Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pret A Problem

Two things we will miss about Europe. 1) fast food that doesn't suck. 2) all the mayo they put on it.

The Ayes Have It

With reservations canceled and calendars cleared we were free to choose lunch- or to have it choose us.

 At our own pace we stepped out into the town. Our needs were simple and few. We were quickly rewarded for our modest expectations.

Zeruko was the first stop, with the counters covered with some of the most visually exciting pintxos yet. We had found our candy store. A childlike and overwhelmed Minnie proceeded to stalk the counter for about ten minutes before striking. 

Sea urchin + beef cheeks




Gilded artichoke stuffed with foie gras, hazelnuts and honey

Suckling pig

Squid hamburguesa

"Cristal" bread con tomate

Our new buddy Pete, who lavished us with stories of food and fishing all the way from this bar to London Stansted

Later we moved on to Borda Berri, Txepetxa, Txondorra-- and Bar Nestor (three times) for the famed tortilla, which we missed. But we will go back to San Sebastian and when we do, it will be our first stop. Tortilla, steak, tomatoes, peppers.

Tomato, bonito

The veal cheeks in vino tinto we'd been waiting for all week

"Risotto" with local mushrooms and Idiazabal


"A little bit green, a little bit salty and a little bit spicy."

Bar Txepetxa specializes in marinated anchovy pintxos.

Anchovies with (from left) sea urchin roe, spider crab cream, and coconut.

Anchovy with foie gras and apple compote

We were underwhelmed, but by this point in the trip we were a little spoiled.

Tortilla at Txondorra

Scallops and mushrooms

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thank You For Smoking

The most highly anticipated meal of this whole trip - and maybe our whole ongoing "conversation"- was Etxebarri.

The drive had been rough with missed exits, sour stomachs and a shrill catfight between dueling GPS units. But if heaven were the Basque countryside, then the grills at Etxebarri would be its gates.

Victor Arguinzóniz makes Bobby Flay look like a dancing monkey. Take that chipotle off your head, dancing monkey!

Everything on Etxebarri's menu has had contact with the grill or its smoke. This is not affected behavior or some trendy schtick. This is what he does, the way he cooks and how he lives.

We each ordered the tasting menu and also threw in a few supplements. Cuz dat's how we roll.

 Shaken and stirred (but undeterred), we started with the cream of bean. 


Housemade chorizo

Smoked goat's butter

Marinated anchovies

In true Pan-Mammalian fashion, Nick once captured Minnie's heart over a smelly anchovy pizza.

As you may have noticed by now, anchovies have been a recurrent theme on this trip. That's because they're our favorite vegetable.

It has been impossible to resist ordering them everywhere so far and Etxebarri had three incarnations of anchovy  on the menu, so of course we had them all.

Salt-cured anchovies

Smoked buffalo mozzarella
 Smoke salt fat tang. The cheese was a slap in the face and the dish that really woke us up.


Oyster with smoked seafoam and seaweed
Palamos prawns

Unreal. The gambas live in such deep water that their brains implode into a dreamy, salty sauce when they are brought up to the surface. The heads were just incredible. We ate the shells, too.


Txakoli, then rosé

Peas and cockle

Smoked egg yolk with local mushrooms

Fresh anchovies, grilled
These were the first fresh anchovies we'd ever had and our minds got predictably blown.

Mastodonic hunk of Galician beef + salads

Smoked milk ice cream

Don't be fooled by your memories of how ice cream should taste. The bite on this spoon could possibly have been the richest, gamiest flavor ever encountered in dairy. I loved it but could only manage about four bites before aesthetic arrest set it. Minnie kept saying it was not to her liking but still somehow managed to put away the same amount. This course, we felt, was the death blow.

Wood-fire flambéed lemon biscuit with vanilla ice cream
And then another dessert was served, and we fell upon it like jackals. 

Coffee and cakelets
Famished and woozy after the epic drive, we neglected to photograph the surrounding countryside, but it was lovely.

Actually, it was breathtaking.