trains leave Madrid or Barcelona or any major city. There's so many every single day.’

And that means she can explore and enjoy everything that Spain has to offer, whether that’s in her home city of Barcelona, or farther afield. That’s how she came to learn about the city of Madrid and its unbeatable cuisine and dining options. Who wouldn’t like to eat at the capital city’s oldest restaurant—which has been serving up local dishes since 1725? Or share a range of tapas with friends at a sidewalk café, or indulge in seafood paella with at Casa Labra—one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite joints in the city?

In her article for International Living magazine, and in her discussion with podcast host, Jim Santos, Sally explores what it is that makes dining, drinking, and ultimately…living in Spain such a rewarding experience for discerning Europhile expats. She paints an evocative picture of centuries-old restaurants; seasonal, regional fare; delectable tapas; unhurried atmospheres, and a commitment to the art of good living in two Spanish cities that are unrivaled for energy and sophistication.

Read Sally's article here.

Join host, Jim Santos, as he meets Sally Pederson in the latest episode of Bigger, Better World.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform: https://lovethepodcast.com/internationalliving.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube


Jim Santos 00:09 
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to Bigger, Better World. If you've listened to even a few of our podcasts, you probably already know that one of my favorite things about travel is discovering new foods and new ways of preparing old favorites. Last week we talked about the cuisine of Lyon, France, and today we're headed to neighboring Spain and the capital city of Madrid. 

Madrid is the largest city in Spain and the second largest in the EU, smack in the middle of the country. It has been the capital almost continuously since 1561. It has modern infrastructure, but much of the history has been preserved in architecture and old neighborhoods. Today, International Living Spain Correspondent Sally Pederson joins us to share her top three foodie destinations in Madrid. 

Sally, welcome to bigger, better world.

Sally Pederson 01:29 
Well, thank you very much for having me. Jim.

Jim Santos 01:32 
Very interested in hearing what you have to say about Spain, but before we get into your article, which was in the August 2023 issue, ‘Dining Like It's 1725—Madrid's Three Historic Culinary Gems’, I did want to ask you, since it's your first time on the show here, to give our listeners a little bit of a background. Where did you come from and how did you end up in Spain?

Sally Pederson 01:53 
Oh, okay. Well, I'll try to keep it short. So I'm originally from Canada, and when I first left Canada, I actually moved to Costa Rica, and I spent about four or five years in Costa Rica. Really enjoyed, you know, it was time for a change and ended up in Barcelona. And so Barcelona is my home, part time home, because I do travel a lot, and I've traveled lots through Spain. Spain is so beautiful, and there's so many great things to see and do. It really is a fantastic country. And I could say that, though, too, about many other countries as well. So I've been to I think it's been about 45 or 46 countries now. So I do travel substantially, but I do call it one of my home bases, and I do love it.

Jim Santos 02:50 
Yeah, that is the traveler's curse. The more you see, the more you want to see.

Sally Pederson 02:54 
Exactly. And I just think, oh, my gosh, there's a whole world. Like, there's so much to see.

Jim Santos 02:59 
Well, with all the Spain to choose from, what was it that attracted you to Barcelona?

Sally Pederson 03:04 
Well, that's actually a really kind of interesting question because when I was doing research online before going so I had never been to Spain before I moved and I just decided I'm moving to Barcelona. So I do things in a way that I generally don't recommend people do. 

But with that I'm also traveling by myself, so I would do things obviously differently with a family and things like that. So I just go. When I was researching Barcelona, it was the bigger city. I also was looking at Valencia and a few other places. I definitely had to be by the beach. That's always one of my kind of, like, deal breakers is I have to be close to the beach. It has to have good transportation. Because I don't want to have to buy a car because I'm moving around all the time. Good international airport because I'm traveling. I do come back to Canada every year for family and friends. So I had just about four or five things, and Barcelona kind of ticked all the boxes, and I went there to check it out. I kind of squished it into my travel plans. 

