This is a guest post by Isaac Hudson Jr.
If Mercado de San Miguel is the Beverly Hills of Madrid´s Mercados, then Mercado Vallehermoso is the Portland. It’s a lovely mix of the traditional and the contemporary. While Vallehermoso does offer great fruterias, jamonerias and what many locals call the best fish market in Madrid, Pescaderia Hermanos Abad, what I really appreciate are the things that you can hardly find anywhere else. I have looked high and low in Madrid for guanciale, a pig cheek bacon which is essential if you want to make an authentic carbonara, or my favorite pasta dish called amatriciana, made by cooking the guanciale with tomatoes and white wine.
One of the few places that sells it is Di Buono in Vallehermoso. The charming twosome that run this shop specialize in importing Italian delicacies from their picturesque hometown of Ariccia, just to the southeast of Rome. Some of my favorites are the burrata, mozzarella, salamino stagionato (a hard cured sausage) and the porchetta, which is to die for. If that’s not the perfect start to an amazing antipasto platter then I don´t know what is.
Throw in a couple of bottles of their imported Italian beers or wines, which you can also enjoy by the glass there, and you’ve got yourself a party!
WHAT TO VISIT IN MERCADO VALLEHERMOSO?
It´s a bold statement, but I feel completely confident in proclaiming that the best bread in Madrid can be found in this mercado at El Horno de Babette. These people are churning out high quality, organic bread in the true European tradition. They begin each loaf with a sourdough starter and stoneground wheat! Their bread has good weight, the perfect texture and a crust you can´t wait to bite into.
The logo of Bodega Cerrón says it all, “A new generation of old world wines”. They offer several award winning wines that have been rated at 91+ points and the most expensive is only €15! The wines are all organic and hail from the Jumilla D.O in the region of Murcia. Their organic cheese selection is the perfect accompaniment to the wines. The aged goat cheese covered in rosemary is a favorite in my house.
If you’re in a pickle looking for hard to find spices or looking for pickling spices to make pickles, the spice shop Cannelle has you covered. They have everything from allspice to five-spice and everything in between. Coming from Detroit, a city with a heavy Arab influence, I was thrilled to find za´atar there. Za´atar is a blend of spices, the most dominant being toasted thyme and tart sumac, and is delightful sprinkled on warm pita with a drizzle of olive oil or with some tangy labneh, an Arabic cheese made from strained yogurt.
The proprietor, a very pleasant and helpful women, also sells the king of all Spanish spices, pimentón de la Vera, known in English as paprika. This last ingredient is essential if you want to try your hand at one of my favourite tapas, the surprisingly simple to make patatas bravas. If you’re as addicted to patatas bravas as I am don´t worry; she sells the pimentón in bulk and super fresh! Pro tip: authentic patatas bravas get their color and heat from pimentón; they don’t have ketchup or tomatoes in the sauce!
A fresh new addition to the market is La Ensaladeria. After spending 6 years in good ol´ England, Carla, the bubbly young proprietor decided to bring a world of salads beyond ensalada mixta to her countrymen. She offers the most amazing grain based salads around and there’s not a piece of lettuce in sight. She’s sure to include options that are gluten free and vegan as well. She sells her salads in cute eco friendly to-go containers that would add a nice flair to any picnic.
I celebrated Cinco de Mayo in the market with tacos and margaritas from Güey, a kickass Mexican joint. This place is the real deal and if your adventurous you can chow down on tacos made with criadillas (bull testicles), cow´s tongue, or grasshoppers. Or you can chicken out like me and enjoy the safer yet tasty options of tacos of mole, spinach, or some of the best guacamole ever and it’s made to order.
The tamale of tinga de pollo was so good that it converted me into a lover of tamales and I’ve never been a fan. I washed down all those tacos with the interesting concoction of an avocado margarita. It was rich and creamy and strong with all of the traditional flavors of a margarita; I recommend it!
More than just the amazing vendors and products at Vallehermoso, I’m drawn to the sense of family you experience while there. Everyone works together to help one another succeed. From sharing credit card machines to helping each other attend to clients in English, there’s a real communal attitude there. Mercado Vallehermoso is a community market with a true spirit of community!