Tag Archives: Gastronomia

Summertime means Peach Cobbler

There’s nothing like spending a hot day in a hot kitchen to get you in touch with your Southern roots–and today was hot.  But this journey started yesterday–a much milder morning.

Peach season is at its peak, and if you don’t seize the moment it will pass you by.  I had a glorious morning yesterday at the Grand Lake farmers market.  I bought tons of peaches at different levels of ripeness, with the intention of making a series of cobblers over the next few days.  Blossom Bluff Orchard had great, perfectly ripe peaches.  I couldn’t decide between O’Henry (slightly tarter) and Summer Lady (slightly sweeter) so I decided to get four of each for the first cobbler.  And since I was using Lee Bailey’s recipe, which calls for seven large ripe peaches for a 7″x9″ deep dish, and I only have an 8″x10″ deep dish, I figured eight medium-to-large ripe peaches would serve me well.

I got home and started preparing the dough.

flour

I always love the neat cone-shaped mountains of flour sifting produces.

While I was doing that, I decided to heat up a snack in the microwave.  Being at the end of a long line of Southern ladies who typically distrust such kitchen technology as a matter of principal, I made a mistake that only a microwave novice would–I stuck my finger in my food to check if it was hot yet–due to my utter disbelief that it *could* be hot after one minute in this strange contraption.

Well, apparently that specious technology has come a long way.  My food was hot.  So hot that I burned my finger badly.  It hurt so badly I had to keep it on ice for a full two hours.

I feebly refrigerated the dough with my nine remaining digits with the intention of returning to the project the next day.

***

Today went much better.  The burn had settled down, and I had nothing to distract me from my baking other than myself.  So I took my time.

soldiers


peaches

——


peaches2

peaches3

pit

assembled

After some deliberation, I decided to leave the skins on my peaches.  Maybe Bailey would turn in his grave–but I totally missed the line in the ingredients section of the recipe about skinning the peaches.  Anyway I like the skin–the flesh of any stone fruit attached to the skin is always my favorite part because it’s usually where the tart-ness lies, which balances all the sweet.

The hardest part of this truly simple recipe was rolling out the dough.  I just don’t do enough baking to know how to roll out dough very well.  Luckily, the recipe didn’t call for a perfect circle, but the rolling still made me anxious.  After I reverse-rolled (“window-shade style”) and released the dough over the dish, I knew right away I didn’t have enough.  The dough is supposed to spill over the sides while you fill the dish with the fruit, to later be flopped back over on top to cover it.

I didn’t panic, I just decided to make more dough.  This time a double amount (since I’m planning to make more cobbler soon anyway).

doughontop

But before I covered everything with dough, I made a few adjustments.  Bailey’s recipe calls for a full cup of sugar.  It seemed like a lot of sugar.  So instead of a full cup I did two-thirds.  And my oven, purchased in 2007, has never been calibrated.  Bailey recommends forty-five minutes (or until crust is golden brown) at 450.  I set my oven to 450 and checked the cobbler after thirty-five.  It looked good, but could be slightly more golden, so I gave it another five minutes.  Here it is cooling on the porch:

golden

I decided I had to eat it for dinner.  I hadn’t picked up the vanilla ice cream but I just couldn’t wait.

final

The final verdict:

I utterly enjoyed eating this cobbler.  Spooning the first portion was incredibly gratifying–largely because the color that these peaches produced in this recipe is phenomenal.  The deep orange and red is perfect, and the liquid produced by the cooking is this gorgeous pink-wine.  And the crust–the crust is it.  I couldn’t hope for a better one.

Now it’s my first cobbler of the season and I don’t want to speak too soon, but it was a bit on the sweet side for me.  The peaches were perfectly cooked–great balance of firm and soft (and I didn’t think the attached peels detracted), but to be truly critical, the bites with that bit of tart punch which I crave were too few and far between.  The peaches I used were very sweet to begin with, so if I were using similar fruit I might try to reduce the sugar to a minimum–just enough to create a good syrupy interior–without adding too much sweetness.  Perhaps a third of a cup.