And I think I was there for about three days, on day three. And I was with a friend of mine that trip. We were celebrating our birthdays because we're a couple days apart, and I just decided Barcelona. It's the one I'm going to move to. And in a way, I'm glad I did it that way, because fast forward, as I've traveled more through Spain and different places, if I would have went to other cities, it would have been really hard for me to pick a place to live, because I love Valencia. I love how it's got this massive green park throughout the city center. And Barcelona doesn't really have green parks, but it's very close to the, you know, everything. Some pros and cons. 

So for me, I'm glad I just did the one, picked it, moved there and then kind of traveled from around there. Because, like I said, it would have been really hard if I would have went and did as lots of times. We recommend a scouting trip, which I do recommend a lot, to check out different places, but then be prepared sometimes to have a harder decision to make, because every country has wonderful places and cities or towns or countryside, whatever it is that people like. There's usually more than one place that they're going to like within a country.

Jim Santos 05:19 
Yeah, that's something that we've been finding out on the show a lot and kind of bringing home to people that when you start thinking about maybe retiring overseas or living overseas, it's not a final statement like you say. You went to Costa Rica first and really enjoyed it, but then you went to look at other things as well, and that's important for people to keep in mind, I think.

Sally Pederson 05:42 
Exactly. And I'm not done yet. And when people ask know, because I've got a place in Montenegro and I go there. So it's kind of like another home base. I call them all bases because I'm not really in one for a good portion of the year. And I want to check out Asia. There's places there that I haven't been that I'd like to check out. So I always say to people, like, I'm going to move again, I'm going to live in other countries. There's no doubt about it. It's just how many more countries am I going to live in is the bigger question.

Jim Santos 06:15 
Yeah, I think that's a great attitude, and I do think it is becoming more and more prevalent. People are kind of opening their eyes to how much easier it's become to travel after the little COVID interruption.

Sally Pederson 06:27 
Right. And I've said to people, too, I'm not stuck. Nobody is stuck. People choose that. They're stuck saying, I can't move because of and you can fill in the blank with a million things of because of kids, family, work, whatever. There's so many things that we can I mean, to me, that's a and like when I moved to Barcelona, people know, what if you didn't like it? Or if I moved to Costa Rica or Montenegro? And I've always said, well, if I don't like it, I just leave. Right? It's really that simple. 

Now, obviously, it is just me. As I said before, it's different with family and kids and things like that, but maybe then you stay for the school year and your kids finish out that school year, and then you move on to somewhere else. Nobody's stuck forever anywhere.

Jim Santos 07:14 
So that brings us to your article then, and your visit to Madrid. You probably go to Madrid from time to time anyway.

Sally Pederson 07:22 
Yeah, I do. Madrid is a fantastic city. There's the train to take. It's great, and obviously many flights, and I'm sure as listeners probably have heard from other people in Europe that it's so cheap to get around. I mean, since the Pandemic, it is a little bit more, but compared to North America, it's so cheap to travel around Europe, and it's one of the things that I love. So it's very easy and convenient. There's so many trains every day, so many flights every day. So whether internationally, within Europe, or even just within Spain, I can't even tell you how many trains leave Madrid or Barcelona or any major city. There's so many every single day.

Jim Santos 08:04 
Yeah, we're planning a long trip ourselves. And I was surprised to find out that I could book a flight from Dubrovnik in Croatia to Barcelona cheaper than I could book a flight from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Miami. Yeah, in fact, it was about half.

Sally Pederson 08:17
The I've even one time I bought a ticket from Barcelona to Toledo, and it was just like a three day trip because I'd never been and it was raining, supposed to be raining the whole time. So the ticket was so cheap, I just didn't even go. I'm like, you know what? That's a lunch. Basically, it's the same as me going out for lunch one day. And I just said, I'm not going to go, which is crazy. But you can do that though, if it just doesn't work. It's not like you're out or you have to go during rain and you know it's not going to be good and not enjoy it. Now, it was off season, it was kind of the rainy season. It was, I think, October, November. So I was taking the risk. But like I said, it was so cheap that it really didn't matter. And then the weather wasn't good and I just thought, well, why go to be stuck indoors? And so I just didn't go.

