Go Madrid! Now turn right!

Madrid although a very walkable city has a ton museums, monuments, churches, palaces, stadiums, and plazas to see.  The problem is how do you go about conquering them all in just a few days.  Most would jump on the “now found in every major city, double-decker red bus tour”.  Where you can get on and off as you please and a headset tells you about the sites you are passing by in over 10 different languages.

However I have never been a fan of traditional sightseeing.  The more random the adventure the better.  So as you can imagine when I stumble upon something called a “GoCar” tour my imagination and fascination get the better of me.

What is a GoCar?

A GoCar is a hideously “pay attention to me” yellow, two-person trike.  It has no gas pedals or steering wheel, but rather drives like a motorcycle minus the gears.  It runs a tour off a programmed GPS route.  As you drive by the GoCar tells you the history of the sights you are passing, while giving you directions on where to go.

GoCar!

The Tour

As we pull out of the GoCar garage amped up and ready to take on Madrid from a tiny convertible, a foot off the ground — a young British woman begins to scream at us.  Not an innocent bystander or a passenger from a fellow car, but rather our GoCar herself.  She is shouting directions and “interesting” facts as we venture out onto the road carefully following each step with precaution. In the beginning there is little to no time to actually see anything we pass as we are overcome with laughter at the ridiculous car we are driving, our helmets, and matching boots.

A Serious GoCar Driver at Work

Matching Riding Boots

Rocking the Helmets

We meander down major streets, roundabouts and tiny cobblestone throughfares followed by constant onlookers — laughing, shouting, and snapping photos.  We turn from tourists lost in a crowd to GoCar spokeswomen and the laughing-stock of Madrid.  As we drive down the “snobby” street of Madrid, or so the GoCar screams as we are stopped at a light with 20 plus people trying to cross. Warding off the stares, the light turns green and we drive straight — out of nowhere a Volkswagon turns without acknowledging our minor existence on the road and crash right into the left corner of our GoCar!!

As we sit in the GoCar completely shocked, both cars butting noses.  A woman in the VW begins screaming at us in Spanish out the window.  As we can’t back up because the car has no reverse, I scream to my co-pilot to get out and push!  Alarmed yet?  No worries, this story has a happy ending, we didn’t get pinged with some crazy GoCar fee or have to get the local policia involved, but it did give us an adventure we will never forget.  (The accident was really minor and not our fault.  No damage was done!)

It’s defiantly not a conventional way to see a city, nor is it accident proof, but we had a hell of a time and a great story to add to the books.  Just remember if your decide to take your own GoCar tour — it’s at your own risk!

GoCar Cities

  • San Francisco
  • San Diego
  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Lisbon

Cost in Madrid

  • 1st Hour       35 Euros
  • 2nd Hour    +25 Euros
  • 3rd Hour     +20 Euros
  • All Day         99 Euros
Advertisements

Madrid. Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.

Palace de Cristal

The past, the present and the future are notions, measures of time that we are taught to live from, in, and for.  However does anyone ever prepare you for the moment when you encounter a place, a culture or a lifestyle that stands one foot in the past and one foot in the present with the future not yet determined?

Calle de Santiago

Segovia

Madrid and its countryside have caused me to re-think what I once considered to be two measures of time.  Castles from the 1600s, aqueducts built by the Romans, traditions that run through the blood of each generation, a common reluctance if not inability to speak outside their native tongue.  The people and the places within Madrid and its nearby suburbs live and tell the story of Spain in the past.

However, the Madrid I experienced today is what simply seems to be an adaptation of the past.  Of course Madrid has its fair share of modern cuisine, technology, transportation, architecture, etc.  Yet, the surroundings and the way of life are based on a simple balance of how it has always been done and minor changes that have been accepted — in time.

Modern Madrid

Segovia Aqcueduct

It’s the contrast of the city that I found most appealing.  The Plaza Mayor with its traditional Spanish architecture, cafes, and coin shops which sits adjacent to the newly restored and updated Mercado San Miguel.  An old covered market that has recently been restored only to become a center for high quality local food products, tapas, and drink.  A Roman aqueduct stands since the 1st century, yet the street leading up to it is full of sunglasses, lingerie, and mobile telephone stores.

The contrast can be mesmerizing at every turn, yet the most enduring quality of Madrid is the attitude to everyday life.  The difference between Americans and Spaniards is that Americans spend their entire life trying to figure it out — where as Spaniards simply live it.

