Asador Etxebarri – Atxondo – País Vasco, Spain

•April 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Etxebarri has been on my bucket list since the day I first stepped foot into Basque country. It however, is located in the boonies of the Basque countryside so Nacho kindly lent us (Susy, Marti, Hillary) his car to traverse to the little town of Atxondo.


Once we got out of the car we were greeted by sweeping views of Basque countryside with rolling green hills and pastures of sheep.



The little village of Atxondo is picture perfect and really quite (you can hear the wild birds singing and sheep in the countryside). The village courtyard comprises of a fronton court, a church, and some cobblestone buildings.


The fountain in front of the church. 


Following a random street to the outskirts of the tiny village, we were greeted by a herd of sheep literally 10-20 feet away from us.




After taking an unnecessary amount of pictures of these sheep, Etxebarri just opened its doors for lunch service.


Now let me explain a little about Etxebarri. Their food is cooked with exclusive charcoal created by the owner of Etxebarri himself. A different kind of charcoal is used for different kinds of meats and vegetables. Cooking is minimal here especially since they are using top notch vegetables, meats, and seafoods. The chef even makes his own custom cooking vessels to cook different things over the grill (caviar for example). The plates here are kept simple and are made to showcase the natural product enhanced by cooking it with charcoal. Here is an excerpt taken from the Etxebarri website:

Care and instinct under the discipline of fire and primitive cooking techniques, where simplicity and warmth of the grill inspire a natural landscape.

Wistfulness, with an adventure spirit for knowledge; tasting flavours, and rediscovering that space and time are imperceptible.”

You could smell the charcoal grills once you approach the front door of Etxebarri. The smoke in the air was definitely appetizing, can’t wait to see what’s on the menu!


We were seated outside on the second floor patio overlooking some gorgeous views of sheep pastures and Basque mountains ranges. We also had the luck of having that patio alone for pretty much our entire 4 hour lunch!




Spanish Menu Pre Fixe


Menu in English


Fresh Carrot Juice

Incredibly sweet and fragrant carrot juice. Nice palate cleanser.


Chorizo elaborated from acorn-fed Iberico pork

Quite possibly the best chorizo I’ve ever had. The chorizo literally melts in your mouth when you eat it.


Jamon Iberico

Goat Butter

Smoked Goat Butter with Black Salt

The butter had a smoky cheesy quality compared to normal butter. It was reminiscent of smoked gouda cheese. Definitely tasty, one of my new favorite butters/bread spreads!


Mozzarella of Buffalo


Anchoas with Toasted Bread

I’d have to say that this was the best anchoas I’ve ever tasted and seen in all of Basque country. The filets were perfectly trimmed and deboned. The taste was not over aggressively salty and had a very velvety texture.  These were house cured perfectly!


Goose Barnacles from Galicia

After having these barnacles at Elkano, I’ve always been ordering them everytime I see them on a menu. These particular ones are huge in size and were chock full of ocean water goodness. How to describe the taste of these goose barnacles would be a mixture of lobster, crab, shrimp, and the sea. The texture is like the wiggly nub of lobster claw meat. The Spanish call these “percebes” and is considered a rare delicacy (1 kg of these costs 200 euros).


Huge size of goose barnacles, almost twice as big as the ones served at Elkano. 

Be careful when opening these! They tend to squirt molten hot orange liquid everywhere if you open too hastily. To eat these, slightly bend the area where the barnacle and the piece of rock/coral is attached. The “tooth” head of the barnacle should be facing down while doing this so all the savory orange juice is saved in the dense outer skin.


Prawns from Palamos

The heads probably contained approximately 1 fl oz of brain juice. Sucking the heads on these bad boys was the best part about these perfectly cooked and sweet prawns from Palamos. The meat was slightly smoky and extremely sweet.


Sea Cucumber and Baby Green Beans

This dish was amongst my favorites at Etxebarri. I’ve only had sea cucumber cooked in the Chinese way (braised until extremely tender in a rich seafood xo sauce) but the sea cucumber here is cooked perfectly. The sea cucumber is lightly seared with olive oil and sea salt, the texture is crunchy like a slice of geoduck clam and very tender. The extremely fresh and perfectly cooked fava beans on the bottom of the sea cucumber was a perfect compliment to this very simple yet delicious dish.


Baby Octopus with Caramelized Onion and its Ink

I never had baby octopus this tender before. You eat them head and all, and they just melt in your mouth when you eat them.


Entree Size


Tartar of Fresh Chorizo

This dish was definitely unique; it’s cured raw pork lightly smoked served on a wafer chip. The chorizo was heavily seasoned with paprika, garlic, and salt which made it incredibly savoury when mixed with the light smokiness of the natural wood charcoal. It ate like a good beef tartare; it was incredibly fatty, meaty, savoury, and melted in your mouth.


