swining and dining

Monday, March 06, 2006

and then some...cont

Okay...where did I leave off...first I want to share another virtue of mine, lets call this "swine 3:06" we are always told, make things happen, the world won't come to us, we need to go to it...the irony is that the most memorable times in my life were neither planned or sought out...the Spain trip was just that.

After the pinxtos marathon part dos, I have to mention a short intermission...guys, have you ever witness a woman become posessed, I mean posess with the shopping "God" whatever her Greek name is (if there is not one there should be one)...on our way back to the car, we entered this lovely shop in San Sebastian...what ensued was slightly disturbing but highly entertaining (I have 4 sisters and many close female friends, so shopping isn't foreign to me) SHE went on this 45 minute binge of power shopping only...quite amazing, at one point of this power surge, she was behind the counter climbing ladders and helping herself, the owner of the shop was so impressed that she actually gave me a gold pendant as a gift for my manly support and encouragement as my posessed friend racked up a hefty bill. And then it ended, only because the shop has to close, probably the only thing that would have stopped her. We finally made it back to the car with bags in tow. Our original plan was to go to a Cider house or as they called it "Cidereria" for lunch but ultimately became dinner.

Ah the European adventure continues as I "male out" and attempt to find our way to the cider house without confirmed directions and going on my male birthrite "GPS"...uuuuuuuuuuurgh (screeching tires) This came from my mouth "habla ingles? donde esta el cideria Petrigui?...yes I buckled under the pressure and the comments made by my passenger and got directions...awe...we made it, so we thought, we drove up to a building, there were lots of cars and busses so we figured this was it...we got out of the car and peered into a window looking at a gathering of people with the energy of a "bingo" championship...this can't be it...and it wasn't. We failed to see the large stone building behind and quickly parked again and entered. This place was packed, imagine 500 people sitting communal style on large wood tables and wood benches. The kitchen flanked the left of the Host table and I was salivating at the gorgeous rib steaks being thrown on the wood burning grill. Oh, my manly instincts were also witnessed to the mistake of not making reservations, but it doesn't hurt when you have a beautiful female with you to "pull that card, drop the lip and say "we came a long way to get here"...we were seated 10 minutes later.

We sat on a table with a group of international business men whom kindly instucted us on the etiquette of dining in a Cider house..he took us into the cellar room of old wooden barrels easily containing 1000s of gallons of apple cider. There you formed a unenforced line to which you took you glass and caught a stream of cider flowing from a spicket stuck into each barrel. This exercise continued through out the night as we drank cider and enjoyed a preset meal family style.

What a meal, first we had a crusty french bread and baccalao tortilla, basically and egg omellette filled with the salted cod, mind you there were no sharing plates so we ate off the serving plate (just like my house) Then more baccalao, this time served with caramelized leeks and potatoes, just as good and yes the salt made me even more thirsty. During the meal and experience, you can imagine that I was thinking of concepts to bring back to the States to duplicate this dining experience. The meal continued with the before mentioned rib steak cooked just the way I like it...still mooing. Dam that beef was good....the meal ended with cheese and quince paste and a purchase of cider. It was 1am at this point and we had to get back to Bilbao...up next Restaurant Arzak.

Of course before we left the States, I attempted to get reservations at el Bulli, sorry closed until June they said, but fortunately my Chef's persistence got us a reservation at the equally excellent Restaurant Arzak.

After a morning of galavanting and getting a police escort back to the hotel (thats another story) we arrived in San Sebastian for our 2pm lunch ressie. After dining at Zortiko, we already felt this culinary trip was a success. My life of eating has brought me to L'Arperge in Paris, the French Laundry in Napa, Le Bernadin in New York to name a few, and now I add Arzak to this list. WOW...not because we were in Spain, not because of my affinity for Spanish cuisine, simply because it was pure passion and truth.

From the moment we entered the stylish dining room and were greated by the accomodating and generous staff...the experience was natural and unbiased, comfortable and exciting. To take you through each dish would take a publishing contract. The wine selections were exquisite and the timing impeccable. The dining room was full yet not intrusive...and my company equally amazing. By the end of the meal (about 16 course and 4 hours) we were welcomed by Juan Mari Arza and his daughter Elena...both so charming and welcoming. We took obligatory pictures with Juan Mari and bought cookbooks which of course were signed. Each dish a distinct exserted emotion and precision, each dish a new flavor, a new texture, a new expression. Simply unforgettable...

As a chef a once in a lifetime experience, as a person a moment I will remember that makes me grateful and definitely humble. I'll keep this trip with me always.

On deck Fiji....swine you later


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