I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy eating this one–and in the mean time I’m ready to try another.

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Mother’s Eggplant

Everyone’s talking about eggplant these days.  It’s eggplant season!  Chef Canales has them all over the menu at Oliveto from antipasti to secondi (watch Chef Canales shop the Berkeley Farmers Market for tomatoes and eggplant here).  Meanwhile in Pasadena, mother’s eggplant is nearing maturity.  Isn’t she a beaut?

eggplant1

those leaves!

flower

those flowers!

eggplant3

that color!

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Monday Morning Links

  • Vena Cava has amassed a comprehensive to-do list for LA.  I’m homesick. (Viva Vena Cava)
  • P.S.: Vena Cava’s Fall 2009 collection just hit stores, see the collection (Style.com) and shop (Barneys)
  • UPDATE: how did I miss this?  Am I the last to know about this or what?  Please advise.  (Amazon)
  • Dylan Fareed makes a video of Santa Monica beach, I’m still homesick. (Dylan Fareed)
  • On a separate note: Thankfully, I’m not the only one who is tortured by the issue of pruning lavender. (Gardenweb)
  • It’s peach season, and this looks really good.  (The Kitchen Sink)
  • But it just makes crave a real old-fashioned cobbler, and there’s no one I can think of I trust more on the subject of peach cobbler than Lee Bailey (NPR)

peach4Image from thekitchensinkrecipes.com

I think I’ll just have to make both.

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Perhaps My Favorite Souvenir

I’m not entirely over my vacation.  I miss it–a little.  I bought very little, but I did manage to get myself a few little souvenirs.  This book is one of my favorite things.  It combines flowers and food–what else could be more perfect for me?

gourmandises

Behold, the introduction of Gourmandises en Fleurs (Delicacies in Flowers) (translated by yours truly with help from a few free translation websites)…

If the times have changes, people’s love of beautiful things remains the same.  As cuisine gets lighter, dishes have more moderate flavors, and often when we are surrounded by concrete gardens, we try to cultivate the illusion of nature…

Thus the idea was born to present a collection of complimentary recipes and bouquets.

From small lunches to large galas, create an occasion to host friends.  Give a theme to your receptions.  Taste and imagination alone can bring the heart joy.  In summer, think of refined simplicity and soft colors, or use a bit of eccentricity to accent the fragrances that emit from your kitchen.

By using the charm of flowers, your garden will grace your table with its colors, and accent your menu choices.  Some original and unexpected ideas will give your tables a personal touch–and even provide amusement.  Whether it be the Beaujolais nouveau or basket of apples from your orchard, the beginning of the fishing season or a welcome home, a red dinner, a white dinner, a dinner on the grass… the fanciful possibilities created with flowers, color, and food will make you the envy of all your guests!

The arrangements range from the somewhat ridiculous…

fish

Title of Arrangement: Poisson d’avril (April Fish)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Terrine de saumon au coulis de tomates (Salmon terrine with tomato coulis) (note the goldfish)

to pretty…

voulez2

Title of Arrangement: Voulez-vous goûter, grand-mère? (Would you like a taste grandmother?)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Mousse aux fruits de la passion (Passion fruit mousse)

to “fanciful”

eggplant

Title of Arrangement: Symphonie aubergine (Eggplant symphony)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Petits flans d’aubergines (Eggplant flan)

to perhaps a bit out-dated

wine

Title of Arrangement: Joyeux enfants de la Bourgogne! (Happy children of Burgundy)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Poirs au vin (Pears in wine)

It’s taking a lot of restraint to not scan the entire book.  Maybe I’ll have to start publishing one arrangement/recipe pairing per day.  I found a website where the book is available for purchase, for about the same price I paid in the used book store in Biarritz.  I’m dying to try the Magret de canard au miel et au vinaigre de cidre in my kitchen (yes, duck figurines are featured in the accompanying arrangment in Gourmandise en fleurs)!

