Tag Archives: Market

“Death By Prosciutto” – Madrid, Spain

Iberico Ham from Spain

Before my trip to Spain, mention of the word ham conjured up strong images of Christmas dinner—a honey-glazed, suckling pig in the center of a large table, surrounded by side dishes piled high with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and rye bread. However. I must admit that this traditional Christmas feast never tickled my fancy because I don’t like the actual taste (or texture) of cooked ham. And judging by the number of condiments that people use in combination with their boiled and broiled pig, I don’t think that I am the only person sharing in this sentiment. I mean you rarely see someone just nibbling on a piece of ham…unless of course, it’s slathered in mayo between two slices of Wonderbread, or served next to a heap of cheesy scrambled eggs, or covered in gobs of mustard. But in Spain, ham is like a second religion (soccer being the first), and it is delicious because it is NOT cooked. Instead, it undergoes a delicate process of curing and drying, which can take up to 48 months! After the ham has aged to perfection, it is dubbed “Jamon Iberico,” which is then sliced down into thin cuts of meat that sell at a very lofty price point. I once heard a comedian say, “I wouldn’t mind being treated like a piece of meat, as long as it was Serrano ham…because that means you think I’m fancy and thin!” I would have to agree with this statement after spending time in Spain.

Serrano ham is truly incredible—an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Unfortunately, it is also an explosion of sodium. Your fingers and feet will attest to that after just 2 short days in Catalan country. You will struggle to take off your rings and your ankles will transform into cankles as they rapidly loose bone definition from all of the salt-swelling. However, you will accept these side effects as minor troubles, and continue to eat Serrano ham, as you begin to realize that it is one of the best foods available in Spain. And unlike ham in the US, it doesn’t require a slew of condiments to taste good. It is perfection when eaten alone, but also delicious when paired with melon, Manchego cheese (a real sodium-assault), or sliced baguette for a simple sandwich. It is an ingredient so delicious, that you honestly can’t ruin it if you try, which brings me to my next point: do yourself a favor, and order simple in Spain. They have a lot of high quality produce and ingredients available, but they struggle developing the right flavors in complex dishes at many restaurants. After several disappointing meals, I learned that the best foods in Spain are the simplest; i.e. Serrano ham platters, chorizo, stuffed olives, and patatas bravas (potatoes with hot sauce). Therefore, a good place to grab lunch is in a food market (this is NOT to be confused with a supermarket). The food markets are very gourmet and have a variety of different vendors, each with a specific and unique culinary offering. You can create yourself a fantasy meal as you go from station to station, and select the items that call out to your belly…a true tapas experience. My favorite food market in Spain was located in Madrid, and it is called the Mercado de San Miguel (situated right outside the Plaza Mayor—http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/).  This covered market is over 100 years old and boasts 33 different food shops; selling anything from fruit to meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Mercado de San Miguel

Me, standing in front of the Mercado….itching to get inside

I got the best Iberico ham that I have ever tasted there, in addition to olives stuffed with mussels, croquettes, a mini tuna bocadilla (sandwich), and an assortment of Spanish cheeses with sliced baguette.

Is it a fruit display or is it art?…ask for assistance getting those cherries!

Our Jamon Iberico getting sliced to order….talk about fresh

Our Jamon y Queso Platter

Assorted Croquettes Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Chorizo

Manchego Cheese, Sliced Baguette, and Spanish Olives Stuffed with Mussels and Chilies

Tunafish Bocadillo with Manchego Cheese

Prices at the market were very reasonable, and I enjoyed eating my lunch at a window-counter where I was able to people watch passerbys outside. Just try not to make eye contact with the bands of roaming gypsys that are begging outside the market. It is like feeding the birds at the beach…you give a crumb to one seagull and soon the whole flock is swarming.

If you manage to resist the mouth-watering desserts offered in the Mercado (a serious testament to your self-control), you can walk across the street to CH&CH Chocolate & Churros (Calle Mayor, 54 in Barrio Palacio) for a sweet bite.