The average workday is long yet nobody complains, 8am – 8pm with a 1.5 – 2 hour “Lunch” break around 2 o’clock (biggest meal of the day) .  Dinner begins around 10pm and consists mainly of small plates or tapas.  They never stay in one place for too long, they live for family, friends, food, and drink.  They are passionate, loud, and energetic.  They make this city and this country easy to fall in love with.

Museo del Jamon

Tapas with Friends

My hope is that Spain stands its ground — one foot based in the past with their history, tradition, and lifestyle… yet continues to adapt to the world around it, taking only those aspects of the present and the future that will encourage the country and it’s people to grow stronger than that of which they already are.

An Itch That Won’t Quit

Wanderlust.  The concept is a breeze to grasp but the mystery is why? Why do the images and thoughts of wander encourage great feelings of unrest and desire that just won’t quit?

A few videos that make my itch to travel and experience worlds other than my own stronger with each image.

Wanderlust by ThinkLab

A short that embodies what Wanderlust is all about, evoking the feelings of traveling instead of the places you will go.

50 People, 1 Question – New York by 50 People, 1 Question

An incredible video that points to the facts that we spend a great deal of time being indecisive and unknowing.  Why not start the day with a wish?

Morocco & Spain by Mike Matas

Mike and his girlfriend travelled 1000 miles, in two weeks, took 4000 pictures and combined them into a journey to share.  Matt’s genius is taking these still photos and placing them in a way that brings them life.

Taiwan Trip by D1 Production

A montage that will make you feel the need to run off to explore the city of Taiwan. Beautifully done.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have memories captured like this?

Camping Gourmet: Simple Breakfast & Dinner

Two extremely easy recipes that will create massive jealously from your camping neighbors!

Steak Filet with Blue Cheese & Carmelized Onions

Steak Filets with Blue Cheese & Carmelized Onions

Ingredients Needed:

  • 2 Steak Filets, frozen to stay cold
  • 2 oz Blue Cheese
  • Carmelized Onions
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Prep:

  • Carmelize onions before leaving for camping trip.  Simply re-heat & serve.

Carmelized Onions

  • 2 tbsp of olive
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/2 inch rings
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil/butter.  Once the butter has melted and is hot, add as many onions to the pan as will fit in a ½” layer in the pan. Sprinkle the salt over the onions.  Cook the onions over medium low heat.  Stir the onions every couple of minutes, and adjust the heat so you here just the merest sizzle.  Cook for 15 minutes then add sugar, continue cooking on medium-low to low heat for another 15 – 20 minutes, stirring frequently or until the onions are soft and anywhere from honey-colored to deep brown.  Let onions cool and place in a zip-lock bag.

Once on campsite to prepare dinner, simply heat your carmelized onions in a pot over high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Place steaks on a grill or grate, top with Blue Cheese about one minute before desired doneness.  Plate and top with carmelized onions.

Cream Cheese Bagels & Lox

Cream Cheese Bagels & Lox

Get this — no clean up, no fire needed and a delicious/extravagant morning meal for the campsite.
Ingredients Needed:
  • (2) bagels, pre-sliced before you leave
  • 4 oz package of pre-sliced lox
  • (2) 2 oz packages of cream cheese, you can often find these by the bakery section in the grocery store
  • 1 small jar of capers
  • 1/4  red onion, pre-sliced and placed in a ziplock bag before you leave
To Serve:
Simply smear your bagels with cream cheese, top with red onion, capers, and lox!

Camping Gourmet: Beer Braised Brats & German Potato Salad

Camping Gourmet

For some reason when camping I cannot bear the traditional and typically expected dining experience of fire roasted hot dogs and canned beans.  I instead feel the need to go above and beyond in planning and preparing simple yet gourmet meals to enjoy around the campfire.  This camping trip I was inspired by Aimee & Mai-Yan’s blog Dirty Gourmet, where they provide a number of gourmet recipes that can be easily accomplished while camping! Thank you ladies for sharing your recipes!

I have discovered the key to camping gourmet is to prepare and chop everything you can before heading out on your adventure.  Chop all your needed vegetables, cook anything you can ahead of time, and baggy the items up so once your out in the wilderness all that needs to be done is the cooking and combining of ingredients.