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Begonia’s Gazpacho

I have been dying for some gazpacho ever since I left Spain (even when I was eating it in Spain I was dying for it).  But I’ve never been able to find a recipe I’m really satisfied with.  After tasting Spain’s glorious gazpachos (Sebastian’s in particular) my doubts were confirmed–none of the gazpacho I was having State-side was cutting it.  First of all, there are no chunks in Spanish gazpacho, it’s always completely smooth-silky even, and very cold.  What was I to do?

It’s silly that I sat in a quandary longer than thirty seconds–ARL has a resident (Basque) Spanish cuisine advisor–Begonia Colomar*!

Begonia was quick to respond to my query about gazpacho.  Over in her adopted home–Brooklyn–she’s making it constantly.  Begonia immediately agreed with my concerns about this American “gazpacho” I’ve been eating–real Spanish gazpacho must be smooth–and it must be cold (Lord knows I love the Pasta Shop but you should have SEEN the stuff they were trying to pass off as gazpacho at their counter today.  It was super chunky and by the color of it, it either had a lot of beets or red food coloring, and they were advertising a dollop of sour cream on top.  Did they get it confused with Borsht?).  Begonia says that in southern Spain she’s often seen people go so far as to put an ice cube in their gazpacho to ensure they coldness.

Below is Begonia’s recipe for gazpacho.  I doubled it and followed it exactly.

Begonia’s Gazpacho (serves two)

2 Anaheim peppers (do not substitute with bell peppers, Anaheims are sweeter, softer and more aromatic)
2-3 large very ripe tomatoes (add them to boiling water for 10 seconds to peel them)
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
1-2 tbs red wine or sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove
2-3 tbs best quality extra virgin olive oil
salt [Begonia and I both swear by Maldon]

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Mix at high speed until very smooth.  Taste for point of vinegar and salt.  I like my gazpacho very, very smooth, not chunky at all so after blending I pass it through a chinois to achieve that silky, very liquefied texture.  Put it back in the fridge for an hour or freezer for 15 minutes.  Serve very cold.  I like to garnish it with a couple of drops of olive oil, chives, and little pinch of paprika…experiment with the garnishing…parsley, bacon, croutons, tarragon…endless variations.

After receiving the initial instructions, I wrote back with a few questions.  What about bread crumbs?  What about fresh herbs?  Only one clove garlic?

Begonia says:

I don’t use fresh herbs in the puree, but that is my purist soul.  I don’t use bread because it makes it thicker and I personally don’t like it so much.  There are millions of ways to make it.  If you want it a bit more red add one peeled canned tomato.  Also using balsamic vinegar gives a nice taste but I’m not so in to the color that results from it, maybe white balsamic.  Add 1 tbs of vinegar to the initial mix, taste it and add the second one if needed.  Experiment and choose the one you like best.

Also, previous recipes have instructed me to seed the tomatoes and peppers.  Begonia avoids this laborious step by using the chinois.  Also, Begonia told me, and I can confirm this, that the one garlic clove is surely sufficient.

ingredients

I used heirloom tomatoes (very ripe as Begonia advised).  The flavor they produced is incredible, but the peeling process was a bit harder given the deep nooks and crannies.

blender

I don’t own a food processor per se.  I have so little storage space honestly–my toaster is in the closet.  But I bought this Kitchen Aid blender at Williams Sonoma, which has food processing functions.  I pureed, then liquified the ingredients in batches, combined the results in a bowl, and repeated the process.

That produced a fairly smooth texture, but I wanted the silkiness that the gazpacho of Spain has.  I didn’t have a chinois on hand, so I reached for a sieve.  Bad call.  Too fine.  Didn’t work.  So I went out and splurged on a Rosle chinois.  Given my love of gazpacho–if gazpacho is all I use it for it will have been a worthwhile purchase.

The chinois step takes another 5-10 minutes.  The mixture won’t go straight through (those holes are small), so I poured my gazpacho into the chinois and then scraped the sides of it with a rubber spatula to keep the liquid moving.

In the end it was all worth it.

IMG_2603

The final product

I garnished it with olive oil and parsley from the garden.  The texture is super smooth and the taste is fantastic.  Every ingredient is well-represented in each sip.  The color is burnt orange–perhaps a bit on the greener side since some of my tomatoes were green heirlooms.  I love that Begonia takes the color of gazpacho into account in her recipe.

