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Asador Etxebarri

photoI have fond childhood memories of vacationing with my folks and patiently sitting in the backseat of the families Oldsmobile station wagon as they searched out new restaurants in what I remember as obscure locales.     ”If it’s good, people will search it out” they would remind me.  Fast forward 35 years, and I find myself and my travel companions zipping down country roads somewhere in the Basque Country of Spain,  restaurant searching for what we know to be not just good, but amazing.  ”Are we sure this is the right way”?  ”Who knows, the GPS is fuzzy”!

Alas, a grouping of restored farmhouses appear in the distance set against the oh so green Cantabrian mountains.  We have arrived to the village of Axpe,  but in moments will be transported far away, where live fires burn and luscious flavors flow……This is Asador Etxebarri!

Asado (Spanish: [aˈsaðo], Brazilian Portuguese: [assado]) is a term used both for a range of barbecue techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue.
The exact definition of what you will experience coming out of the kitchen of Victor Arguinzoniz.  Ranked one of the worlds 50 best restaurants and Michelin starred, the Chef considers this style of cooking “a subtle approach to grilling”. He grew up in this village where no one had electricity or gas, So one can only assume that he has been honing his grilling techniques since he was a very young man.

Upon being sat our group quickly decided that we would all indulge in the 12 course tasting menu. Moments later the Chef’s famous smoked goats milk butter appeared along with platters of salted anchovy’s, acorn fed pork chorizo, and crackers. We were not shy about digging in and as the Cava flowed we quickly realized that this was going to be a most memorable experience.
Goose Barnacles came next presented in a simple metal basket and perfectly prepared with flavors of smoke. None of us at the table had ever eaten barnacles, all of us cannot wait to indulge in them again!
A  simplistic oyster presentation followed, barely warm and presented on the 1/2 shell, Im certain I have never tasted a more perfectly prepared oyster, simple and luscious.
Prawns, baby octopus, St George mushrooms, baby green peas in there own juice with a splash of sherry vinegar, Red Sea Bream, and the oh so luscious famous  beef chop………it all kept coming, one amazing flavor after the next.
I had the pleasure of wine selection for our luncheon, all of which were quite memorable. We started off with bubbles, a Cava Rosae from Rimarts that had a very interesting smokey element to it, quite delicious with the barnacles.
Next we moved into a delightful Felton Road Riesling, 2012 followed by R. Barber Clos Mogador Nelin Priorat 2012, and then paired with our Beef Chop we enjoyed a classic 2007  Chateauneuf du Pape from Domaine De Marcoux.
Simply delicious desserts completed our 4.5 hour luncheon that seemed to fly by. In fact at its completion we all wanted it to begin again.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, the Basque region of Spain opens it’s hearts and kitchen doors to visitors, Etxebarri reconfirmed this.  As we departed the Chef graciously invited us into the tiny kitchen to meet the staff and observe first hand the cooking process.  All I can say is “it’s all off the grill and amazing”!!
I hope you also get to experience Etxebarri.  I would love to hear about ur experience!!!

Etxebarri
Calle de San Juan, 1
24549 Vizcaya Spain
001 34 946 58 30 42

 

Entertain Deliciously
Jamie McFadden

San Sebastián, Spain……. A taste of Culinary Heaven!

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Let me just begin by saying there is not a speedy way to travel to San Sebastián, Spain from the United States. All flights require a layover in Europe, with Barcelona and Madrid being the closest international hubs. It is a 5-6 hour car ride to SS from either of these two sister cities, train service is another option, however for our itinerary it was not an option.

Having researched this obstacle for months my friends and I decided to forgo the connecting flights,  and  journey out on our own.  With a click of the mouse we rented a van from Budget and began our 6 hour trek to the new culinary capital of Europe.

Miles and miles of beautiful countrys

ide, tunnels, tolls, vineyards,   and more tolls. Prepare yourself before departing the airport and exchange ur currency. We estimate that we spent upwards of 50.00 American dollars in tolls. Money well spent however……arrival into the outskirts of SS down the windy Mountain pass sits a truly picturesque city.

Being that we totaled 7 guests in our group we opted out of staying in hotel rooms and decided to rent a flat. A very simple process through Feelfreerentals.com and very economical. Our four bedroom/3 bath apartment was perfectly nestled 1 block west of the Urumea ibaia and a one minute walk from the neogothic Buen Pastor Cathedral.

Unlike the famous tapas bars of Barcelona, San Sebastián refers to there miniature food delicacies as pintxos.  Think Hors d oeuvres, mostly cold, some hot and offered in every bar in the city. As with any restaurant, pinxotos bars range in food quality and atmosphere.  What was surprising however is that the overall food quality, freshness and creativity in all of San Sebastián is excellent. The Basque take eating and drinking very seriously, and there love of the land and there heritage is evident in every bite.
I’m certain we visited upwards of 25 pintxos bars, having a taste or two at each.  To list them all in this blog would be unrealistic, and may keep you from venturing out on your own tasting journey.  There was however, one bar that kept drawing me back and that was Beti-ai Berria.  The food and presentation here was superb. Outwardly friendly staff combined with delicious fresh flavors.  Beti is located in the Parte Vieja (old town) and this along with the area of Gros is where you can and will find yourself in a state of culinary bliss as you bar hop until the  wee hours of the morning. Remember the Spaniards still recognize siesta, which means shops close in the afternoon from approx 2:00 pm until 5 ish and then reopen until 8:00pm. So the earliest you can have a dining experience at lunch is 1:00 and 8:30 for dinner with the busiest dining time being 9:30 pm.

Besides just eating in SS we also did consume vino.  And in doing so journeyed to the area of Navarra about one hour outside of SS for two winery tours.  We hired a driver for the day which I highly recommend for not just the obvious , but also the navigational piece.
It was a cool misty day as we found ourselves escorted thru the vineyards of Senorio De Sarria and Larrainzar both of which gave us a much greater knowledge and appreciation of the terroir of this beautiful region.
The Navarra region produces a significant amount of Rose which pairs beautifully with pinxotos of course, so be sure to order a glass or two of “Rosato” on your crawls.  Grape varietals in Navarra include Tempranillo, Cabernet, Garnacha, Merlot, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, Mazuelo, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia, Moscatel, Viura, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

There are just to many great things to say about San Sebastián so let me close with this…… I was truly Entertained Deliciously and will be also!!

Check back to my blog to read about Restaurant Etxebarri, a gastronomic experience in Basque Country.
Entertain Deliciously

Jamie McFadden

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