Proof of life

To quote Kidrock: 

 

‘Guess who’s back, motherf****r!’ 

It has been a loooooong time since my last post, and through the computer crashes and lost packages much has happened in the now winterwonderland that is Toledo, España.  

The snow covered Alcazar & Ciudad Antigua

Snow in Toledo

I guess its best to begin with the unanswered question of where we last left our hero: 

Obviously, I received a special care package from a special someone with some special knives, kitchen tools, and a kickass little laptop to play with and update my blog. Internet is still spotty in the Ciudad Antigua de Toledo, but more on that later…  

A big shout out and thanks for an intervention by 3 separate employees of the Embassy of the United States in Madrid and US Senator Dianne Feinstein (yeah, I wrote a letter)–all of whom contributed to over 2 hours worth of phone calls on my behalf to over 14 different post offices, agencies, and bureaucrats. Your tax dollars at work, folks. 

Finally, on a snowy day in December, I walked 45 minutes to the Madrid Barajas airport office cargo holding area of Correos, armed with my letter from ICEX calling me “Don Jeffrey Weiss, un cocinero importante de los Estados Unidos” and a rehearsed speech about how I am a representative of the United States of America and DEMAND my package.  

The guy looked at me and said: 4 euros, por favor.  

All this over… 4 euros. All the phone calls, all the time and energy, all the blood, sweat, and tears. 

Gracias, Correos. You STILL suck. 

Playing with a fresh-as-the-sea tuna loin

What has not sucked, however, has been my time and experiences cooking with Adolfo and his crew at the restaurant. I have been in the fish station for this entire time, and have had the opportunity to meet some phenomenal people, play with some incredible products (sea urchins, tuna loins, black truffles, white truffles, and other ridiculously fresh and expensive goodies), and cook some great food.   

   

  

Adolfo’s cooking is based on the cuisine of Castilla-La Mancha, the soul food of Spain with foundations in the garlic-and-onion-heavy peasant-cuisine of Don Quixote. 

The King of MercaMadrid looking over mariscos

Couple this foundation with: 

1. Using the freshest ingredients available (something made possible since Adolfo is the KING of MercaMadrid, the 2nd biggest wholesale market in world behind the Tsukiji market in Tokyo) 

and 

2. Preparing dishes simply with a minimum of fat and salt (no, I am NOT used to low-salt cooking–I SO oversalt my sauces… oops!). 

Adolfo broke out his gold medal

…and you can see why Adolfo Muñoz is one of the most popular faces in the alta cocina of this region (if not all of Spain).

The guy just got a gold medal from President Zapatero for his work here–the only other cooks with the same medal are Juan-Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria. Now THAT’S some serious company… 

Alas, life here has not been all oversalting Adolfo’s life work over a hot stove. 

Thanks in large-part to the generosity of the Muñoz family, I have experienced so much of the Spanish culture. Without the boring details, here’s a short list of the highlights: 

– Christmas in Spain with my sister, meaning more mariscos (shellfish for my gringos out there) and food than any reasonable person would want to consume. But we did… 

– Spanish new years, complete with the throat-seizing tradition of cramming 12 grapes down your throat–1 for each bell-strike at midnight 

–  Visits to MercaMadrid to watch Adolfo negotiate, cajole, and otherwise convince fish vendors why they should sell him the best products for the lowest prices. He even convinced the tuna guy to give him, for free, a bunch of fresh ijada— fatty tuna collar. And it was scary good… 

And coming soon: 

– We are cooking for President Zapatero and 300 of his closest friends. As in the President of Spain. Guess I might need to behave… they took my ID info yesterday!  

– Thanks to my connection with Adolfo, Javier, and a couple of anonymous friends in ICEX (you know who you are, “Most Interesting Person in the World!”), I will be going to Extremadura for 2 weeks to meet and eat the famous Iberico piggies! 

Check out the Rocamador, a converted monastery/super fancy hotel/Iberico pig farm: www.rocamador.com 

And, no, I didn’t forget: I totally owe you guys some food porn. Next post will be it, provided Flickr and YouTube cooperate…

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2 Responses to “Proof of life”

  1. Hi Jeffrey–met you at Madrid Fusion. Yeah, Correos sucks. Lots about TRADITIONAL food (including recipe from Adolfo) in my book, COOKING FROM THE HEART OF SPAIN–FOOD OF LA MANCHA. Another of my books is COOKING IN SPAIN, but you got to the blog first. I will follow your posts. Good luck.

  2. Que tal my friends?! I’m glad you had a good time!
    Buen provecho,

    Daniel

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