My Madrid, for you…

To be honest, Madrid isn’t a city that mesmerized me at first, wasn’t love at first sight, but it’s appeal has grown a lot since then.  All my trips were nice, of course, but I didn’t find it charming as others. Nonetheless, in my last couple of visits  I found the vibrant and energetic city that people are so fond of. I discovered the kindness of spaniards, the food, and of course the night life.

With all that said, I want to leave in writing -sort of my official apologies – a few suggestions of places to visit, hoping you might find them interesting and enjoyable as I did.

 

  1. Matadero Madrid: In Aranzuela,  what used to be a slaughter house is now a center for contemporary art, with theaters, cinemas, coffee shops and farm-to-table restaurants.
  2. Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales:  Cloistered nuns still live and walk around barefoot here. Other than being a oasis of peace in the middle of Madrid, it’s a place to see beautiful art by Titian, Hans de Beken and others.
  3. Argensola Street: Located in the Salamanca Neighbourhood, it’s the place to go shopping for local products and independent designer stores.
  4. El Ganso: Also at the Salamanca Neighborhood ( Serrano 47) it’s my favorite store in that area particularly to shop for clothes and shoes.
  5. Federica and Co: It’s a tiny open mall hidden at Hermosilla 26. There you will find a great selection of antique china, furniture and delicate knits.
  6. Barrio de las Letras: The neighborhood where Cervantes and Lope de Vega lived, in it’s narrow streets you will find today art galleries and vintage shops.
  7. El Corte Ingles: The most famous department store in Spain and probably a mandatory stop for everyone. My recommendation is to go to the one located in Plaza del Callao, the fourth floor is a foodies heaven, besides the perfect place to buy edible presents and souveniers.
  8. La Portegna: For travelers and wanderlusts like me, this is a beautiful store that specializes in luggage and briefcases all handmade in Andalucia.

 

Food and drinks are highly appreciated in Madrid’s culture.  It’s been hard to make a list of the good restaurants because all of them are excelent. So instead here is a list of the more memorable ones for me:

 

  1. Ten con Ten: My favorite in Madrid and perhaps in the world. Everything on the menu is extraordinary.  My recommendations are the Broiled Octopus (Pulpo Pedreiro), the Potatoes with shrimps and the Risotto with Truffles. The ambiance reflects the essence of Madrid’s nightlife, the bar, the drinks and the DJ are the perfect combination for a great night out. restaurantetenconten.com

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  1. Paraguas: The perfect place to enjoy a long meal, with great wine. The specialty is seafood but there are delicious dishes for meat lovers too, like the burger with foie. My choice is the Black Cod with Broiled Apple’s Sauce. elparaguas.com

 

  1. Arzabal: Is the place where chefs eat when they want authentic spanish food perfectly prepared. Best bets are the Ham Croquettes and the Truffled Eggs.  arzabal.com

 

 

  1. Arriba:  Chef Ramon Freixa’s new restaurant. It occupies and old  cinema that has been redecorated in a clubby style. Very popular with the younger crowd.  restaurantearriba.com

 

 

  1. Bosco de Lobos: Located in Barrio La Chueca, by chefs Tomas Tarruella and Perico Cortés, the restaurant is beautifully decorated with floor to ceeling windows and light wood tables. The menú offers a wide selection of dishes. ecompaniadelobos.com

 

 

  1. Taberna La Carmencita: The original ceramic tiles are still part of the deccor – it was a tabern during the 19th century.  By the acclaimed chef Carlos Zamora who is famous for restaurants like Deluz and El Machi, serves traditional dishes with a twist and prepared with organic ingredients. tabernalacarmencita.es

As it happens with the beloved, Madrid was mine, is mine…I am taking it with me, and also giving it to you…

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New Restaurants in Miami for 2016

  1. Bachour Bakery & Bistro

By Chef Antonio Bachour whose creations are gorgeous compositions of color and form, and best of all, they’re delicious. The pastry genius, along with Henry Hane, is opening a 40-seat bistro and bakery at 600 Brickell Ave., featuring breakfast and lunch offerings. Of course, the chef’s impeccable pastries will be showcased. Once the eatery opens, Miami could very well experience its own Dominique Ansel-like lines and frenzy for Bachour’s edible works.

  1. Alinea Pop-Up

The bad news is this amazing restaurant is not opening permanently in Miami, but this three-Michelin-starred restaurant by Grant Achatz and Nic Kokonas is popping up at the Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Alinea’s unique dining experience will be available from February 17 and continuing through March 13. The dinners are already sold out, but Alinea is accepting names for a wait list. Visit alineamiami.tocktix.com. for reservations.