Jim Santos 09:10 
As I mentioned earlier in the show during the introduction, one of the things I love best about traveling and experiencing other cultures is the food.

Sally Pederson 09:18 
Absolutely.

Jim Santos 09:19 
It's just a wonderful thing about traveling. And I'm always interested in trying whatever the local cuisine is. Now, that must have been quite a difficult choice for you in a city the size of Madrid to pick your three favorite traditional dining places.

Sally Pederson 09:32 
Well, and I think there's so many restaurants. Absolutely. And it was hard. But what I did kind of to narrow it down is I went with some of the oldest and one of them, Botin Restaurant. It is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest restaurant, and it opened its doors in 1725. 

Part of it is I love when going to places, I love food everywhere, but I like finding traditional things. And sometimes we have to be careful, especially now that some things are called traditional, but they're a mix, and especially with Europe, because when we go back in time, it was part of different empires and different rulers. And so traditional can change quite a bit. And there's some kind of gray areas with some countries that they say, oh, this is traditional, but a few countries are saying it's their traditional food. And it's because those borders have changed over the years. 

And so with Madrid, what I've done is I've gone through and I've looked at some of the oldest restaurants that have been there for more of the true traditional foods and just something different. It's unique to go into a restaurant and when they have photos of how the restaurant was and how it's kind of changed over the years, and the facade or kind of the neighborhood or the street, it just adds more to just going to a restaurant that's been open for five or ten years.

And yes, it is traditional food, but it's just different when it's really in the old buildings and they've been around for so long. To me, it just adds more ambiance and excitement to the dining experience.

Jim Santos 11:23 
Yeah, that's interesting because I was going to ask you what you considered traditional Madrid dining when it comes to the food there. So that is an interesting way to base it, on the age of the restaurant and the age of the cuisine.

Sally Pederson 11:36 
And also sometimes too with the country, because some countries borders have moved over the years? And so that kind of classic tradition can get mixed with other countries. But I think generally with Spain, a lot of people would probably think of Paella, which is more kind of traditionally Valencia and kind of the south part of Spain, although it's very popular all throughout Spain, so that's definitely one of them. 

And we also have to think too, with different countries seasonally. Right. So the south of Spain will also have some of the lighter, more seafood type things. But when we go more inland or to the north with the mountains, when they're dealing with winter, they want more of the pig, lamb.. hearty kind of, more filling food throughout the winter months. And then in the summertime, it is definitely more of the lighter classic because it gets so hot in the summer. But some areas do get snow. And a lot of people, even me, before I moved to Spain, when somebody said snow in Spain, I'm like, no, it can't snow in Spain. But there are a lot of regions that do get snow and it does get cold in certain parts of the country.

Jim Santos 12:53 
Yeah, the seasonal thing and location is interesting because when I looked at the Botin restaurant menu, I was surprised by the amount of seafood on the menu for a restaurant that's in a city a couple of hundred kilometers from the sea.

Sally Pederson 13:07 
And I'm sure if we think back to when it opened in the late 17- or mid 1700s, even 1800s, obviously the food that they would have been serving then would have been quite different than now. They may have some seafood, but I don't know because thinking how long it would take to get seafood to the city, it wouldn't be so fresh anymore back then.

Jim Santos 13:30 
Yeah. Could have used some of that snow, I guess, to pack it.

Sally Pederson 13:34 
Yeah. Yeah. If it was winter, they could have brought some over because occasionally they do get snow in Madrid and they would have had to really pack stuff in ice back then. So I don't know how feasible it would have been. Along with the changing times, things change as well.

Jim Santos 13:52 
Looked like one of their signature dishes was the suckling pig. Did you sample that while you were there?

Sally Pederson 13:57 
I have, and it is absolutely amazing. It is basically like a melt in your mouth meat. It just kind of falls apart and it's so moist and juicy and it really is delicious.

Jim Santos 14:18 
Is this served as like a meal for the entire table? Because it looks rather large in the pictures.

Sally Pederson 14:23 
Yeah, you would want, if you have like a group of four people, you could share that with a couple of other items. And that's what I love to do when I go out, if I'm with friends or even with one other person, I always ask, what are you getting? Because I don't want to get the same thing, right? I always want to try, and I'm like, well, if you get that, I'll get something else because then I get to try more things. 