Finally, a serving note.  While I photographed my gazpacho in this pretty beaded glass bowl, since I was having it by myself as a snack I quickly transferred it to a lowball glass and simply drank it down.  I have no patience for a spoon with gazpacho.  Don’t judge–haven’t you ever seen the women drinking gazpacho in Almodovar films?  I rest my case.

*more on Begonia, her art, and her food here, here, here, here, and here.

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Bonnieux: Le Fornil

I know it’s a lot on Bonnieux, but I really think Bonnieux is worth it.

Le Fournil is one of the restaurants featured in Gilles Pudlowski’s guide to Provence and the Cote d’Azur.  This place is an absolute pleasure.  It fits in perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere and beauty of Bonnieux.  The food is refined yet unpretentious.  The service is friendly and on the lively side, which gives the place a bit of a younger vibe–totally welcome after a week at Mas de Guille (“Relais du Silence”) where we were the youngest people by twenty years.  And judging by the stares I got when I was taking pictures, this place is equally appreciated by tourist and locals alike, which lends credence to the chef’s work.

fournil sign

fournil1

Le Fournil at 7:30pm

We’re early eaters at home, it’s no secret.  But I swear we were eating at 9 and later in Guethary!  But during that first week away in Provence, we were still adjusting.  Add to that the heat and our minimum of five miles of walking per day (assessed by pedometer no less) and we ended up really needing that first reservation of the night.  Plus it made for good pictures right?

fournil menu

Le Fournil’s menu

fournil amuse

Fish paté amuse bouche

I’m a little bit of a wuss when it comes to something like fish paté (and I. even more so) but this was absolutely delectable.  I never expected such a texture to work–but Le Fournil made it so.

fournil salad 1

Petits farcis provençaux servis tíèdes

I have no translation for “petits…” but based on the little I know about Provençal cuisine, stuffed crudité appears to be somewhat of a tradition.  We had several incarnations of this dish at different restaurants and this was indubitably the best.  The stuffing is bread crumbs, herbs, and other fabulous Provencal things.  Sorry I can’t be more specific, but aren’t the colors great?

fournil salad2

Bouquet de haricots vert et cocos frais, ris d’agneau poêlés vinaigrette d’herbes

If only this could be recreated.  I’m not sure what the cut of lamb was, but it was so tender.  Perfect with vegetables and some aged balsalmico.

fournil beouf

Contrefilet de beouf poêlé, chutney de cerises, blettes au jus

The pièce de résistance: contrefilet.  Although my favorite steak of the trip was at Le Madrid (Cote de Beouf with Bearnaise) due to its total simplicity and melt-in-your-mouth qualities, this contrefilet is a very, very close second.  The cherry confit had the perfect balance of sweet and tart to the meat.  Every bite was a pleasure.

As we left everyone was still enjoying.

fournil scene

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A Different Alameda

For our last night in Spain we went to a restaurant in the old quarter of town called Alameda (not to be confused with the small island city off the East Bay of San Francisco, nor the county in which I reside), which boasts one Michelin star.  On a previous evening we had returned to Sebastian, also in the old quarter of Hondarribia and had the chef’s tasting menu.  I thought to myself, “this is as good a meal as I’ve ever had.  If I lived here I would eat at here all the time.”  While the second sentence holds true, Alameda blew the former sentiment for lovely little Sebastian.

