John Gorham, the chef-owner of Toro Bravo, Tasty N Sons, and the soon to open Tasty N Alder, all in Portland, Oregon, was recently in Spain doing research for his forthcoming cookbook, Toro Bravo Cookbook: The Making, Breaking and Riding of a Bull, which is slated to debut in fall 2013 from McSweeny’s. Here, he shares his favorite food moments in Barcelona and Madrid.

Mercado De San Miguel
“This is a great place to see a lot of what Madrid has to offer. It is a very modern and busy market with lots of different food stalls located right next to Plaza Mayor. We stayed at a hotel nearby and used it as our home base. There is great coffee, little Cava bars, and some amazing sherry. It also has some amazing charcuterie, and many different tapas. We would drop in late at night for some tasty desserts.” Plaza de San Miguel, s/n, 28005, Madrid, 34/915-42-49-36,

Restaurante La Bola
“This is the place to eat cocido! They have been serving the traditional chickpea stew since 1870. I also had the best calf’s brains of my life here. Ropa vieja [shredded flank steak in a tomatoey sauce] is another dish not to be missed, and is often ordered with cocido. This place is great for lunch, and embodies everything great that a Spanish restaurant should be.” Calle de la Bola, 5  28013 Madrid, 34/915-47-69-30,

“A contender for one of my favorite restaurants in Madrid, this is the place to go to get your seafood fix. Dishes we loved included fried lobster, stone crabs, lobster paella, salt-baked sea bream. But the real surprise here is the steak for two. A very well-marbled loin steak comes out raw with a little sea salt on it, and a screaming hot cazuela to flash cook your steak slices right there at the table. If this restaurant were in Portland I would eat there at least once a week.” Capitán Haya 55, 28020 Madrid, 34/915-79-52-70, 

Quimet y Quimet
“It’s easy to walk by this small tapas bar (above). Dishes not to miss are shrimp and caviar, salmon and yogurt, the charcuterie plate, and cabrales (a rich yellow-flesh blue cheese). This is what every tapas bar should be like: loud, fast, and very crowded. They are also a bottle shop, and have a lot of things we can’t get in the States. We brought two bottles of Amer Picon.[a bitter aperitif]” Calle Poeta Cabanas 25, Barcelona, Poeta Cabanyes, 25; 34/93-442-31-42

“If you know me at all, you would know that I’m not really into molecular gastronomy, but this is the restaurant that made me second guess that. Tickets is the Adria brothers restaurant, and serves a few dishes that they served at El Bulli, like the famous “olives.” We also snacked on mini airbags with Manchego cheese, avocado cannelloni, razor clams escabeche, and fried eggs with truffle duck fat. This had to have been one of the most exciting meals I’ve ever eaten.” Avinguda del Parallel 164, Barcelona, 34/932-92-42-53,