A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC

As I mentioned in my recent Sundays With Celia Vol 83 post, we started our 3 week vacation in New York City, the place where we joined Oceania’s cruise ship Marina for a 14 day Transatlantic voyage. But before embarking on the cruise we spent 2 days doing a few things I hadn’t done before, including paying a visit to newly opened Mercado Little Spain in NYC.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Mercado Little Spain is located in the new Hudson Yards, a 28-acre, multi-purpose, private real estate development, the largest in the country. Located on the corner of 10th Avenue and 30th Street, we were there for the Mercado’s partial “soft opening” during its second week of operation.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Hudson Yards | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Billed as the Spanish version of Eataly, Spanish-American Chef José Andrés, and fellow chefs Albert and Ferran Adrià of elBulli restaurant fame, are behind Mercado Little Spain.

Chef José Andrés and fellow chefs Albert and Ferran Adrià

Their idea was to design the 35,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor food hall to be like the markets you would find in Spain. As a 1st generation American of Spanish decent, I was really anxious to visit Mercado Little Spain, because I have always felt that Spanish food is highly underrepresented and misunderstood in America. So, on the first night of our visit to NYC we raced over there to check it out. What I’m about to do now is give this place a very mediocre rating. It’s something I rarely do here on After Orange County, because I like to keep this a place of positivity. But here goes…

Mercado? No, I Don’t Think So

Why they are calling this place a “Mercado” beats me. Mercado Little Spain does not appear to be a market at all, but is rather more like a “food fair” full of kiosks where people pick up various items to eat while there. They also have several full service, sit-down restaurants inside Mercado Little Spain.

Image Via www.littlespain.com

The Mercados in Spain are places one goes to to do one’s “marketing”. Yes, people do go there for eat-in lunch, and to enjoy Tapas and drinks. But they really are “markets” where folks go to purchase the food that they will cook in their own home kitchens.

Mercado de San Miguel | Madrid

Let me show you what a “Mercado” looks like in Madrid. This is the Mercado de San Miguel. It’s a bustling market full of every conceivable food item. It’s like a farmer’s market for fruits and vegetables, a meat market, a fish market, a bakery, a flower shop, etc.,  all under one soaring roof.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Here you can purchase the wonderful Jamón Serrano which is a type of dry-cured Spanish ham, including the variety called Jamón Ibérico made from the acorn fed meat of the black-footed Iberian pigs.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

At Mercado Little Spain they have a kiosk selling sandwiches with Jamón Serrano, and a guy is there slicing it. I asked him if they imported their Jamón directly from Spain and he said no, they get it from La Tienda, an American retailer of Spanish food items. Why in the world would they do this? I really hope this gentleman was mistaken.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Mercado Little Spain also had this rather interesting display of meat, but I don’t believe it was actually intended to be sold, at least no one was purchasing meat the night we were there.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

There was also an impressive display of cheese from all over Spain. I imagine it could be purchased by the pound but no one seemed to be purchasing it in this manner, and again, it appeared to be little more than window dressing. And it didn’t appear that there was anyone there to sell it to you. Perhaps this will change in the future?

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Seafood at Mercado de San Miguel

The seafood sections of the markets in Spain are amazing, selling every imaginable variety of fish, shellfish and dried cod fish (Bacalao).

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

At Mercado Little Spain they had a tiny, dismal display of fish that perhaps was for sale. But again, no one was shopping for it. It seemed like it was simply there for display, or for use by the in-house chefs who were preparing some seafood items in the various restaurants and kiosks.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Seafood at Mercado Little Spain

Produce at Mercado de San Miguel

The produce displays at Spanish markets are simply beautiful, and are displayed like works of art.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A favorite item sold at Spanish Mercados are the famous delicacy of white asparagus.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

At Mercado Little Spain the only produce on display was at their juice bar, but no one was there selling it, nor was anyone buying it. Again, it seemed like nothing more than a display prop.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Paella at Mercado Little Spain

They have an impressive looking kiosk where two varieties of paella were being prepared and then sold as individual servings on plastic plates. While paella is made in untold varieties, the type we tasted here was unlike any paella I’ve ever had, and not in a good way. I was practically raised on Paella and I know what a good Paella tastes like. I’m sorry but I cannot recommend the Paella served at Mercado Little Spain, at least not the Paella served the night we were there.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I’d be happy to give them my recipe for Paella, which is what Paella should taste like.

A PAELLA MAKING TUTORIAL | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Churros Con Chocolate

Americans think they know what churros are, but trust me, one doesn’t know what a true churro tastes like until one tastes a churro in Spain. The churros served in Madrid at Chocolateria San Ginés are the standard by which all churros must be judged. And this is also true for the accompanying chocolate, which in Spain is much more like a thick pudding than a hot chocolate drink.