While I managed to take a few pictures, they relate nothing of the scale of this meal.  Alameda is run by two brothers, Gorka and Kepa Txapartegui.  The cuisine has Basque roots, but is classified by Michelin as “Inventive.”  We had two lovely, attentive, and friendly servers, but it was one of the matriarchs of the Txapartegui family who came to ensure our meal met our expectations after our entrees arrived.  Although I consider description of this meal to be a futile pursuit, I will attempt to depict some of it here.

alameda table cloth better

Often, when my dad comes to visit and I am trying to convince him of the legitimacy of my choice of restaurant on any given evening, he’ll say quite seriously, “does it have a tablecloth?  I need a white tablecloth.”  In honor of dad we’ve taken to documenting the tablecloths at various restaurants.  Alameda’s are high-quality starched linen.

amuse bouche

The amuse-bouche was a delicate, super-fine gazpacho, topped with cheese foam, parsley-infused oil, and a parmasan crisp.

spider crab

I began with the spider crab salad arranged atop a tomato reduction and topped with green apples and micro greens.  The crab was absolutely beautiful in texture.

tuna

My entree–the tuna.  This picture hardly does it justice, but eating last night was much more important to me than picture-taking, which I take as a good sign.  It’s funny I just realized that from the blog it appears that I’ve been eating a lot of tuna.  I have I suppose.  The seafood is really what to eat in the Basque country.  I have no words to describe the preparation of this dish; I can’t even remember how it was described on the menu.  All I know is what appears to be a simple tuna fillet transformed into the most unbelievable tasting thing in my mouth.  The flavors of the tomatoes, salt, fish, oil, and potato were beyond this world.  Each bite I took made me crave one more.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way before.  It was if nothing would be enough, and each time I took a bite I wished I could continue tasting what I was tasting forever.  Quite an experience.  Sort of Veruca Salt-esque I guess.

mint and melon

Dessert was fruit and cheese.  The fruit is above–a medley of melons and apples in a mint-melon sauce.  Amazing.

new cheese

Finally, the cheese plate.  From top right: a semi-soft cows milk, Roquefort topped with a dried apple slice, brie, quince paste, and the last two are two different dry manchego.  The Roquefort was especially beautiful.  There is no better way to end a meal than with Roquefort I believe.

Well, like I said, a futile pursuit.  But, perhaps if you’re ever in the area you’ll have a chance to experience it all for yourself.

At the Biarritz airport, embarking on many hours on various planes.  Ciao!

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A Perfect Day For Pamplona

We slept in this morning and awoke to foggy weather on the coast.  After a few strong cups of coffee we decided–Pamplona?  Why not?

The drive was a little over an hour, and before we knew it we were in Pamplona, in the midst of the Fiesta de St. Fermin.  We even magically found free street parking close to the city center.  Of course our first site was the miniature running of the bulls.  It was great fun.

The entire city is dressed in the traditional all white with red scarf tied at the waist and a red neckerchief.  In fact, you really stand out if you aren’t (word to the wise and any lazy ill-informed tourists who decide to wake up and go to Pamplona during the Festival of St. Fermin on a whim–wink wink).   It was almost lunchtime by the time we arrived in the city, and all of the spectators, residents and tourists alike, were filling streetside cafés.

fermin cafe

We walked around towards some of the monuments–the Palacio de Navarra, the Plaza de Castillo, etc., but then found that the real action was on the old, narrow, side streets were the bars were a little more than crowded.

narrow street

At first it was fun, but then I realized I was hungry, and the line to the bar everywhere was about six drunkards deep.  Eek!  Everyone was much drunker than I was, and probably had been for a few good hours by 2pm (being that the bulls run at 8am).  The sun was high in the sky, it was very hot, and the odors of thousands of drunk people were starting to marinate.  I was borderline panicky–where would I find food (as not being able to find food is one of my greatest fears)???  Not even the smell of baking urine (sorry!) would allay my hunger.  I had to stay strong.  “I’m a traveler.  I’m exploring Pamplona (dammit!).”

We walked towards the Cathedral.  All of the monuments were closed due to the festival, and as we got closer to the Cathedral it got quieter.  Alongside the old church many of the revelers had resorted to street-side siestas (one of my most amusing discoveries so far in Spain–the public siesta–I’d like to think it is my great esteem for human dignity that kept me from photographing these hysterical scenes).