Revuelto de Trufa Negra

This dish was just extremely decadent. Softly cooked farm egg yolks that took on a jam consistency (my guess, 62 degrees in the circulator?). The eggs were nicely seasoned and were topped with a abundant shaving of black truffle. A complete eggslut dish that went great with the complimentary bread.


Mushrooms (Hygrophorus Marzuolus)

These mushrooms were not as intensely flavored as say…. porcini mushrooms, but they had an excellent texture. These were lightly seasoned, were in it’s own broth, and were lightly smoked.


Whole Red Sea Bream served tableside

The next course was served tableside: a whole red sea bream cooked over the grill doused liberally with garlic, guindilla pepper, parsley, and sea salt. It was perfectly cooked, moist, juicy, and tasted pure (not a whole lot of other flavorings to cover the red bream). Aside from the filet, they also gave us the head and all, so being the good Asian boy I am, I snaked the cheeks and back head meat  from the fish head before anyone else realized it. Sorry Susy 🙂


Red Sea Bream Fillet


Vegetables accompanying the Red Sea Bream

These are the side vegetables accompanying the red sea bream. They were each cooked perfectly and were plated nicely.


Chuleta of Galician Beef

The mother of all Chuletas in Basque country. The meat was BARELY cooked, I mean like seared on one side for 2 minutes for a hard sear and then sliced. The meat melted like butter, was definitely grass fed, and dry aged. The best and most expensive chuleta I’ve ever had! It was almost like eating beef sashimi.


Smoothie of Blood Orange and Vodka

A nice palate cleanser to move into the desserts. The shot of blood orange smoothie was laced with vodka which was also a nice surprise. It also reminded me of the freshly juiced carrot that came before the entire meal, they almost look similar (color, palate cleanser), thought that was a neat touch.


Tostada de Crema

The outside was coated with almonds and a bit of coconut. It was tasty, but underwhelming compared to the rest of the meal.


Reduced Milk Ice Cream with a Red Fruit Infusion

Reduced milk is essentially condensed milk which is absolutely my favorite thing to add to coffee and teas. In an ice cream though served with a really tart red fruit infusion, it was definitely the best dessert of the whole meal. The ice cream was ridiculously smooth, really sweet, had caramelized milk flavors, and contrasted really nicely with the tart red fruit infusion.


Started off with a bottle of refreshing sparkling white wine. Perfect for the start of the meal!


For the second part of the meal, more oakey, tannic, and bolder than the previous bottle.


All in all this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and definitely my top 5 in Pais Vasco. Simply presented and cooked, all the dishes here let the main ingredient speak for itself with the added benefit of cooking over natural custom made charcoal. Dam that charcoal really adds a lot a flavor and punch!

This place is a bit hard to get to, but it’s definitely worth it to rent a car and drop by for lunch, it’s that good!

Asador Etxebarri

Plaza San Juan, 1

48291 Atxondo- Bizkaia

(+34) 946583042

Solana Cuatro – Tolosa – País Vasco, Spain

•March 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Solana Cuatro Pintxos Bar

Owned by Chef Roberto Ruiz (what doesn’t that man own here?) and run by Sonia Tapia Iglesias, Solana Cuatro focuses on serving traditional pintxos centered around extremely fresh local produce, top shelf quality ingredients, and various Spanish wines. Sonia used to be the head chef at Restaurante Fronton for many years   and was second in command next to Roberto, her passion is using the best ingredients while simply cooking them in the traditional Basque way. It should be also mentioned, like Roberto, that she is pretty much a celebrity amongst the people of Tolosa. Everywhere Sonia goes she knows someone, be it the store owner, purveyor, artist, television news anchor, farmers, and patrons who frequent Solana. The 2nd part of my Basque Stage is working here cooking and cranking out pintxos and small plates (Solana serves both pintxos and a pre fixe menu).


Upon entering Solana 4 you are greeted with a warm “Kaixo!” by everyone working behind the bar. The decorations include various wines from around Spain (Rioja), warm technicolor, a display case of fresh produce and canned goods, and a wall of… jamon iberico!


Alazne sending me off to Sonia

Oh and check out the Sammic portable broiler! As you can see here this is the entire prep and cooking space; yes that’s right you got a Sammic broiler, induction burner, and microwave, that’s it. By far the most claustrophobic and tight space that I’ve had to cook in.. ever. If it’s one person working this station it would be nice, but with Sonia and I we were bumping and squeezing past each other very frequently.


The decor above the our little station is custom hand made by a crazy old Basque man who also does the makes the same art found in Solana’s teaching kitchen studio and Restaurante Fronton.


One of the best jamon ibérico in all of Spain, each one of these legs costs around 500 euros, making this a highly expensive product. For those of you not in the know of what Iberico is, it’s a breed of black pigs that are finished on acorns (and often wild flowers and whatever else the pig finds), thus giving the pig’s fat a luscious and velvety texture that just instantly melts in your mouth when you eat it. The fat tastes of what the pig was fed on; nutty, floral, and sweet. Here at Solana almost everything is garnished with a slice of Iberico, muey bien! Also the added bonus of working with this beautiful ham is eating it everyday (yes, everyday).