3. Trust & Co.

By Chef Jerry Flynn this will be a chef-driven restaurant in Coral Gables that will offer craft cocktails. Located in the former Azucar Cuban Cuisine space (2 Aragon Ave.), will feature a menu of local produce, seafood, and proteins in an industrial-chic setting. The cuisine is described as “diverse American” with Latin, French, and Italian influences. Trust & Co. is expected to open shortly.

 

 

  1. Sullivan St. Bakery

James Beard Award nominee Jim Lahey is planning a commercial and retail bakery at 5550-5570 NE Fourth Ave. in Little Haiti. The 4,000-square-foot location will first house a wholesale business and eventually expand to retail. Lahey’s New York City operation supplies bread to about 250 restaurants. The baking chef has had his sights set on Miami for more than two decades, and now that he’s found a space, he’s not in any rush. “It’ll take us about six months to get into the groove with people. It’s a different labor market in terms of where people come from.” Don’t expect to enjoy Lahey’s famed bread in Miami in the immediate future. Pressed for a completion date of his new bakery, Lahey simply said, “It’s still TBD.”

 

  1. Quinto La Huella

This one has me anxiously waiting. Uruguay’s Parador La Huella is the most lauded restaurant in that country. Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants calls it a “breezy seaside grill, whose high-end beach shack appearance speaks of lazy lounging and barefoot walks along the sand.” Now the owners — Gustavo Barbero, Martin Pittaluga, and Guzman Artagaveytia — are bringing their high-end beach shack to the East Miami Hotel at Brickell City Centre. The restaurant, along with a rooftop bar, Sugar, was originally scheduled for a winter 2015 opening, but the hotel’s website takes reservations beginning May 1.

 

  1. Ariete

Will come to in mid January to Coconut Grove and join the great dining establishments of the neighborhood.. What makes this one special is the chef behind it. Michael Beltran, the former sous-chef at the Cypress Room, has worked alongside Miami’s culinary elite of Michael Schwartz and Hedy Goldsmith. The chef will serve family-oriented food, mostly prepared in the restaurant’s wood grill..

  1. Komodo

Opened its doors December 2015 at 801 Brickell Avenue. Behind the concept is the man responsible for mega-nightclubs LIV and Story,  David Grutman, along with Jeffrey Chodorow , who’s best known locally with his work with China Grill management. The menu is self-described as “Asian cuisine designed to take guests on a culinary journey of the Marco Polo trail.” The highlights are peking duck, dim sum, and the tuna dishes.  The restaurant is now open nightly for happy hour and dinner. For more information call 305-534-2211.

 

Some Place Remote – for your Bucket List.

The term “remote” is relative to one’s location, but remote also means “isolated”. Considering that most of us live in urban areas overwhelmed by noise and traffic, I think is important for a change  to  experience some place “isolated” this coming 2016.

With that in mind, I have made a list of the 10 best places that can offer you a life changing experience –or at least some peace and quiet time.

1.Iceland: because it’s the land of Fire and Ice, of Aurora Borealis, the Blue Lagoon and so much more.

2.Palau: Famous among divers, but plenty to do also if you  aren’t one. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/palau/travel-tips-and-articles/exploring-palau-what-to-do-when-youre-not-diving#ixzz3vdenksn0

3. Galapagos Island and Amazonian Jungle, Ecuador: You might think I am bias on this one, but it’s hard to compete with a country that offers two life changing experiences in such a short distance between one and the other.

@bucketlistec

4. Madagascar: One word, BAOBABS –if you read The Little Prince you’ll know– and that is just the beginning of it.

5. St. Helena Island: Right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – the island where Napoleon was exiled and died – will finally have an operating airport on 2016.

6. Montana, USA: Yes, its possible to feel peace and quiet in a country inhabited by 300 million people.

7. Perito Moreno and Ushuaia, Argentina: The beauty of this glacier and town will leave you speechless.

 

8. Bhutan and Nepal: Both offer the experience of a lifetime, and its better to visit them before they become flooded by hotel chains and tourists.

9. Svalbard, Norway: One of Europe’s last great wildernesses, an inhabited by more polar bears than people, it’s a wonderful place to explore and hike.

10.Exumas, Bahamas:  Bahamas doesn’t sound like a secluded, remote place, but Exumas is.  You will enjoy raw nature and unspoiled beaches at it’s best. No casinos, no buffet lines, just white sand and turquoise water.

 

 

The philosophy behind the Run Away Party

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”                                                                                                     Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

That quote changed me. Not immediately though, but the sound of it pounded in my head for months… or years. I turned it around, analyzed it over and over, and in that process I changed, because my daily decisions changed.