When I had gotten to the point where adrenaline had taken over as energy supplier in place of my usual daily calories, we turned a corner behind the Cathedral and found this lovely café:

el caballo blanco

Amazing.  No house music blaring from inside?  No line to the bar?  At least one person in sight who is clearly an employee of the institution?  Sold!  You can’t imagine what a haven this little café became.  It’s called El Caballo Blanco.  The service was necessarilly brusque, but efficient.  They were out of Txakoli by that hour, so I had beer, I’m not sure what kind, but it was cold, and the nice man brought it over to my table, which made it, as far as I’m concerned, akin to ambrosia.

Much to the amusement of the clientele seated nearby (who mostly drank and smoked) we ordered a lot of food–foie gras, jamón ibérico, tomates y avocates, y gazpacho.  They all teased us to see if we would eat it all–and we did.

comida

tomates

It wasn’t until I got home tonight that I figured out the name of this café by Google-ing “cafe behind cathedral pamplona.”  What I found was this timely little piece by on the New York Times.  And what do you know?  They found the same soothing little spot behind the Cathedral.  I double checked by matching up the NY Times and my own photograph of the café exterior.  I couldn’t have planned my sojourn in Pamplona better.  While I love reading travel guides and planning, I hate feeling bound to an itinerary when traveling (you’ll later find out that although I read the Pudlo guide to the South of France cover to cover not once, but twice, I only visited two of the restaurants it lists in my two weeks in the country).  I’d rather just walk and enjoy what’s in front of me.  So discovering El Caballo Blanco was a happy coincidence.  We returned to rain in Hondarribia tired, happy, and with an appetite for a late Spanish dinner.

goodbye

Goodbye sunny Pamplona

hondarribia

Hello rainy Hondarribia

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Lunch at Le Madrid, Guéthary

You might start to notice that I’m working backwards now, which is slightly awkward, but I’ll make do.  I’m finding it less awkward than starting from the day I stopped blogging and working forward.  I hope you’ll stick with me on this strange anti-chronological journey.

Le Madrid was the unofficial (official?) hang of our stay in Guéthary.  Our first two days in Guéthary it was closed for two days before officially opening for the summer season, but Le Madrid was all I heard about for those two days from our Parisian friends and hosts.  It was so inflated as a “spot” that it hardly occured to me that the food would be any good.  When I ate dinner there for the first time on the night of the 8th I was absolutely blown away (some of you might remember a tweet of mine about the Cote de Beouf melting in my mouth).  Those kind of dinners aren’t for stopping every few minutes to photograph.  We were among friends, telling love stories, and sharing wine and Cote de Beouf (with Bearnaise of course), and since the best parts of the ephemeral meal were only captured in memory, I pledged to return in a more alert state so that I might record some of my meal for ARL.

Of course, the real way to do Le Madrid is this: aperitifs at home (our aperitifs of choice on this trip were foie gras (forgive me), radishes, and wine).  Savor all this from approximately 7pm-9pm, then make your way to Le Madrid for the real meal.  Oh, and having Manzana Verde post-Cote is the digestif de riguer.  The few images I have from Le Madrid at night:

le madrid 9

Customers entering Le Madrid behind lovely Martine at approximately 9pm

sunset

The view from outside Le Madrid at approximately 9pm

So, that said, on to lunch.

le madrid day

The view from the terrace

le madrid menu

The menus

It is worth explaining that I. and I fell in love with the menus as pieces of art in and of themselves.  We loved the fonts, the illustrations, and the color.  When we mentioned this to our friends they explained that the menus are designed by Martine, one of the owners, who was a graphic designer before she was a restaurateur.

lunch menu

The lunch menu

rose

The essential rosé

le madrid signage

Looking back towards the restaurant from the terrace

club

My companion’s club sandwich (I had a bite–absolutely delectable)

maigre

Maigre a la Plancha, pate fraiche & herbes

The perfect lunch.  The oil for drizzling has parsley and tarragon, the cherry tomatoes are roasted, and the pasta has a crisp piece of bacon artfully arranged at an angle atop.  And, how is it that the French know how to salt meat so perfectly?  You can see the small crystals of sel de mer on the maigre here.  Delicious.

Now that we’re in Spain it seems impossible, but I am actually missing Le Madrid.  If you are in the area go, sit for a few hours.  People watch, imbibe, and go back a few times to sample a variety of what’s on the menu.  You won’t be disappointed.