Ibérico Porn

Sonia Slicing Jamon Iberico

The jamon ibérico is sliced fresh to order with a extremely flexible and thin 12″ Shun slicer. Watching Sonia slice the ibérico by hand makes it seem pretty easy, but it’s a lot harder than it looks… a LOT harder. Keeping the perfect angle with the perfect slicing motion is extremely difficult and can only be mastered after a lot of practice. I could just see the euros being thrown in the trash after fucking up my first few times doing it, but by the end of my stage here I got a lot better (there was no waste… I ate all my botched slices).



Neighboring Solana 4’s main bar area is the cooking studio where they have cooking demos for people and the demos usually feature a guest chef. This is also the place where Sonia keeps her mobile garden which she wheels out everyday to catch some sun. She grows peas, parsley, cabbage, thyme, rosemary, lettuce, and some decorative flowers.


While I was working at Solana 4, a huge week long festival called Carnival was going on, so that meant an insane amount of people drunk and dressed up in crazy outfits. In my opinion, Carnival is the equivalent of Halloween but it’s about a week long and you can get plastered drunk in the streets. Pintxo pote aka pintxo happy hour consists of a free pintxo with every drink you purchase (in Solana 4’s case, a cider braised piece of chorizo). Working pintxo pote during Carnival was the gnarliest ever, I made that little cider braised chorizo pintxo non stop for 4 hours straight.


I’ve learned how to make tortillas at Solana (I’m dubbed the “tortilla maestro” by Sonia), it’s the quintessential Spanish breakfast and snack. Eat it solo with tomato and olive oil or stuff it in a bocadillo for a satisfying pintxo. After making 50+ tortillas during Carnival, I think I’ve got a pretty good handling of churning out a really good tortilla, even better than some of the locals ;).


The quintessential pintxo called “Gilda” found in every single pintxos bar in Pais Vasco.  Take a anchoas filet, thread it around some guindilla peppers, stab an olive at the end, and drench the whole thing in olive oil. Gilda’s are really aggressively flavored, at first I thought it was too strong for me but after awhile these things become quite addicting. Extremely briny from the olive and anchovy and paired with the tangy acidic bite of pickled guindilla peppers makes this small and humble pintxo quite flavorful.


The simple yet tasty jamon iberico bocadillo. If you don’t know which pintxos to choose, this one always hits it home for me.


Boquerones, Anchoas, and Piperrada 


Piquillo Pepper Confit, Anchoas, and Salmorejo

Slowly confit in olive oil, the piquillo peppers were really sweet and meaty. The salmorejo is a new favorite sauce of mine; it’s an smooth savory emulsion consisting of heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, bread, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.


Confit Tuna Belly, Boquerones, Pimenton Verde, and Red Onion


In addition to serving pintxos, Sonia also offers a pre fixe menu that utilizes whatever she finds at the famous Tolosa Farmers Market held every Saturday and whatever special ingredient she gets in seasonally from her purveyors. Sourcing these specialized and sometimes ridiculously expensive Basque ingredients and learning how to handle, prepare, and cook them was definitely the best highlight working at Solana.


Sonia plating the Soft Scrambled Eggs with Black Truffles dish (part of the pre fixe)


Verduras – Artichokes, Leeks, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Iberico Crisps, Egg Yolk

I love how everyone in Pais Vasco garnishes with a raw egg yolk. #EggSlut


Sardines – Mache, Salmorejo, EVOAnchoas

Nosebleed expensive anchoas that cost about 70 euros for 1 personal sized tin.


Spanish Black Truffles



Meltingly soft and gelatinous kokotxas (something found only in Basque country, guess where this cut is located on the fish!)


Iberico Pluma

Aka “secreto” as we know it in the states. Grilled medium rare, you can eat this like a steak. Incredibly fatty, juicy, and tender. The closest thing to this in the states would be to acquire a heritage breed mulefoot secreto.


Angulas de Aguinaga – 530€/kg

The highly prized baby eels only in season from November to Late February and is ridiculously expensive, approximately $350 USD/lb. One bite of these is like eating a 20 dollar bill, albeit it’s much tastier. The texture is exactly like perfectly al dente pasta, but has a savory briny flavor that is both fatty, faintly fishy, and very meaty. Quite tasty… but not something I could afford. They are gently warmed in olive oil, dried guindilla pepper flakes, and thinly shaved pieces of garlic.


Sonia’s Uncle’s Pickled Guindilla Peppers

This isn’t expensive and quite commonplace, but these guindillas peppers which were grown and pickled by Sonia’s uncle are in my opinion, the best guindilla peppers that I’ve ever tasted. The brine is a perfect balance of salty and sour while the peppers themselves have an excellent crispy texture and are a lot more spicier than your commercial brand guindillas.