And if there's a group of us and that kind of is sort of what the Spanish like to do. Like if we think of the tapas, now tapas have become more kind of individual small plates, but before it used to be lots of more sharing things, right? You would have a couple of things and you share the dishes. And I still do that, as I said, with friends when I go out, because I like to try so many things and I can't order that many dishes because I just couldn't eat that much. So it's great to go in and order a few different dishes and just share. 

Even if there's only two people, you can at least get two different things or share if there's four of you like to share the pig and have that with a couple of other dishes. And it's a great way to have an evening full of delicious food.

Jim Santos 15:34 
I also noticed, looking over the website, that it doesn't seem like it's a very large place. Did you have any difficulty getting seating there?

Sally Pederson 15:43 
You can sometimes, if it's kind of high season, it can be because that is a bit of, we could say the problem, or the way it is with a lot of the older restaurants is that they are generally smaller in size. A few of them have been able to expand over the decades. And a lot of things, too, are a little bit misleading sometimes because a lot with the older buildings, the entrance and kind of front entryway where there'll be some tables, is quite small, but then behind that is a larger, bigger area. And I find that happens a lot with even new restaurants. And some of the older ones, that it's a small… you think they're actually quite small, but they'll be bigger in the back or they might have an upstairs or a downstairs to them for more seating.

Jim Santos 16:37 
I also see that their hours of operation and a couple of these other places, too, are basically one to four and then eight until 11, 11:30. Is Spain one of those countries that kind of shuts down between four and eight?

Sally Pederson 16:51 
Absolutely. Well, I wouldn't say four till eight, like most shops, banks and things like that. Now, if you're in the really touristy area in the city center, the shops and things will stay open because they're catering to the tourists. But for some of the banking, if you're outside the touristy areas, the shops will close, banks, and they're usually more of kind of a 2:00 till 4:30 maybe, that they close, and that's because they go for lunch. 

It's generally really hot in the afternoon, so a lot of local people aren't out shopping, they’re inside where the air condition is and they eat late there and I think it is because of the heat. So lunch generally starts at about 2:00 and they easy take an hour to two hours. Like an hour is a really short lunch. Two hours is quite common. Most places also have a menu of the day and it can change daily or weekly, but with that you get a starter, an entree, tea, coffee or dessert, and then plus a glass of wine, a beer, pop, bottled water. So you get the drink and then three courses if you want, or two courses plus coffee after.

Honestly. And they're not small. If I go for lunch and have that menu of the day at 2:00, I don't even think about eating until seven, eight, kind of nine. And I'm still not that hungry, so I have something small. But typically they'll have dinner around two and it could last for up to two hours. Sorry. Lunch and then dinner time. It's very common. People say, oh, let's go for dinner and meet at 10pm.

Jim Santos 18:37 
Right.

Sally Pederson 18:37 
And there's still part of me in my Canadian way that I think 10pm for dinner? No, that's way too late. But it's funny that when it's kind of a bit of a joke that, you know who is a tourist because they're in a restaurant eating before 8pm, right?

Jim Santos 18:54 
Yeah. That's something I've noticed in a few countries that a lot of times the big dinner service doesn't really get going until about 10pm.

Sally Pederson 19:00 
Yeah, they like a later dinner and then generally after dinner to go for a walk, probably to work off a little bit of that late dinner. And then if it's a weekend, they'll walk to a neighborhood pub corner, corner bar and maybe have a drink or two and then go home after that.

Jim Santos 19:24 
Now, the next thing on your list then was a bakery and pastry shop.

Sally Pederson 19:29 
I love bakeries, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Jim Santos 19:35 
This is the Antigua Pasteria, del Pozo.

Sally Pederson 19:41 
It has been around since 1830, so a very long time. The shop itself is very vintage, I guess is the best way to describe it with the tile floors and the old wooden, wooden shelves. So it's very basic, very simple, but it is good. A lot of people will go in and get things to go. There's not too much for seating areas. There will be some seating outside, but again, it gets really hot in the summertime, so you don't always want to sit outside. 

