I had another day off the next day so I passed by the Tourist Information Office (Oficina de Turismo Manzanares, www.turismocastillalamancha.com) at 3 Calle Empedrada where the nice lady informed me there was a tapas festival in a large tent at Músicos Park at Avenida de Cristóbal Colón, just a few minutes walk from the central square. You’ll see this derelict mill looming over it on the next block. My map here.
The festival was sponsored by the town and regional councils and, I presume, some organisation like the Manchego cheese marketing board.
Manchego, as the name implies, originates in La Mancha but has become the default national cheese, rather like Cheddar in the UK, and all the tapas on offer here included it in some way or another.
The festival was an interesting concept for me as it’s something I’d toyed with putting on myself back in the market at home, except with Yorkshire ingredients.
First you queue up at the ticket booth and buy a ticket for each tapa you want to try, at €2 a pop in this case. You buy separate €2 tickets for drinks from the bar.
There were nine different local bars and restaurants who had booths at the fair, each specialising in just one kind of Manchego tapa and serving it on plastic disposable plates.
A good few of them were coated and deep fried slices of cheese. My favourite was this one with fried spring onion which (B+).
Another more visually attractive tapa used a cheese sauce to dress canelones.
Another good one was the cheesecake dessert (B+).
The bar that, according to the judges, made the best tapa was presented with an award on the main stage.
At each stall you would get your card stamped and if you got all nine stamps your card was entered into a prize draw for a free holiday.
You could also get tablas of differently aged and cured cheeses from the half dozen stalls representing individual dairies at the back of the tent, or if you couldn’t face a whole tabla, you could graze on their free samples.
Towards the end a brass band came to entertain the crowd, or at least all the old ladies who got up to strut their stuff. I’d forgotten how much fun they could be. Video here.
So a few hours of cheap and fun entertainment. I’d love to do something similar back home in Sheffield.
As it rained most of the last two days I was in Manzanares and the temperatures tumbled I was glad to leave and head for Barajas Airport in Madrid to catch a flight to sunnier climes in the Canary Islands. Tales of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria coming next!