CH&CH Menu

CH&CH serves up fabulous cappuccinos and Spanish fried pastries (known as churros). Personally, I prefer Mexican/Cuban churros, which are topped with cinnamon and sugar (too much time in Miami), but this place served up some delicious fried-to-order churros that came with an incredible thick and rich chocolate dipping sauce. Ohh and just a heads up, the dipping sauce comes in a mug so you might mistake it as hot drinking chocolate, but don’t drink it unless you want the belly-ache of all belly-aches (I speak from experience). You will also be all sorts of hyped up, like the episode of Friends where Ross drinks all of the maple syrup.

Frothy Cappuccino

Freshly Made Churros with Chocolate DIpping Sauce

Leave a comment

Filed under Baking, Coffee Shop, International Restaurants, Markets

Gardner’s Market *****

Gardner's Market Bird Road

3117 Bird Avenue, Miami 33133
Also Locations at: Pinecrest & Coral Gables



This morning I woke up and said goodbye to the heat and humidity of Miami as I headed to the airport to catch my flight to my hometown, Philadelphia. I rushed my boyfriend out of bed and out of the house not even letting him shower, reminding him that my having time for one last meal in Miami was imperative…a “last supper” of sorts! I knew exactly what I wanted too, a Tuscan Sandwich from Gardner’s Market.

As far as prepared foods go, Gardner’s is the simply best. No joke, I’m there about four or five days a week.Gardners is a small market with a decent selection of groceries and produce, but their specialty is really prepared foods, which range from soups and sandwiches to turkey piccatta and twice-baked potatoes (not to mention their ridiculous salad bar). Everyday there is a selection of four homemade soups and some of my favorites are the Wild Mushroom Bisque (orgasmic…but rich), the Turkey Chili (a staple meal in my boyfriend’s diet), and the Butternut Squash BisqueAll of the soups are amazing though and you can sample any (or all) of them on your own before deciding which one to get!

Gardner’s Market also makes the best sandwiches. They use the best gourmet ingredients to make their sandwiches and have about 20 different combinations to choose from, or you can always create your own! My personal favorite is the Tuscan Sandwich, which has sliced chicken breast (not lunch meat, but actual grilled chicken breast!), spring mix, goat cheese, tomato, and pesto served on Ciabatta bread. Another great one is theNapa, which has grilled vegetables (cold), tomatoes, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. It is served on whole wheat French bread, but I find that the soft bread becomes soggy with the vinaigrette so I always get Ciatbatta instead and add pesto (yummm!). Gardners also makes a few hot sandwiches such as The Jeremy,which is roast beef, cheddar cheese, and spicy aioli all melted on Ciabatta bread. Now if you find yourself torn between ordering a sandwich or a soup as I often do, Gardners offers a solution. You can get a ½ sandwich (any sandwich…even modified if you want) and a small soup for just $4.99!!!! And this special runs all day, not just during lunch. However, it is NOT advertised anywhere in the store (probably because it’s not profitable…at that price it can’t be) so you just have to ask for half a sandwich at the sandwich bar, and they will gladly make you the special. That’s the other thing about Gardners, the people who work there are super friendly and will do just about anything to get your order right. The way that they make their sandwiches is so meticulous that it is almost an art form. They cut up all the vegetables tiny, and space out all of the ingredients evenly so that every bite taste the same. It’s perfection!

On days that you want a lighter option, Gardner’s Market has one of the most incredible salad bars that I have ever seen. They have every topping imaginable, along with a great selection of gourmet pasta salads and homemade dressings (no “Wish-Bone” salad dressing packets here!). Everything is kept clean, stocked, and cold at the salad bar, so you don’t have to worry about the chicken or feta cheese that you’re putting on your salad being spoiled.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Gourmet Burgers, which my boyfriend and I just discovered about a month ago. They are available at the sandwich counter upon request every day and they are delicious! They start with a ½ pound freshly cooked beef patty and then all the condiments of your choice come free, including bacon and/or cheddar cheese. It is served on a fresh Kaiser roll and costs just $6.99!

Basically, you can’t go wrong at Gardener’s Market so try any and everything and I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Filed under Markets