If you are as in love with Le Madrid as I am, you can click here to see the dinner menu: Continue reading

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We Made It To Spain

Of course between Paris, Marseille, Lourmarin, Guéthary, and Hondarribia (Hondarribia is the Basque, but the town is also known as Fuenterrabía in Spanish and Fontarabie in French), much is missing from my typically daily entries here.  That noted, we are very happy to be in Spain.  This part of Europe is especially striking due to the stark constrast in food, language, and terrain found just across the border from one country to another.  A twenty or thirty minute drive from Biarritz and we’re in a whole other world.  We landed in Hondarribia, in the old quarter of town at an amazing hotel called Obispo, housed in what was a 15th century palace.  I love this place.  It’s charming–old yet comfortable, and impeccably kept including all the amenities a modern girl could want (WiFi!  while it was fun to be liberated, it is fun to reconnect too).

We arrived slightly exhausted from all the fun we had with our friends, the vacationing Parisians, in Guéthary (is it possible to have too much fun?) so we did the unthinkable and sat down to dinner at 8:30 (does it count that it hasn’t been before 10PM or finished before 12AM for the last week?).  The Hotel Obispo recommended Sebastián, which happens to be just around the corner (no walk or drive to the new part of town necessary).  It looks beautiful from the outside, so it wasn’t hard to draw us in.  Here is our meal in pictures and a few words (I was too relaxed to remember to take any establishing shots, but the restaurant’s website has a good virtual tour and great historical photographs too).

sebastian window

The restaurant’s website states that “[the space] was a grocery shop several centuries ago [and] the most representative elements of the shop are still conserved, such as the window displays and glass cases once displaying the groceries which supplied numerous generations of residents of Hondarribia.”  Here are various bottles (age unknown) in the window display case.

our view

We ate upstairs.  This was our view; a window box planted with purple amaranth and ivy.  Across the street are window boxes with red and white geraniums.

upstairs

The upstairs dining area.  Note that we are among the first present for dinner…there was one other couple across from us.  The benefit of the early hour is great photographs.  I loved the alternating colors between the beams on the ceiling.  Only a Spanish chef/restaranteur could pull that off.  Honestly.

chefs suggestions

These are the beautiful cards containing the chef’s suggestions for the evening.  Qué bonita!  Las ilustraciones sólo!

tablecloth

An essential component of any fine dining experience: fine linens for the table.  I found Sebastián’s particularly soothing due to a delicate pique.

txacoli

Txacoli: it has become as essential to my existence as Almodóvar.  Sin txacoli lo que es la vida?  These tall cups (unlike the shorter versions I am used to drinking Spanish wine in) are very cool.  It is like drinking liquid ambrosia, the liquid of life.  The wine is produced in the countryside outisde of Hondarribia.

txacoli autentico

Don’t be fooled by any imitations; the “Getariako Txacolina” sticker across the foil is as essential as any Bordeaux A.O.C.  It is an extremely limited area in which these special grapes are grown, and the special wine produced.

gazpacho

Ah gazpacho, con una anchoa y algún aceite de oliva bueno

monkfish

Monkfish and shrimp–preparation unknown, rather forgotten, in a good bottle of Txacoli

tuna

The “taco de atun rojo de Hondarribia a la parilla.”  With my limited Spanish I have little clue what I ate (sorry).  I half expected some tuna in a corn tortilla.  Wrong.  What came was 1,000 times better.  It tasted like the most beautiful tuna steak seared in a deep seasoned pan of pork fat–there was surely a strong bacon-ish element that was delicious.  On the side are some crispy onions and a drizzle of parsely-seasoned olive oil.  Amazing.

brick of chocolate

I can’t be sure because I forgot to photograph the menu, but I am fairly certain that this dessert was advertised as the “chocolate brick.”  It delivered as advertised.

Overall an extremely successful first night in Spain.  We will indubitably return to Sebastián–did I mention the service is impeccable?  If, for nothing else, the fine pique linens!  Salut!

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