Working with Sonia was a great pleasure despite our occasional miscommunications (one of the problems of only having a rudimentary grasp of Spanish) but we did work. Sonia’s a beast in the kitchen; incredibly fast, concentrated, precise, and yet she still puts on a friendly smile & conversation with the customers whilst cooking. She was incredibly nice to me, anything I wanted to know more about she got me the necessary information, anything I wanted to try and eat she gave me, taught me every single recipe and technique she knew, and introduced me to the many specialized purveyors of Solana 4 (who were also the suppliers for Restaurante Fronton). Plus she has her signature bad ass hair bun.


The staff at Solana 4 was incredibly friendly and accommodating to me, they treated me like family. Thank you Sonia, Leire 1, Leire 2, Yvonne, and Anna for making my stay at Solana very enjoyable!

Solana Cuatro

Tolosa, Guipúzcoa

943 017 636

Casa Urola – San Sebastián – País Vasco, Spain

•March 24, 2013 • 1 Comment

My buddy Razvan (who was also a stage at Restaurante Fronton) and I decided to go to Donostia for lunch at a new place he will be staging at. It’s hidden in Parte Vieja (Old Part of San Sebastian) near Borda Berri, look for white glass doors. The downstairs level served pintxos and had a bar while the upstairs was more quiet, spacious, and nicely decorated. Razvan informs me that the Chef uses really fresh products and is very technical with his food. Needless to say, the food was amazing:

(FYI all the photos are half portion sizes, the full portion would be double)


Charred Pulpo – Potata Crema, Jamon Iberico Crisps, Iberico Fat Bread Crumbs,  Smoked Pimentón Oil

By far the best octopus dish I’ve had in País Vasco. The giant octopus was stewed gently and then quickly charred on a charcoal grill. The chunks of tentacles drenched in olive oil was incredibly tender, juicy, charred, well seasoned, and garnished with iberico fat fried croutons. The pulpo rested on top of a bed of thinly shaved & blanched green cabbage (berza) and buttery potato cream. The toothsome texture of shaved cabbage combined with the smooth creaminess of the potato puree were the perfect compliments to the octopus. Accompanying the pulpo was iberico jamon crisps that were only cooked so briefly the fat was just beginning to crisp and melt. I love how many dishes served in País Vasco are  garnished with some form of Iberico Jamon to give the dish a luxurious and unctuous touch. A sprinkle of smoked pimentón oil gave the dish a nice color and smoky sweetness to the dish.


Whole Squab Deconstructed – Foie Gras, Mole, Verdura Crema

Pretty bangin’ squab dish, also the best I’ve had in País Vasco (sorry Fronton!). The dark meat on the bone was braised in a dark chocolate mole. The liver was whipped with foie gras to make a incredibly creamy and savory mousse. It was then topped with some sautéed wild golden chanterelles. The breast was seared crispy skin side and cooked to a perfect medium rare.


Chocolate Soufflé – Raspberry Jam, Vanilla Ice Cream, Whipped Cream

A nicely executed souffle that had a liquid hot chocolate center.


Torrija – Coffee Ice Cream, Caramel, Brulee

Really awesome torrija, better than the traditional torrija. The inside was soaked with vanilla, cream, and the outside was nicely crispy and bruleed. The mocha ice cream added a nice temperature contrast to the warm torrija.

All in all, Razvan and I walked out spending around 70 euros for the food and beer. The food is very high quality and pretty affordable, would definitely want to come back here just for the pulpo before I leave Basque country!

Casa Urola

Calle de Fermín Calbetón, 20, 20003

Donostia-San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa


Iztueta Creamery – Lazkao, País Vasco

•March 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment



While I was back in TPT Bakery, Alazne kindly offered to take Susy and I to visit the local creamery located in the grassy green hills just 10 minutes outside of Beasain. Iztueta is the primary supplier of artisanal dairy for TPT Bakery, Beasain, and other surrounding small towns and villages.



It was a rather dreary day full of rain clouds, but the gloom could not cover the beautiful landscape and made it look more mystique with the clouds swirling around the mountains and the fog settling around the pastures.



The creamery was located on the top of a green hillside; there was a huge mansion-like ranch house where the Iztueta family lived for many generations (would love a place like that), and a huge indoor farm where all the cows were kept when it was raining.



The first thing I noticed about the farmhouse was that it DID NOT SMELL. It in fact, smelled like fresh grass, hay, and oats. It was definitely a far cry from the usual smelly cow feces that just slaps you across the face when passing by those disgusting concentrated cow feed lots in the U.S..



