A Few of My Favorite Things From Spain

March 16, 2017

This is the fish market in San Sebastian.  It tells you a few things. For one, that this is a city where women are often in charge: have you ever seen a lovelier display?  (Please notice the tulips and bay leaves scattered about.) For another, that you will never find better fish – or chefs who are so adept at cooking it.  The only fish market I’ve ever visited that smelled as deliciously fresh as this was Tsukuji in Tokyo.

I fell in love with San Sebastian.  Easy to do; this is a beautiful coastal town filled with kind, charming people and fabulous food.  Over the next few days I’ll post detailed notes from the restaurants I visited, but for now, just a few highlights.

Infant peas (with white asparagus and an egg poached just to  trembling at Bodegon Alejandro. The peas were sweet and so tiny they floated into your mouth, delicate as raindrops.

A tangle of tiny eels at Arzak (with pomegranate seeds and minuscule broccoli florets). These angulas are usually cooked in olive oil and garlic, but here their amiable slither had an opportunity to shine.

The tortilla at La Vina, a pinxtos restaurant most famous for its fabulous burnt cheesecake. (More about that later.) Caramelized on the outside, still runny inside, when you poke it with a fork soft little cubes of potatoes come tumbling out.  Where you’re supposed to go for the tortilla is Bar Nestor – but the place makes exactly one each day, and if you miss it, you’re out of luck.  I missed it.  But I did not miss Nestor’s even more famous steak

You pick the one you want, Nestor cooks it to order, and this is what you get…

Afterward you go around the corner to La Cuchara de San Telmo, to experience this suckling pig: all crackling skin enfolding meat so tender it is barely there.

Squid “risotto” at Akelare: no rice, just squid, cheese and butter.  The squid is cut into brunoise the size of rice and barely cooked.

 At the table, you stir in this butter flower, which slowly vanishes into the dish, leaving behind an ethereal trail of flavor.

 And to end the evening in San Sebastian, the drink of choice is gin and tonic. You want to go to the Dickens Bar to experience true obsession: the barman worries over the shape of the glass, the size of the ice, the temperature of the tonic.  And they buy only organic limes, which he stops to zest at least three times during the construction of the drink.

Tomorrow- cocochas, anchovies with strawberries… and this lunar chocolate moon.

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