If we are essentially spiritual beings, if that is our quintessential quality. If we are alive only for a short period of time, and this time is supposed to be used for growth, trough human experiences and material life. Why impair it? Why demonize the human condition? Why condemn others for their flaws? Why forbid living fully? Why avoid pleasurable experiences? Isn’t beauty food for the soul? Why did we understand that only suffering causes the spirit to grow?. Of course the enjoyment should be a generous, empathetic and compassionate one. There is no joy in injustice. True happiness only exists when it’s shared, understanding that is fundamental for fully experiencing. It’s about an honest joy, a fair joy, without  the  intention to harm or hurt. A joy that is a product of harmony and integration, a consequence of understanding that others happiness, is basic for mine too.

Suffering is a reality, is part of life. It’s inevitable. Good byes, physical pain, death, endings, are going to cause suffering to all of us. We don’t need to go looking for them. Pain will come and teach us all what we allow ourselves to learn. The spirit will enrich from that learning. Nobody doubts it. Fabricating suffering, I don’t understand.

Happiness will come too, will knock on our doors softly a few times per day. We will let them go, without inviting them to come in, because we have programmed ourselves to feel they are frivolous, banal and vane, and to value only suffering and sacrifice.  All that happiness lost forever….. Isn’t that a extreme case of vanity? Aren’t we lacking the necessary humility to accept that mundane and simple things are good for us? Are fear and guilt ruling our lifes? Isn’t that lack of love? For ourselves for starters… Aren’t we throwing away the divine gift of human experience?

If our spirits only get one chance. If being alive is an exception. If this is the only chance to understand how complex the human experience is, how difficult accepting our flaws, how humbling the failures, how brave the good byes, how fragile it all feels. How contradictory.  Shouldn’t we stop listening to that voice that is always interrupting?

 

24 hrs in Soho

Because NYC is so big and offers so many options, I will continue writing guides by Neighborhood. This time is about SOHO.

If you like yoga, I suggest you start the day taking a class at Yoga Works  – 459 Broadway. You can pay the class or benefit from their free trial too. They have showers there so you can leave feeling fresh and energyzed.

For breakfast there are many options around.  If you feel like brunching I suggest you go to Balthazar or Delicatessen. But if you just want to grab a bite on the go, the best options are Dean and Delucca that has great bakery and coffee. Another option are the different food trucks parked around, they offer everything from empanadas to cupcakes. Or head to Uniqlo were you can start your shopping while sipping on your cappuccino –they have a Starbucks in the store for your convenience.

For me Soho is meant to be walked at a calm pace because every single block is filled with surprises. But just as a guide I am listing here some of my favorite shops:

For high end designer:

  • Prada: The store has being recently redecorated and is beautiful.
  • Saint Laurent: Recently opened. Worth checking it out.
  • Kirna e Zabbette: My favorite store in Soho. Mix of designers, high end and independent. Very well curated stuff.

For Vintage:

What goes around comes around: Has the best variety under one roof and everything is certified authentic.

For cool fashion:

Superga: The new kid on the block, very cool ambiance.

Converse: They offer personalization available for your sneakers.

For your house and lifestyle:

– Muji: Big store here, everything they offer for your house or travels is convenient and unique.

–Moma Design Store: Another favorite of mine, I can spend hours here.

– Sur La Table: Great store for foodies and chefs.

For Funky things:

–Plyones: Lots of variety for kids an adults. Fun store to visit.

For books:

–Mc. Nally: One of my favorite bookstores in USA. Even though is not big,  has a great variety of books and magazines and some documentaries and films too. They also offer the service of printing books, if the one you are looking for is not available.

After all this shopping you can head to lunch to Mercer Kitchen or Delicatessen. They both offer comfort delicious food.

Strolling around you can head to the Team Gallery, that keeps an outstanding exposition of a variety of contemporary artists.

Afterwards I suggest to go try to Marie Belle Chocolaterie, the place is beautifully decorated, the owner has only two in the world – the other one is in Kyoto. This is the perfect place to get presents for your friends and family back home. Not only the quality of the chocolate is superb but the packaging is beautiful.

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At night you can have dinner at the Dutch, by Andrew Carmellini– lately my favorite restaurant in Soho- the menu is very well presented, the little oysters sliders are my choice always. The mushroom soup and the duck are hard to miss. The pies are memorable.

If you are more in the mood for a bar I recommend Pegu Club, has a wide menu by an expert mixologist and the music is perfect for a relaxed evening.

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