And if there's any type of special occasion coming up, like Christmas, Easter, any type of things like that. I've seen lineups for two streets, two blocks of people waiting to get bread and even just their fresh bread and bagels, or not bagels, sorry, croissants. They have many and they go quickly. It's so good. But the downfall about Spain, and not only Spain, is that there's pastries on almost every street, some of them much better than others, but they are everywhere. But, yeah, Antigua is a great place to go if you want even for a picnic. If you want to have a picnic in the park somewhere, you can go there, get some fresh croissants or pastries or macaroons or things that you want to bring.

Or if you're bringing them to a party at somebody's house, it's a great place to go and pick up. And, you know, it's always going to be good and everybody's going to love it.

Jim Santos 21:25 
I was interested to see they have empanadas on the menu as well.

Sally Pederson 21:29 
Yeah, empanadas are really becoming quite popular in Spain. Even in Barcelona, I'm seeing more and more just empanada shops setting up, where you go in, you order them and take them. Like, I like empanadas, but I could take them or leave them. So I don't understand why they are becoming so popular and there's so many places that are popping up and opening up for just empanadas.

Jim Santos 22:01 
Yeah, I suppose something to do with it being a convenient hand food or handheld food, probably.

Sally Pederson 22:07 
But it's interesting though, too. Sometimes when I'm busy, I'll get like I like a ham and cheese croissant, jamon y queso croissant and they are delicious. And if I'm busy, I will eat walking down the street, having it. But I've noticed people don't generally do that in Spain. It's not something that I see a lot of people eating and walking. It's great they can grab things quickly and bring them back, but they either bring them home, bring them to the park, bring them to the beach, but I'm a little bit of the odd one that will eat while walking, because sometimes when I have it, I'm like, I can't wait to eat this. It's going to be so good.

Jim Santos 22:50 
Yeah. So that your favorite was the Tarta de Santiago. What kind of pastry is that?

Sally Pederson 22:58 
So it is a tart and it's sweet and nutty at the same time. Sometimes you have to be careful because they can be quite crumbly, so they can be a little bit messy sometimes. I'm not always the neatest eater, especially with tarts and things, but it is a really nice tart that they make, but it's not always available. I've been there a few times and they sell out or they just don't have them available. 

And then I have to go with usually my second pick after that is the chorito, the Spanish chorito, and it's quite nice. It's another type of flaky pastry, usually kind of in a long looks like a straw is the best way to describe it is it’s a tube. And when you get that with hot chocolate and you dip it in with your hot chocolate, that's my next go to, because it can be really good, but not something to be eating every day.

Jim Santos 24:05.07 
Is that similar to a churro? Yeah, because I imagine there's quite a few churros available.

Sally Pederson 24:11 
There's quite a few churros available. Well, some bakeries have them, and then some will be just like a churro kind of store. That's all they'll do. Or they'll have a few other little things. They'll have, like, little stands, and you can get those. And I think I don't have them generally in the summertime because it's deep fried and it's kind of heavy. And then, especially if it's like a thick chocolate, it's quite filling. But definitely in the wintertime when it's cooler, even in Barcelona, it does still get fairly cool in the winter. So for me, that's definitely more of the wintertime treat to have late fall and winter treat. That's right. Yeah.

Jim Santos 24:56 
The third one on your list, then, is the Casa Labra. Looks like they specialize in cod dishes.

Sally Pederson 25:03 
They do. They have quite a few different cod dishes. And basically I love almost all food, but definitely seafood as well. And that one's more of your kind of tavern pub kind of style. But it was established in 1860, so, again, we're going way back. And the one thing about that, too, that people may find interesting, if you like Hemingway, he had visited that place, Casa Labra, and he's also wrote about it or mentioned it in his book The Sun Also Rises. So for those listeners who like to follow Hemingway or go to places that have been written about in different novels or books, then Casa Labra is definitely one to check out.

Jim Santos 25:57.33 
This is also a place where you can get plenty of tapas.