The cows were all happily grazing away, the ones nearest to us took noticed and started to stare. They were very curious, most of the cows came over to me to when I approached them so I could give them a good scratch on the head! The weirdest thing was though, was when I was petting one juvenile cow it licked me with it’s huge tongue, and that was the weirdest feeling ever; kinda like extremely coarse gravel just scraping against your skin.



The farmers at Iztueta are definitely doing it right here, the cows seem to love people.



All the cows are organized by age groups so they get the proper attention, feed, and care taking that they need respective to their age. Here are the baby cows (veal). So cute, innocent, and a bit shy. Kinda makes me never to want to eat veal ever again…it’s not that tasty anyways.



As with all farms all around the world, they got tons of ranch dogs running all over the place, all very curious and extremely friendly. The feed shown above consists of barley, hay, oats, and wheats. It’s all organic and top quality, ensuring a top shelf end product. It should also be noted that the maximum amount of cows that Iztueta has at their creamery is 40. This is the maximum number of cows that the land can sustain so the environment does not suffer from overgrazing. The pens are also kept extremely clean by a giant Roomba that collects all the cow pies in the pens, and they are washed daily. No wonder there is no smell!


Next we were taken into the milking room. The farmers only milk the cows that are pregnant (only pregnant cows produce milk naturally, most of the mass produced stuff is hormone induced milk). The cows willingly walk into the pen to get milked by these high powered milking machines.


Once milked, the milk is transferred to the immaculately clean pasteurization room where the milk is filtered, pasteurized, and packaged for delivery!


Iztueta also boasts a very special “Clandestine” Cream that is NOT available to the general public since its sale is prohibited by food regulation laws. However, Alazne has the inside scoop and happened to acquire a 1.5L bottle of this unpasteurized cream. This cream was something else; incredibly grassy, so thick you gotta squeeze it out of the bottle, and a slightly gamey farmhouse taste. I simply whipped some up with sugar and macerated it with strawberries. Holy shit that was soo good. Later Susy and I made a Basque Clam Chowder with it that was also amazing in itself (I’ll provide a recipe for that later).


I know I should rep Californian cows, but the happiest cows I’ve seen come from Iztueta Creamery!

Iztueta Creamery

20210 Lazkao (Gipuzkoa), País Vasco, Spain

Phone: 606 – 435 – 022

Bar Zeruko – Pintxos – País Vasco, Spain

•February 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Bar Zeruko

Calle Pescaderia 10, San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain

Known for the modern techniques employed by Bar Zeruko, these aren’t your ordinary pintxos! Once you step through the doors you are greeted with a dizzying array of pintxos in all sorts of shapes and forms.


Spheres of god knows what shaped into faux eggs and chunks of morcilla dusted with finely crushed pistachios. The green morcilla actually tasted like the Chinese variant of pork blood rice cake dipped in crushed peanuts.


Now these pintxos were more traditional looking. These pintxos consisted of club sandwiches, seared brie, gazpacho, and iberico hams.


Got the sea urchin pintxos from this group… how could I resist?


Got both versions of the “angulas” here. Always wanted to try the cheaper and fake surimi version of the famed angulas just to compare. These definitely were cheap; they tasted like nothing and didn’t have any texture. In other words, absolute shit compared to the real thing. Save your euros kids, better to skip these. Solana 4, Itxebarri, and Elkano serve the rare delicacy and can be eaten there (they are however highly seasonal so go between November and February).


Tartares,morcilla with eggs, and spring garlic wrapped with shrimp and filo.


More crazy unidentifiable pintxos.


Sea Urchin Custard with Salmon Roe

The sea urchin was thankfully pretty fresh (I find that most pintxos have been sitting around for a bit). It was mixed in nicely with some eggs, topped with salmon roe, and then broiled under the salamander to be reheated. The immense heat of the salamander curdled the custard a bit, but it was still pretty tasty. This was the first pintxos bar that I’ve been to that served sea urchin.


Fake Angulas, Potato, Egg Yolk, and Bread

Listen up, these fake angulas are a far cry from the real thing, don’t buy pintxos that contain them! You can tell if they are fake if: a. they aren’t expensive, b. artificial coloring, c. no eyes or fake eyes. Real ones have actual small eyes and fins attached to their bodies and have a nice al dente pasta texture. These fake angulas were paired with a potato and an egg yolk. The disc is a piece of white bread. Underwhelming to say the least.


Foie Gras Mousse Wrapped with Porcini Gelee, Shiny Copper Garnish

Foie mouse wrapped in a gelee of porcini mushrooms. The flavors were nice and looked visually appealing, but the copper garnish added nothing to the dish but glam.

Fake Angulas, Slaw, Filo Cone

It was creamy, somewhat similar to the fake krab filling found in California rolls, and crunchy on the outside. It wasn’t bad if you want something very boozy, this is stuff that you would want to eat at 3 AM stoned and drunk.

They also had a vast list of hot pintxos and small plates that the kitchen prepares.


We decided to try the squid burger and the smoked bacalao dish.