Night 1: Beer Braised Brats/Peppers & Onions & German Potato Salad

Beer-Braised Brats with Onions & Peppers & German Potato Salad

Ingredients Needed for Brats:

  • 2 Brats, freeze them so they stay cold
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 can/bottle of beer
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 rolls
  • mustard
Prep
  • Julianne peppers & onions, place in small ziplock
  • Complete Potato Salad, package for travel
  • Put olive oil in a small sealable bottle
Ingredients Needed for German Potato Salad:
  • 1/2 pound potatoes
  • 1/4 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 slices of bacon, cooked and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp cidar vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Place potatoes in a large pot with the onion and cover with cold water. Boil until tender. Drain, discard the onion, and cut the potatoes into cubes when cool enough to handle. Place the potatoes in bowl.  In a large saute pan add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onions to the rendered bacon fat and cook until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully add the vinegar and mustard seeds and cook for 2 more minutes. Whisk in the canola oil and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add the hot dressing to the potatoes and toss gently to coat. Fold in the green onions and parsley. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

campfire cooking - beer & brats

Equipment Needed While Camping:
  • Pot
  • Tongs
Heat the olive oil in your pot and cook onions until softened.  Add peppers & brats to the pot and add the beer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with a lid.  Let the brats come to boil for 20 minutes.  Throw the sausages on the grill to add the crunch for about 10 minutes over high heat.  Let the onions, peppers, and beer cook down in the meantime.  Heat your buns on the grill and then add brats and pepper/onion mixture.  Serve with mustard.

In The Kitchen: New-School Asian Ribs

New-School Asian Ribs

Who doesn’t drool over a meal of finger licking ribs?  Pork, beef, bone-in, bone-less. No matter the technique in which their prepared– slow cooked, grilled, baked.  You simply can’t get enough!  Ribs are a cross-culture favorite.  Today I share with you a recipe found in none other than Men’s Health Magazine.  The article featured Andrew Carmelli, executive chef of Locanda Verde (in New York City), and his attempt to, “replicate the deep rich flavor of great barbecue — indoors.”

Our small Santa Monica apartment boasts no room for a grill master’s fantasy.  Traditional backyard BBQ is something we rarely get to play out.  My ambitious boyfriend decided to take this recipe on and the result was something I simply had to share with you all.  This twist on traditional ribs features an Asian style BBQ sauce the creates the smokey flavor — typically only emitted on the grill.  The final result produces meat that simply falls off on your first bite.

A thank you to the man in my life.

New-School Asian Ribs

Makes 3 to 4 servings as an appetizer

What you Need:

RIBS

  • 2 tbsp Chines five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 full rack ribs (of your choice)

SAUCE

  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp black-bean sauce

TO DRESS

  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

What to do:

In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients together to make a rub.  Cut a piece of foil a little longer than the rib rack.  Place the foil on a baking tray and lay ribs on top.  Sprinkle both sides of the meat with the rub, massaging it in.  Refrigerate the ribs, uncovered for 2 hours so the rub infuses the meat.

Preheat the oven to 250 F.  Fold the foil around the ribs so all the meat is covered, but leave a small vent on top.  Place the tray in the oven and bake for 3 hours.  Then reduce the head to 225 F and bake until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours more.  Meanwhile, whisk the sauce ingredients with 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl.

When the ribs are done, unwrap them and place the rack directly on the baking sheet.  Pour any juices into the bowl with the rib sauce and stir them in.  Brush both sides of the ribs generously with the sauce.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 F, return the ribs to the oven and bake them until the sauce caramelizes slightly, 5 to 10 minutes.  Brush the ribs with more sauce, sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds, and serve with the remaining sauce for dipping.

In The Kitchen: Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Spice Station, a local Los Angeles spice shop is bringing the hipster vibe to the spice scene.  With locations on Main Street in Santa Monica and Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake, this new cooking enthusiasts dream is drawing in the crowds.

An expertly blended medley of tikka masala from Spice Station made it nearly impossible to mess this dish up.

 

Spice Station - Silver Lake

Spice Station - Santa Monica

Chicken Tikka Masala

Prep Time:   1 1/2 hrs

Total Time:  2 hrs

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, cut in 1 inch cubes
Chicken Marinade
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 piece minced ginger (1-inchinch” long)
Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • Tikka Masala spice blend (2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon garam masala)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Combine marinade in a plastic bag with rinsed and cleaned chicken cut into 1 inch cubes.  Place chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

While the chicken is  settling in the marinade, begin the sauce by melting butter on medium heat.  Add garlic & jalapeno; cook 1 minute. Stir in Tikka Masala spices or coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala & salt. Stir in tomato sauce. Simmer for at least 15 minutes.  Stir in cream; simmer to thicken about 5 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, grill, broil or saute chicken, turning occasionally, to cook through about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from skewers; add to sauce. Simmer 5 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro Serve with basmati rice, naan or pita bread.