Tuesday morning, up and at 'em and on to Casa Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world. It's ecstatically scenic, on a small cobblestone street a block off the Plaza Mayor, the site of most of the heretical trials and subsequent burnings during the Spanish Inquisition. Botin's well used and justifiably famous wood-burning oven pumps out forty baby pigs and a dozen or so lambs each day, and has done so without interruption since 1730. There are several small dining rooms in an ancient building with tilted stairs and window casements, servers that seem pulled straight out of central casting, and happy customers slurping down big bowls of squid braised in its own ink, stewed partridge . . .the classics. I spent my day in the granite-floored kitchens, piling logs into the stove, cooking with the all-male Botin staff (none are younger than sixty) and scarfing down as much pig as I could handle. Apparently, they were quite happy with the gusto with which I pried open the skull of the pig and made quick work of the ears, snout, cheeks, and brain, saving the tongue for last. Aggressive eaters like myself are thought of quite fondly in Spain.
The 300-year-old pig oven at Botin.
Then on to La Bola, a 170-year-old tavern on a quiet little street. Madrid used to be a town of taverns; there were 800 of them a hundred years ago, now they number under 100. Sad, really. La Bola is a stunning tavern with some gorgeous and colorful woodwork, and an all-female kitchen with the median age I would have to peg at about seventy. Everyone heads there for one reason only: the cocido Madrilleno, a clay pot/pitcher filled with meats, poultry, and sausages, vegetables, and chickpeas, topped off with broth. The pitcher sits upright, percolating really, on a wood-burning stove, simmering for hours, then the pitcher comes to your table, the broth is poured from the pitcher into a bowl filled with noodles to make a lovely soup, and then the boiled dinner is tumbled out onto a plate for the second course, served with sea salt, pickled hot peppers, and a purée of smoked and fresh peppers. They serve hundreds of these a day. On to the callos, a tripe stew that is cooked with chunks of blood sausage (morcilla) and other smoked meats. Quite good.
Paco and I at the Taberna Antonio Sanchez with one of his bulls.