Squid Burger – Squid Ink “Sponge”, Squid Ink Aioli, Wasabi

Weird in conception, but tasted pretty good. I especially loved the kick the wasabi gave to the dish and gave it an almost Japanese-ish taste. The bartender warned me to be careful with the wasabi… baha I’m Chinese, I can handle 100x more spicy food than your average Basque person. Visually appealing, but the sponge was a weird texture and felt like eating a savory marshmallow. Bar zeruko definitely nails it on the head presentation wise, but most of their pintxo garnishes are gaudy and superficial.


Charcoal Smoked Bacalao Gravlax – Aioli, Chive Spheres, Salad Shooter

This was by far the best dish at Bar Zeruko. The bacalao was freshly cured and we were instructed to place the bacalao over a smoldering piece of charcoal (which I believe was a smoldering quarter of the same charcoal used to power hookahs) for 20 seconds. Hesitant on the smoke actually giving the fish any true smoky flavor, it was actually really great. Smoky, fatty, unctuous bacalao that ate like tuna belly. The aioli crack was a nice finish to the dish and the salad shooter rounded out all the rich fattiness with vegetal bitter and fresh flavors. I personally thought the tube of salad liquid was clunky and hard to drink out of. The flavor of the salad liquid was unappealing… rather harsh and raw. All in all though, the best piece of bacalao that I’ve eaten in País Vasco.


I definitely recommend Bar Zeruko for their creative pintxos compared to the traditional ones that you usually find everywhere else. Bar Zeruko offers something different from the rest, and that’s definetly worth checking out in Parte Vieja.

La Cuchara de San Telmo – Pintxos – San Sebastián, Spain

•February 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment


La Cuchara de San Telmo

 Calle del Treinta y Uno de Agosto, 28, 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa

Hands down I think La Cuchara de San Telmo is one of the best (if not the greatest) pintxos bar I’ve been to in San Sebastián. You order your food and drink (the bartender actually writes your order on a ticket! smart and organized pintxos bar…) and it is cooked ala minute. The bartender runs the food to you as soon as the food is ready, ensuring that your pintxos arrives to your plate piping hot and fresh. What surprised me even more was one of the bartenders  said “Guys, here are your pig ears!” to Susy and I when he was trying to get our attention. He claimed later that his English was good because he watched too much MTV. This by the way is the first pintxos bar that actually attempted to speak English.

Now on to the food…


Squid Orzo Risotto

Creamy, full of squid flavor, chewy chunks of squid, and the orzo was nicely cooked. Everything was seasoned well and tasted very fresh.


Calf Cheeks Braised in Red Wine

Extremely tender and succulent, everything was nicely seasoned and the mashed potatoes were chockfull of butter, it was great for such a rainy night in Donostia.


Seared Day-boat Scallop Wrapped in Iberico Bacon

Perfectly cooked fat scallop that was crispy on the outside and pretty much raw on the inside. It was extremely sweet, fatty, and was given the royal treatment of being wrapped in iberico bacon. The salsa verde of herbs and olive oil gave the dish a nice herbal bite. This was the best scallop dish I’ve tasted so far in the whole Basque country.


Crispy Iberico Pig Ear & Belly with Apricot Puree

By far the best pintxos I have ever eaten! Holy shit it was all sorts of decadent, rich, piggy deliciousness. You have the ear crisped perfectly so it’s super crispy on the outside yet still nicely mushy and soft on the inside. To add the icing to the cake, they had Iberico pork belly resting on the bottom of the Iberico pig ear. This in itself was otherworldly; the acorn fed fat of the pig just melts immediately into a fatty luxurious melange of meat, gelatin, and grease. The crispy pig ear added even more depth, flavor, and texture to the fatty and rich iberico belly. Everything was brought together with an apricot puree that was so sweet and tangy that it matched perfectly with the pork. This is not diet food my friends, I could feel the arteries tighten when eating this one…but it’s so dam worth it.


Seared Foie Gras with Apple Compote

This was outrageous after just eating the Iberico ear and belly dish. It was a beautiful small lobe of foie with a perfect crust, I haven’t seen one that perfect looking in awhile. It was seasoned nicely with chunky sea salt, sherry vinegar reduction, and a sweet apple compote. What more could you ask for in a foie dish?

Excellent customer service, excellent food (I had my best scallop and iberico pintxos here), good prices, great ambiance. Definitely at the top in my book!

