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Cozy Chamberi Bar perfect for  winter nights

Last night we went for one of our recently adopted Spanish traditions; an evening paseo; around the neighborhood and decided to stop at my new favorite local bar, El Pajar De Manolita. Located in Chamberi close to the heart of Plaza Olivade, it is easy to miss when walking by as the intersection has bars on 2 of the remaining 3 corners. On the outside it has a textured facade and looks a bit like it’s partially below streetlevel. So when I first spotted this joint I looked inside and could tell right away, it was a cozy and maybe a good date night bar. Last night was our 2nd time entering successfully (we tried on a Thursday at about 1:15am and they were just closing up) and upon entering, if there’s a seat at the bar grab it. They have an additional table and some barstools under the stairs which we posted up at until some of the seats opened up at the bar. They also have a bigger space upstairs that was open last night and hosted a few Real Madrid fans as the Copa Del Rey tournament was on. 

Anyway what makes this bar great is the cozy, laid back and local atmosphere that can sometimes be difficult to find here in Madrid. Another thing that we love is the bar is run by a husband and wife duo Pilar & …. , Pilar seems to be more the cook and …. has been tending bar both times we’ve gone. The wine runs from 2.40-about 3 euro and they have small plates up to some options of heavier fare. We’ve only gotten the smaller plates so far; Hummus & Chicken Bites. The Hummus was just OK, but i was happy with the chicken bites as it’s something I normally can’t get in the typically Madrid bars. They have 3-4 types of croquettas, mushroom and shrimp caught my eye on the board. But last night we opted just to stick with the free tapas they provided. First and second round we got olives and some salami jamon on top of bread. On the 3rd round we could smell Pilar making some popcorn 

2 gla a; whie that . Blog

Getting to know: Spanish Tapas

Most countries have some sort of unique experience when it comes to their casual, no-frills cuisine; you have Italian Trattorias; that are simple but delicious, with no printed menus (just a chalk board), and cheap wine served by the carafe; there’s French Bistros; with intimate settings, serving up classic home-style slow cooked French foods like cassoulet (a tasty stew with white beans and meat); but after all my travels, it’s becoming clearer and clearer, the Spanish Tapas Bar stands out in the crowd. It’s not about the food, but food is always in front of you, it’s not about the drinks, which are always flowing (beer, wine and vermut being the standards), it’s about the ACT of doing Tapas.

I’ve heard many people say, you can’t do tapas outside of Spain, but what does that really mean?

For Spaniards and expats living there, Tapas is a verb, it means essentially to have a night out with your friends/family (in Spain people always seem to go out in groups of 6 or more!) and essentially bar-hop for the night. But WHY?? Well for one, when you order a drink at the bar; you’re usually served a free tapa from the bartender. In Madrid, this could be something as simple as some potato chips or a bowl of olives, to something a bit more elaborate like some pickled veggies with an anchovy or a plate of cured meat with cheese and bread. It all depends on the restaurant and the city you’re in. Granada, Spain is famous for their big and tasty free tapas in restaurants. When I traveled there I recall getting 4 solid chicken wings with an order of a single glass of wine; 2 glasses of wine netted a small but hearty pork stew with bread that was perfect for 2 people a few bites each; and each round of drinks brought on another round of different tapas, our last round was a toasted piece of bread topped with morcilla (aka blood sausage!). So when it comes to free tapas, it can be a bit of a guessing game, but if you find a place you like, make sure to make a note so you remember for your next tapas crawl.

But beyond the free tapa, you also will move from bar to bar throughout the night. This assures you get your exercise in 🙂 but also results a fun adventure with your group. One note on Spain, it has the MOST bars per capita than any other European Union Country. To put it in perspective, New York State has 24 bars for every 100,000 people. Madrid has a stunning 185 bars for every 100,000 people. Essentially you can throw a stone in any direction and it’ll land next to a bar. A normal tapas night can consist of anywhere between 3-8 different stops, if one place is too busy or just doesn’t have the vibe you’re looking for- it’s normal to just have a drink get your free tapa and move on to the next bar- it’s all apart of the adventure!

While it’s great to get a free plate of something with a drink order, chances are you’re going to hear your stomach saying “I NEED REAL FOOD”, and well, you’re in luck. Every one of the tapas bars serves an array of local and spanish style favorites in much larger portions. You can order a plate of iberico spanish ham cut right in front of you, coming from locally raised black Iberican Pigs who are free range and feed on acorns, chestnuts, grass and herbs; Or patatas bravas; fried cut potatoes with a white garlic sauce and a spicier red tomato sauce to fill your stomach. Another favorite is crispy fried pork belly aka Torreznos, and if your into seafood, Pulpo de Galicia aka Grilled Octopus with olive oil and paprika with make your eyes light up when you see it brought out, and if your a veggie lover, well sorry to say but your options are limited, but you can opt for a delicious plate of grilled mushrooms with an aioli, or a plate of sliced tomatoes and roasted peppers with local olive oil. 

So you’ve just gone out for your first official tapas night, you’ve ordered your drinks, bumped elbows with the locals, gotten your fill of tapas and had an great night out with your friends or family….what next? Well if your a Spaniard you have a coffee, head to bed, wake up, coffee again and head out to find an outdoor patio you can sit at and have a delicious Spanish lunch- then back to your home for a nice siesta. And even if you’re not Spanish, I’d recommend you follow the same path, don’t forget when it comes to bars per capita, Spain reigns supreme. Buen Provecho (or as the French say, Bon Appetite)


fAn evening in Rome- A trip to Italy is undoubtedly a popular choice when it comes to bucket list items; and with excellent reason. With seemingly a limitless selection of cities spread between North and South, from the Italian Alps, down to Mount Etna in Sicily, its history and beauty all over. So when I moved to Spain, I knew we were going to travel, and likely to the big cities but when it came to Italy, I just felt I needed to avoid Rome as a first impression. I never had a real reason other than the fact it was always busy and filled with tourists. And if I could help it, I wanted to avoid touristic areas as much as possible. And one day in December, searching google flights, I came across a deal too good to pass up. Madrid to Rome, direct, for 38 Euros (41USD). I booked it and didn’t look back. Fast forward to February and we are on our way, I’ve heard just weeks prior how insane Rome was when a friend had visited and just swarmed with tourists, but I felt pretty confident we we’re going to have a different experience. For one, we were’t traveling during any major holidays & the fact that it was Mid February. Upon arrival, we caught a 9Euro bus into the city and after a little hassle at the bus station looking for tickets at Termini Station, we made it to the hotel in just off-the-beaten path Traverste (highly recommend checking it out). 

Night 1) Grabbed Roman Pizza at a local shop, we ordered 2 pies per recommendation from the server, but I would easily been satisfied with just 1 as they were not small, & definitely not Neapolitan style. Overall a good pie, and quality ingredients, but left me a little disappointed. Although quality all around, I expected a bit more flavor to come through on the sauce. But a positive first experience nonetheless  


Getting to know: Spanish Tapas

Getting to know: Spanish Tapas

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