Sally Pederson 26:02 
Yeah. And lots of the ones that people traditionally do think about. The patatas bravas, croquettes, lots of those things. So it's a great place to go and sit with friends and share some tapas and have a couple of drinks and then kind of people watch. I like to sit outside and people watch. It's always a great thing that I like to do everywhere.

Jim Santos 26:27 
At the end of the article, you listed also three additional choices. I guess the runners up. Is there anything particular that stood out from those three choices?

Sally Pederson 26:37 
Well, with Mercado, that was founded in 1875, I believe it's really great. I like all the various mercados, not only in Madrid, but Barcelona and everywhere, because they're really good that you can go in and it's a market, and so they're a great place to shop if you want fresh stuff and it's more local stuff, like some of it is brought in. 

But for me, sometimes it's nice to get away from the big chains, whether it's the big chain grocery stores, the big chain restaurants, to have things that are more individually owned, local. And then I feel more that I'm helping the community and I'm buying kind of fresh stuff. Like, I can always go to the supermarket and get things that I need that maybe won't be at the market, but a lot of things that I can buy at the grocery store, I can get at the market. And so with the market, I'm really helping more of other local people in the community, in the city or the country as a whole, as opposed to, let's say, Auto Mercado, which is a very big chain grocery store. And it's in Spain, it could be in other countries, I'm not even sure.

But then that money is not really staying locally. And especially since the Pandemic, I think it is really important that we really try to help other people in our local communities. And even though I don't live in Madrid, I still think it's like a local community. It's helping people there, and it's still staying within the country of helping people more directly. So that's just how I feel about doing that. 

I mean, I still shop at the grocery stores. I still need to. I'm not saying that we shouldn't, but we can do some other things to help local businesses, not just big chains, whether it's grocery store or restaurant.

Jim Santos 28:31 
Yeah, I agree completely. When we were living in Ecuador, I always shopped at the local mercado first and then whatever I couldn't get there, that was what I went to the Supermaxi for.

Sally Pederson 28:41 
Yeah. It's a great way to do it. You're still you're helping out both. You're really giving back to the local community when we can shop at those local places and we're still getting everything we need at the grocery store or even at the restaurants. 

I've had some other restaurants, there's one that my friend brought me to. This one was in Barcelona, and I don't recall the name of it. And everything on like their menu was a piece of paper, handwritten and photocopied for the tables and it was all in Catalan and I don't know any Catalan. And so we went there and we just kind of looked at what other people were having. We figured out a couple of words, so we knew like core part of the dish and picked some things that way. 

And it was fantastic. And it was a very local Catalan restaurant, so it's nice to do that. And sometimes you get pleasantly surprised by the things that you order when you don't know. And I just think it's part of the adventure.

Jim Santos 29:41 
Yeah, I've frequently ordered things and had no idea what I was going to be getting. Part of the adventure.

Sally Pederson 29:47 
It's fun to do that. It really is fun to do that if you're not being a picky eater. And I will eat just and I'll try anything, and I'll eat just about anything. But you never know if you're truly going to like something until you try it. And also how one place makes one dish can vary to the way another makes another. Like the patatas bravas, for example, very popular all across Spain. But I've had them made so many different ways, some better than others, but you just never know from one place to another, you can still get the same item, but made differently, and enjoy it more at a different place.

Jim Santos 30:25 
How does the cuisine in Barcelona compare?

Sally Pederson 30:28 
You know, I find it to be very similar. Pretty much everything that you can get in Madrid, you can get in Barcelona or a version of it. There isn't the really old restaurants that have been open like Madrid. Barcelona doesn't have as many that way. They still have a few older ones. And definitely both places have a lot of new and up and coming different things. Really starting to see more vegetarian and vegan restaurants coming up, for sure in Barcelona. 

I haven't really checked them out too much in Madrid, but I'm sure they're probably becoming more and more popular as well. But I've noticed a big increase with those in Barcelona.

Jim Santos 31:19 
Are there other regional differences? You mentioned that there are some in different places, I'd imagine, for instance, on the western side of Spain, you may have more of a Portuguese influence.