CHOCOLATERIA SAN GINES - CHURROS & CHOCOLATE IN MADRID, SPAIN | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Churros Con Chocolate at Chocolateria San Ginés in Madrid

So, you would think that at Mercado Little Spain they would at least try to approximate Spanish style Churros Con Chocolate.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Churros Con Chocolate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | Churros Con Chocolate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Well, I’m sorry to say but they don’t even come close to being authentic. The churros are passable but the chocolate is runny, just like American hot cocoa. Not at all like Spanish Chocolate. What gives?

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Pasteles  (Pastries & Ice Cream) at Mercado Little Spain

There was a sort of bakery/ice cream kiosk in the back of Mercado Little Spain where they had typical Spanish pastries on display.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

It was nice to see an authentic looking Torta de Santiago, the typical cake that is served in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s well known because it is the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

They also had several other typical looking Spanish desserts on display including flan and Cardenal pastry.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comA VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Empanadas at Mercado Little Spain

I have to hand it to Chef José Andrés in the category of Empanadas, because in this area he got it right. Empanadas originated in the north western provence of Spain called Galicia where my family hails from.  It is prepared similarly to a large pie which is cut into squares or wedges. The filling is usually
made from dried codfish or pork loin with lots of cooked onions sandwiched between a pastry and then baked. We call this Empanada Gallega, and that is exactly what I tasted at Mercado Little Spain. It was good, and it was authentic.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Very much like the Empanada de Bacalao (with dried cod fish) I had the last time I was in Spain.

Patatas Bravas Kiosk

There was a kiosk dedicated to the sale of Patatas Bravas. This is a dish native to Madrid that’s usually served as a tapa in bars. It typically consists of white potatoes that have been cut into cubes and then fried in oil and served with a warm tomato sauce on top. I’m not a huge fan of Patatas Bravas but we shared a dish of them and they were authentic, just like they are served in Spain.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Pan Con Tomate Kiosk

In the Catalan region of Spain Pan Con Tomate is a typical dish usually served as a Tapa.  It consists of bread, which is usually toasted, then fresh garlic is rubbed on the bread.  Next fresh tomato is rubbed over the bread that is then seasoned with olive oil and salt.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

We didn’t try the Pan Con Tomate so I have no opinion on that. I do, however, have an opinion on the creator of Mercado Little Spain, José Andrés

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

My Opinion on José Andrés and his Mercado Little Spain

I have to start by saying that I went to Mercado Little Spain simply thrilled with anticipation and excitement about something that I hoped would be authentic Spanish finally arriving on American soil. My glass was overflowing with positivity. Sadly, I left there feeling disappointed in several ways:

  • The food wasn’t as good as it could or should be.
  • The ambience wasn’t what I expected from a “Mercado”.
  • It was expensive! All those little $10+ plates add up fast.
  • It can’t hold a candle to Eataly.
  • If you want good, authentic Spanish food you still need to go to Spain.
  • José Andrés is “mal educado”! Apparently in the cooking school he attended they failed to teach him how to be a good host.

A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Yes folks, I said it. José Andrés is ill mannered and unfriendly, not the way a restauranteur should behave toward his patrons! Let me explain. The entire time we were visiting Mercado Little Spain, José Andrés was sitting at La Barra (the bar). We noticed that he was kind of holding court there with many of the young ladies. At the end of the evening my husband decided he’d go say hello. He wanted to tell José that coincidentally we had recently met one of his friends, Med Lahlou, who happens to be our son’s neighbor in Washington, DC.

Brad with Med Lahlou of Lupo Verde Osteria | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Brad with Med Lahlou | Owner of  Lupo Verde Osteria | Holding the keys to all his Restaurants

And, our son had met José when he was visiting Med, who lives a couple of doors down. It is a small world.

SUNDAYS WITH CELIA VOL 20 | My son with Chef José Andrés | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Med Lahlou owns several restaurants in DC, and one of them, Lupo Verde Osteria, has become our family’s favorite.

Lupo Verde Osteria | Palisades Washington, DC | www.AfterOrangeCounty

Med Lahlou, José’s friend, could not be a nicer guy. Brad just wanted to tell José about the coincidence of having a mutual acquaintance. Well folks, there José sat, on one of the opening nights of his great new venture, and he wanted nothing to do with even saying hello to Brad. He just rudely blew him off, that after we had just spent a couple of hundred dollars at Mercado Little Spain. So Mr. Andrés, even if your food was worth writing home to Spain about, we won’t be back. You could learn a whole lot from your friend Med Lahlou, who knows how to be a gentleman, and a very fine restaurant host.

So there you have it: A VISIT TO MERCADO LITTLE SPAIN IN NYC

Thanks so much for dropping in!

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No blog post is truly complete without a word from you. I’d be so delighted if you’d leave a comment below.

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission. 

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