With this scorching, uncomfy weather we've been having -- not to mention terrifying if you've seen An Inconvenient Truth -- I keep thinking about the gazpacho in Spain.
A visual sampling of the good stuff:
La Trucha serves their tangy gazpacho in handmade terra cotta earthenware bowls, which adds to its appeal on a typically hot, dry Madrid afternoon.
Gazpacho at the well-known Basque restaurant Julin de Tolosa is the most expensive bowl I've had other than say, Patina in L.A. But at least it proves to be the best. They manage to concoct an incredibly smooth texture and sharp but mellow flavor, and offer a nice assortment of veggie condiments. Look at that gorgeous reddish persimmon color. The insanely fat white asparagus shown above left is tasty, too.
Cacao Sampaka is mostly virtuous for their chocolate specialties, which range from the truly bizarre to the simply phenomenal. The Zen-meets-Vinon-and-organic-crunchy-style stores are a must-stop for any food loving traveler. Another bonus: it's co-owned by Albert Adria, brother of you-know-who.
While the soup meets standard expectations, ordering gazpacho in the Madrid caf is more a calculated attempt to save room for a cup of hot chocolate rather than an effort to find what I think will be the best version in Spain. The soup was nothing to scoff at, but the Azteca features 80% cacao content and Jamaican and cayenne peppers is definitely the main event. Yay! My quest for a truly great cup of the profoundly rich stuff is now satisfied. Sorry, I digress...
The restaurant in the Mercat de Santa Caterina makes a solid gazpacho with yummy little croutons. It also appears that square bowls are de rigeur at edgy mod eateries in big Spanish cities.
I only wish this summer specialty were as readily available here. IMHO, most restaurants in Los Angeles manage to fuck up what's a simple thing. If you've got a rec, please do share.
There is a silver lining, however. We're blessed with great produce, and those lower-priced super ripe tomatoes (sometimes labeled as "sauce" tomatoes) are available at most farmers' markets this time of year. In our household we turn to Javier's mom's trusty recipe to get our gazpacho fix. No need to follow the ingredients and instructions to the letter; it's an approximation of a handed down family recipe anyway. Best to make it to taste.