By Monique Gonzalez
Long gone (and I mean LONG gone) are my study abroad days when life was carefree and my days were filled gallivanting throughout Spain in search of yet another pair of espadrilles or the next best chupitería. Fast forward X number of years later (well, because I refuse to divulge the actual number), my love for all things Spanish is still as palpable. So palpable, that quite often I find myself in need of a Spanish fix.
Whether you can relate or are simply feeling like you’re in need of a little sabor de España, I strongly recommend you run (not walk) to La Feria by Mercado de San Miguel, the official ambassador of the legendary Mercado de San Miguel food market located in Madrid, Spain. Except, you won’t need your passport to get to this one. Vale? Vale.
See, lucky for us, this Spanish pop-up food market, inspired by the by the 100 year-old original version in Madrid, has reopened in the heart of downtown Miami in Bayfront Park for its second season in South Florida. Curated by thought leader Montserrat Valle, the kitchen is overseen by Chef Xavi Oteiza, who marries Spanish gastronomy with local ingredients carefully sourced from artisans, bakers, and farmers, offering a whole spectrum of tastes from Spain’s culinary world.
Open now through January 2017, La FERIA has expanded and enhanced the overall experience with a new layout inspired by traditional Mediterranean building techniques, a double ventilated roof, state-of-the-art lighting and lush landscaping. Sounds fancy for a pop-up, you say? That’s ‘cause it is. It’s 9,000 square feet of combined interior and exterior tent space where Spanish gastronomy and entertainment collide.
The cultural experience comes to life with eight thematic food kiosks and carts that bring the tastes, smells, sounds and feeling of Spain to life. I kicked off my food binge journey with the Salmorejo, an original dish from Córdoba in Andalucía, which is made with ripe tomatoes and bread. Similar to a gazpacho, salmorejo is a bit more orange in color because it contains more bread (surprise, surprise I loved something that contains carbs). We also enjoyed an Ensalada Rusa, a typical Spanish potato salad. Both of these tapas can usually be found at the Pintxos Kiosk, which offers a daily changing variety of small bites (aka tapas), including Ham Croquetas and stuffed Piquillo Peppers.
Shortly thereafter, I was treated to some Spanish embutidos and cheeses, a no-brainer if you’re looking for a solid kick-starter. This homemade charcuterie is specially sourced and will satisfy any embutido craving with a plethora of Chorizo Cantimpalo and award-winning 5-J Iberian Ham, as well as a selection of Spanish cheeses that included Manchego, Tetilla, Mahon, and Cabra, all served with house-made marmalades and chutneys.
Then, I recommend you hit up the Rice Kiosk for a little paella. This fab little kiosk features a rockin’ traditional Spanish Seafood Paella, as well as several other rice specials. Oh, and the paellas can be served in tapas size portions or made to order in individual paelleras for larger groups.
The Fish Kiosk, which proudly served the winning dish of the evening, displays a raw bar selection and offers cold seafood preparations including iced, sweet red prawns, oysters, king crab, and other seasonal seafood available at market price. If you’re planning on stopping by this kiosk, the Tuna Semimojama will not disappoint – an excellent piece of raw tuna cured in soy.
Moving on over to the Meat Kiosk…where you’ll find every cut of beef and pork you will ever need. Ever. Highlights include Hot Dog of Butiffaras and Beef Churrasco. But if you’re looking for a serious piece of pork heaven, I suggest you chow down on the Pork Belly, made from Iberian bred pork that’s slowly cooked and bursting with flavor.
Don’t forget to wrap up your gastronomic journey at the dessert cart, offering up nostalgic flavors like the Tarta de Santiago and Turrón de Jijona, as well as my fave dessert option, the Tarta de San Marcos (yes, it contains chocolate, duh!).
Monique’s take: La Feria is a great excuse to get out and enjoy great, authentic Spanish food and entertainment outdoors, during a time of year when the weather in Miami is most enjoyable. This Spanish pop-up food market is quite the gastronomic experience and may even have you researching the next flight out to Spain. La Feria is open from Thursday-Sunday, but be sure to check out their website for exact hours of operation for each day.
Standout dish: The Tuna Semimojama was an unexpected treat, one that you don’t find in Miami all too often. This soy-cured tuna loin is a delicacy that will transport you to the southern coast of Spain. Or so you’ll wish.