Tag Archives: tuna

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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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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Last Night’s Mission District Menu

  • Improvised salad: baby romaine, radishes, and avocado with Meyer lemon vinaigrette (Meyer lemon juice, salt, pepper, sugar, good olive oil*)
  • Minted asparagus with red onion (the original recipe, for green beans here)
  • Sashimi-grade tuna steaks (what other grade would we consider?) dusted ever so lightly with wasabi powder and soy, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and seared in a grill pan
  • Tomatoes vinaigrette, minus the oregano, recipe here.
  • Some crusty country sort of loaf courtesy of Tartine (really wonderful)
  • Xarmant Txakolina, my favorite white wine.  Produced in the Basque country.  I buy mine at Paul Marcus.  It would be a great public service if everyone was granted a case each May.  Honestly, it’s so amazing.  Transportive.  More information here.  

Eclectic and charming, as was the company.  A good night in San Francisco.  I might have to make a habit of it.  But who wouldn’t love San Francisco when perched at the peak of Dolores Park in a courtyard-facing pied-à-terre?

Welcome to the Best Coast DF!

*to be all Barefoot Contessa about it

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