Sally Pederson 31:33 
I think there is. I haven't traveled too much along the border between Portugal and Spain. I've been to Portugal and throughout Spain. More of the south and the east and the north, and the north is, again, lots of seafood, but also some of the more pork and some of the heavier meat type foods, because they do get quite cold in the wintertime and the fall. 

Where I find if we think of the south, Marbella, Malaga, definitely seafood, rice, tapas for sharing and more the lighter foods because they stay quite warm year round. You can still, of course, find pork dishes and beef dishes and things, but they're not as common because we're just not eating as the heavier foods when it's so hot outside.

Jim Santos 32:26 
Is there a particular signature dish that, you know, say, I'm passing through Spain, I'm only going to be there a day, or only have time for one meal? Is there a signature dish that you would say that you have to try while you're in Spain?

Sally Pederson 32:38 
I would say paella, and there's different versions of paella. So traditionally it's seafood. They do have some paella now that is vegetarian, so that is an option. And it is a rice dish, but traditionally it is made with a variety of seafood, and from my understanding, it originated in Valencia. And so everybody says if you want the best paella, you have to go to Valencia.

Jim Santos 33:07 
Right.

Sally Pederson 33:08 
So if you were passing through, definitely paella, and if you're in Valencia, that would be the best place to be, having paella.

Jim Santos 33:17 
Yeah, I'm a big paella fan. I think that would probably be my choice as well.

Sally Pederson 33:20 
And, I mean, it's good because it's very filling, but it's also not too heavy because it's the rice with the seafood. So the dish, if you've had it, when it comes out, most times they say you need at least two people, sometimes four people to order it because it's made in a massive pan, and there's no way one person's ever eating that much. And so again, it's a dish for sharing and eating together. And that's another great thing about know that's one thing I think Spanish cuisine is really about is the sharing and eating together.

Jim Santos 33:56 
We've been talking with Sally Pederson about her August 2023 article ‘Dine Like it's 1725: Madrid's Three Historic Culinary Gems.’ You'll find links to the places we talked about today in that article, and you can always find more information about Spain on the International Living website. 

Don't forget, you can also meet Sally and myself, both at the Ultimate Overseas Bootcamp in Denver, Colorado, this September 2 through the 4th. You can find out more about the conference and register at Intliving.com/Denver. That's Intliving.com/Denver. But you better act fast as time is running out. 

Sally, thanks again for giving us a taste of Madrid on Bigger, Better World.

Sally Pederson 34:36 
Thank you very much for having me.

Jim Santos 34:48
The Bigger, Better World podcast is a production of International Living. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media or leave a rating and review. If you have an idea for an episode or a question you'd like us to answer, email us at mailbag@internationalliving.com. And don't forget to put podcast in the subject line of your email. That's mailbag@internationalliving.com. 

We created Bigger, Better World to help showcase the ideas we explore at International Living each month and grow our community of travel lovers, expats and experts who believe, as we do, that the world is full of opportunity to create a more interesting, more international life. You don't have to be rich or famous to do that. You just need to know the secrets. And that's what we bring you at International Living. 

If you haven't become a member yet, you can do it today with a special discount offer for podcast listeners. You'll receive our monthly magazine, plus a bundle of special extras. You'll find the link in our show notes, or you can go to Intliving.com/podcast. That's Intliving.com/podcast. Next week, join us as we're off to a different hemisphere to explore temples, teak barons and mystical courts in exotic Thailand.

Until then, this is Jim Santos for International Living, reminding you there's a Bigger, Better World out there just waiting for you. 


To Barcelona…Via Canada and Costa Rica:
My Deal-Breakers, and How They Helped Me Settle on Barcelona
My Three Favorite Dining Experiences in Madrid
The Signature Dish: Roast Suckling Pig
Sharing Plates, Tapas, and Communal Dining
Bakeries And Pastries—Another Way to Enjoy Madrid’s Cuisine
Casa Labra—A Fish Restaurant Beloved by Ernest Hemingway
Market Shopping—The Best Produce, But You’re Also Giving Back to The Community
How Spanish Food Varies From Region To Region