Asador Telesforo – Zarautz – País Vasco, Spain

•February 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Filet Foie
Coming from Getaria, we hit up a pintxos bar (had filet & foie) before heading to Asador Telesforo. Asador Telesforo is located just a 2 minute walk away from the beach and served very fresh seafood and meat.
Telesforo Erretegia
Marti unfortunately couldn’t join Susy and I for lunch, but she suggested that we definitely try the calamar that they had here. We went ahead and decided to also order some shrimp, oyster mushrooms, a bottle of txakoli and fried milk curds.
Shrimp ala Plancha
Very fresh shell on shrimp just simply seared and seasoned with sea salt and lemon juice. Sucking the heads was the best part here!
Seared Oyster Mushrooms
Seared very hard and dressed with olive oil and chunky sea salt. You have to get your oil almost smoking to get such a hard sear on oysters (high water content), but I think the oil got too hot and got scorched, there was a overwhelming burnt oil flavor to some of the mushrooms. All in all though, pretty tasty, just knit picking.
Calamar ala Plancha with Sherry Onions
Marti was right, they have really good calamar, in fact I think these are the BEST calamar I’ve had in Basque country. The sweet sherry onions gave the incredibly fresh and perfectly cooked squid a good amount of acid and sweetness to match with the sweet fatty flesh of the calamar. I love the Basque idea of using vinegars instead of lemon juice on their seafood (unlike the more common approach of just using lemon or fresh citrus). A drizzling of parsley olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt made this dish the best dish of the day. Would gladly come back to Telesforo just to have the calamar.
A light, fruity, sparkling white wine that pairs beautifully with seafood. It is produced locally here and is the king grape of the Basque region coastline (due to the colder windier climate). The txakoli grape produces a wine that is minerally, pear tones, green apple, grass, oceanic wind, and it finishes clean and light with enough acid to hold against fatty fish like halibut.
Fried Milk Curds
Fried Milk Curds with Leche and Cinnamon Sugar
These were really fucking good. Creamy fresh milk curds were fried crispy on the outside and molten hot melting on the inside. They were drizzled with good fresh heavy cream and covered with cinnamon sugar. Awesome.
After this huge lunch, we decided to stroll down the beach and coastline to walk off the lunch and enjoy the rare sunshine illuminating the beautiful Zarautz coastline. Here are some pics from the coast. Unfortunately the sun was setting by the time we tried to walk further up the coast and some policemen told us to go back. The waves however were coming in shore like crazy and splashing the walkway as the wind picked up.
It was a beautiful day spent in Getaria and Zarautz. It definitely was a highlight of the BasqueStage so far and look forward to the adventures that will come!
Asador Telesforo
Plaza Donibane, 6, 20800
Zarautz, País Vasco, Spain
(943) 83 09 01

Anchoas Maisor – Getaria – País Vasco, Spain

•February 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Marti took Susy and I to the picturesque sea side village of Getaria today to sample some of the best anchovies the Basque Country has to offer, super stoked! It was kind of a cloudy ominous morning, threatening to rain any minute when we were wandering around lost in Donostia looking for Marty (sorry!). After a long scenic drive through the lush green hill sides of the Basque country side (saw some black iberico pigs in the forest!), we ended up at the gorgeous sea  side town of Getaria.


The sun was starting to clear up after we exited the bus, perhaps it might be sunny soon?? Haven’t seen sun for a couple of weeks now… it rains so much here!


After a nice scenic walk to the fishing port, the clouds went away and revealed glorious sunlight. The sun lit up the ocean so it became a vibrant vivid blue, all the fishing boats colors popped, and everything seemed so picturesque and perfect.


Anchoas Maisor is in a little shop tucked right on the other side of these boats. Harbor side, Maisor gets the freshest and highest quality anchovies right of the pier for the best anchoas and boquerones.


Upon arriving, we met the friendly owner and he proceeded to explain to us the process of making their prized anchovy products. Needless to say, the process is very simple and archaic, I love how that such a simple technique paired with time can produce such a different and tasty product. It definitely got my gears churning to try this same curing process with different other oily fishes you find off the California coast.


Maisor also offered many other high quality sea food products, dry goods, pickles, canned goods, spices, and oils.



Extremely tender, bone free, fresh vinegar bite, nicely salted, and a fresh oceanic fish taste.


Anchoas – Salted & Aged Anchovies

Salty, deep umami flavor, deep briny taste, pleasantly oily, and a long savory finish.


Mackerel (Local) 

Done in the same curing technique as the boquerones; meaty, rich, fresh vinegar bight, no bones, good salt, light and delicate flesh.

These were honestly the best anchovies I have ever tasted; so delicate, full of flavor, and fresh. We gladly stockpiled some anchovies to take home… need to make another trip soon because I destroyed my stash already. Thanks for the tour Marti and Anchoas Maisor!


The view from outside Anchoas Maisor. The epic mountain in the back is named “Rat Mountain.”


After visiting Anchoas Maisor, we looked around the streets of Getaria for a bit.


The grills commonly used in Basque Country, used to grill fresh fish from the daily catch of the fisherman just outside the door.


Speaking of grills and fresh sea food, Elkano apparently has the best seafood in all of Basque Country. Definitely need to pay a visit to this place soon!


