As you are probably aware, I like walking food tours. I give them a shot in every place I visit. Spain is one of my favorite places in the world and a gourmet paradise, so I knew I had to conduct a walking food tour of Madrid when I was there.
I selected to walk with Devour Tours and couldn’t be happy with my decision. Devour Tours is widely regarded as the top cuisine tour business in Spain. In fact, they are so famous that you can take excursions with them not just in Madrid, but in many of Spain’s most popular cities.
One aspect of Devour that I like is their emphasis on collaborations with local or family companies. They will not take you to tourist traps. I love this since I adore finding off-the-beaten-path locations that aren’t featured in guidebooks. It’s like having a local buddy show you all of their favorite places.
We began the day by gathering at Plaza Mayor, a convenient and easily accessible location. This is fantastic since even those who are unfamiliar with the city should be able to find the vast plaza. It’s also a good site to start a food tour since it used to be a food market.
We promptly introduced ourselves before heading to our first destination, a pastry business that has been in existence since 1855. The original proprietor was the queen’s personal baker. When he begged to go out on his own, she not only agreed, but also put him up in business—that should tell you how excellent this place is!
We began with a traditional Spanish breakfast of coffee and something sweet, melting spiced chocolate with a small cracker for dipping.
I don’t have a sweet tooth, as I often say, but those on the trip who did went back for seconds on this one. The youngsters on the tour couldn’t have been happier with pure, melted chocolate and a flaky croissant to scoop it up with!
Joy, our tour guide, described the Spanish eating routine to us over breakfast. You have coffee for energy and something delicious to get you out the door to work swiftly. You have a second breakfast, something a little more substantial, between 11 and 11:30. Lunch, the day’s biggest meal, is served at 2 p.m. (at the earliest). About 7:00 p.m., you would have an aperitivo (appetite opener).
Cocktails and light nibbles are generally served. Lastly, the Spanish have a late supper, generally between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m., but never before 8:00 p.m. Since you eat so late, supper is generally tiny and consists of tapas. I’ve fallen in love with this nonstop eating throughout the day!
Another feature that distinguishes this first restaurant is that, rather than being handed down to family members, it is passed down from the owner to their favorite employee. What a terrific motivation to work hard: you may inherit the whole restaurant.
We headed out for our next destination, a local market, on a sugar and caffeine high. This market is not just the most attractive in Madrid; it also has all of Spain’s cuisines under one roof.
The market was closed in the late 1990s, however it was later renovated and reopened as a dining market rather than a fresh products buying market. It’s customary to start with a glass of beer or wine and work your way around the market.
Our guide served each of us a glass of vermouth to enjoy as she gathered a selection of the finest local snacks for us to sample. We discovered that vermouth is made from white wine that has been flavored with botanicals. You should apparently search for it on tap rather than in bottles. Vermouth should also be paired with anything salty or pickled, which is precisely what she brought back for us.
The first course was spiced almonds with rosemary, olive oil, and salt. These were really wonderful and would make an excellent beer nibble. As she had promised, the saltiness went well with the vermouth.
The olives came next. I’ve said previously that I don’t like olives, but I keep trying them since I once discovered olives that I didn’t despise. In reality, those olives were discovered on another walking food trip in Istanbul, so I try to have an open mind!
They weren’t half awful, either. Maybe I’m beginning to enjoy olives! We discovered that Spain produces 262 different varieties of olives, one of which is scented with fennel, garlic, oregano, and thyme. I returned for seconds and would certainly order them again.
To go with the vermouth, we chose a salty, fishy skewer from the market. This was not my favorite since it had olives that I disliked, but I did like the combination of fiery pepper and salty fish. If you like olives, this is the dish for you.
We were lucky enough to make an unplanned bonus stop at a monastery as we exited the market for a particular kind of dessert offered by cloistered nuns.
If you’ve never heard of cloistered nuns, they’re a sort of committed nun who is not only forbidden from leaving the walls of the church, but also forbidden from seeing anybody outside the church. Yet, these nuns are well-known for producing the greatest cookies in town.
So how could we possibly purchase cookies from nuns we are not even permitted to see?
They devised a smart solution to this problem, a lazy Susan sort of gadget. You yell out your order to the nuns over the wall, pay your money through, and they hand you your cookies.
Despite the fact that they only had one sort of cookie remaining for sale that day (because they are so popular that they sell out quickly), they were the guides favorite.