Exiting Getaria, waiting for our bus to go get pintxos and lunch at Zarautz, known for it’s Txokolina sparkling white wine. How fitting, amazing fresh seafood at the harbor perfectly paired with sparkling white wine in the hills.

Sammic Headquarters – País Vasco, Spain

•February 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment


One morning Sammic invited Susy and I for a visit to Sammic Headquarters to check out their products and how they are produced. Located in the green rolling hills, it was a nice and scenic drive to Sammic, despite the downpour of the non-stop Basque winter rain. We were greeted warmly by the people at Sammic and started our tour after a few introductions.


This is the filming room that Sammic uses for Basque Stage. Susy and I were informed that we had to film product demonstrations utilizing Sammic’s products in the kitchen. The room was stocked with a fryer, circulator, vacuum pack machine, a food processor, stand mixer, just to name a few things. We had access to all of Sammic’s kitchen equipment for our videos to play with, so this was very exciting.


Liquid hot aluminum, Mr. Bond

Next we were lead to the part of the factory where they would mold the equipment with liquid hot aluminum. The factory in general was very streamlined, clean, organized, and very high tech (they had Japanese machines that made parts used in F1 cars, so these machines were top of the line for kitchen equipment, pretty sweet).


Looks like a scene from Saw, eh?

Next the freshly casted aluminum Sammic parts are polished in this chamber, where they are put into a huge bin of vibrating metal balls to polish, shine, and buff the aluminum parts to give them a very nice high end sheen.


I wonder if I put my knives in there if they will be magically buffed like new?


Next to the aluminum forging area was the special parts section where the very detail oriented pieces of Sammic kitchen equipment is produced.


We were then brought upstairs, where the assembly line of Sammic products was located. The whole assembly floor was massive, with tons of machines, grapples, pulleys, and kitchen equipment parts splayed out everywhere with workers busily putting everything together. This floor also included a really cool robotic arm that retrieves special parts from thousands of special box bins that is over two stories tall. A test room was also on this floor  that tested Sammic equipment durability and troubleshooting.


Finally we ended up in the show room with all the finished kitchen equipment that Sammic offers. They had almost anything you would need: potato peelers, vacuum packers, dish washers, salad spinners, panini grills, plancha, meat grinder, juicers, mixers, food processors, washers, expresso machines, meat slicers, immersion circulators, water ovens, and many more.

Thanks for the tour Sammic, see you next time in our filmings ahead!

Sidrería Iruin Astiazarán – Zubieta, Gipuzkoa

•February 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Upon Susy’s arrival, we went to the local cider house to celebrate. Marti, Nacho, Andoni, and Xavier brought Susy and I to the sidrería approximately 10 minutes from our Lasarte apartment. It was a dark, cold, rainy day and the sidrería was only occupied by a table of elderly men.

Iruin Astiazaran Sagardotegia

Upon arriving through the doors of the sidrería, there was a huge rib roast just resting by the window and also a huge chuleta (cutlet of ribeye) roasting beautifully over the open flame.


We sat down on long wooden tables which were already set up with cider braised chorizo and baskets of warm crusty bread. We were informed that anyone yelling “TXOTX!”meant that everyone got up and refilled our glasses at the giant cider barrels.

Cider Barrels

These gigantic vats of cider are produced from the local apple harvest. Each barrel holds a different varietal of the cider. The entire cider house had a musky, yeasty, and apple like smell to it. You approach the barrels and open a valve located at the front of the barrel. Open up the valve and a stream of golden apple cider streams out and you have to catch it with your glass. I was told that you are only supposed to catch enough to drink in one shot, which for me was half a glass 😉

Catching Cider

After getting our first round of cider, the waiter brought over the 2nd part of our meal; bacalao three ways.


Soft Scrambled Eggs w/ Bacalao

Just eggs simply soft scrambled with bacalao and finished with a generous pour of fruity olive oil. Slather it on your bread and you got a delicious yet simple dish.


Fried Bacalao w/ Fried Pimenton Verde

Lightly fried bacalao with blistered and fried pimenton verde. Kinda greasy, simple, and good eating.

Bacalao Tomato Stew

Bacalao Tomato Stew

This was my favorite dish out of all the bacalao dishes (the omelette being a close second). The acid in the tomato cuts nicely through the fattiness of the bacalao, and it was a great dish for dipping your bread.


Chuleta – Ribeye 60+ oz

Next came the mighty chuleta. The beef was slightly chewy from all the free ranging the cow has done and tastes minerally from all the grass it’s been eating. Grilled almost to black & blue, it was amazing. I ate this until I could stomach no more, the cider definitely helped the amount of meat go down smoothly.

Andoni Cutting Chuleta

Andoni portioning the mighty chuleta.


Cow’s Milk Cheese, Quince, and Walnuts

Our dessert course. It was very simple excellent cheese with sweet quince paste. The walnuts were a messy but delicious affair.


Txotx! See you next time!

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