These were light, flaky, and not very sugary. The constant stream of individuals leaving the convent with boxes testified to their popularity.
Our next stop was for a beef tail stew with red wine, which was one of my favorite meals of the trip.
I’d previously enjoyed numerous varieties of cow tail stew, so I knew I’d like this- and I was correct.
I was amazed when I learnt why the exterior of this specific bar was painted red—it was a throwback to a time when people were illiterate. The paint job on the building gave patrons the impression that it was a wine shop. As I spent more time in the city, I saw how many other places had comparable paint treatments.
After that, we went to try something my friends had informed me about but that I had vehemently told them was utterly unnecessary- calamari sandwiches.
Calamari doesn’t need bread, I explained. It’s fantastic on its own. Why would you include bread?
I was gladly proved incorrect.
There were just three components in the sandwiches: nicely cooked calamari, fresh bread, and a splash of lemon. That was it- and it was flawless. These were delicious, and I can’t wait to have some more before we go.
Our second stop on our Madrid walking food tour took us to a restaurant that has been producing the same meal in the same spot for over 100 years.
The complete portion is a multi-course stew, but it was too much for our tour. Instead, we just had the first dish, which was a delicious soup with angel hair noodles.
This first entrée was so excellent that I returned many days later for the entire experience. They were correct in just feeding us the first helping on this tour—there was a lot of food!
We next went to a prominent store that deals only in jamon, or Spanish ham.
If you haven’t heard, ham is a huge thing in Spain. In reality, a restaurant chain named the Museum of Ham exists.
We tried numerous different varieties of ham here, including one that cost over 200 euros per kilo!
We learnt about the ham-making process, including how salt curing eliminates all moisture and enables the hog legs to cure for up to five years.
We also discovered that Jamon is always made from the same sort of meat: the rear leg of the pig, cured in salt, and air-dried. The kind of pig, what it was fed, and how long it was cured impact the difference in quality (and price).
Serrano ham, one of the most common types, is priced cheaper and aged between 12 and 24 months.
Pigs are given a standard diet and matured for 18-24 months to produce Iberico ham.
Iberico de Bellota is manufactured from acorn-fed pigs with black hooves. The pigs must go through a certification procedure to ensure they have enough space to wander, since they may consume up to eight kilograms of acorns every day. They must also be aged for at least three years, however the ones we tested that day had been matured for five years.
The Iberico de Bellota samples melted on our tongues, and the nuttiness was clearly discernible. I can understand why it’s so expensive; it’s a great delicacy!
Our next destination was Joy’s guarantee of the greatest tortilla patata, or Spanish omelet, in town—a lofty boast in Madrid, a city famed for its tortilla patata.
If you’re unfamiliar with tortilla patata, it’s a simple yet popular and tasty meal.
The recipe is essentially built of potatoes and eggs, and we discovered that the approach, rather than any particular ingredients, is what makes it so tasty.
This was one of the nicest I’ve ever had- both creamy and crusty. I appreciated the fact that we were given fresh bread to scrape it up with.
We also had a renowned local cheese, Manchego, and Spanish cider at the same stop. The cider complemented the very salty cheese well.
We also learnt how to pour cider correctly. Never pour cider for yourself; always pour for others.
We took turns pouring, and the hotel’s nice proprietors were polite enough to pretend not to notice the mess we made all over their floor.
We completed our visit on a sweet note, at a store providing luxury Spanish candy bars that has been in business since 1775.
What makes this store unique is how they are updating. Usually, they were a festive treat that was only offered during the holidays. But, the business is collaborating with local chefs to produce fresh versions on the traditional dish in order to keep it available all year.
They were very delicious, and anybody with a sweet taste adored them. Many folks even purchased boxes to take home with them.
The madroo-flavored digestive sipping shot offered with the candy was my favorite:
It was a little powerful, like most digestives, but the cranberry taste was delicious. I would absolutely order this again!
Practical Information: Go here to schedule this tour for yourself. I recommend making reservations well in advance, since Devour is one of the most popular tour companies in town.
Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Devour for inviting me to be a part of their tour. As usual, all views are mine.
Which aspect of Madrid’s walking food tour appealed to you the most? Is there anything you’d want to try but would never do? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!
When in Madrid, don’t miss out on the following activities that will let you immerse yourself in the city (get them while they’re hot!):
- Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour
- Full Day Tour Ávila and Segovia from Madrid with Tickets to Monuments Included
- Flamenco Show at Corral de la Morería in Madrid with Optional Dinner