Posts Tagged ‘Basque Region’

Sketches of San Sebastian

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Into San Sebastian, in the Basque region of Spain, for a tour – more of a feeding frenzy – of its Michelin starred restaurants. Given that the city has more three star restaurants per head of population than anywhere else in the world, this holiday borders on the obscene. Perhaps foodie tourism has taken over from sex tourism?

A curious thing happens when I consult my notes, for though I make mention of Arzak, Mugaritz, Akelare, and Martin Berasategui, it is the places arrived at by happenstance that seem to have marked me most. So I shall put the big guns on hold and offer a few tidbits from one man’s journey with his near saint of a girlfriend and their convection oven of a car.

In the Picos de Europa amid vertiginous gorges and extraordinary scenery, we stop for bread fish soup – a shellfish broth that is leavened with stale bread. It plops onto the plate like pig slops but tastes like heaven. A local sidre, poured from a great height to oxidise it, is dungeon cold and sour as green rhubarb.

At Praia de Mogodof on the scalloped, bleached white, beach, made from the dust of a billion crushed shells; a lean-to shack offered salade nicoise made, correctly with tinned tuna stored in sunflower oil. Who needs French beans? This came on a plate you could land a helicopter on along with a tractor wheel of tortilla that had been cooked to order and was thus perfectly liquid at its centre. The owner was touchingly aggrieved we could not finish it. It would have sufficed for a coach party of sumo wrestlers.

In Lugo, lamb’s tongue; leathery crunch and yielding interior. Tripes, yes the texture and smell is like eating boiled Converse trainers, but the taste! Raw armandine clams, still throbbing, chewy like seaweed and sweet as fudge. In Santandar, fabada, the Asturian stew of beans, sausages, morcilla, cocina and sweet, artery clogging pig fat, bubbles and broils its way to our table. A mini Vesuvius.

At Alona Berri tapas bar – ‘cuisine in miniature’ – they promise to feed us till we are not hungry. And they do. Stand out dish; pig foot terrine, peppercorn crisp, roast baby squid suspended above a reduced fish stock laced with vermuth. One if by land one if by sea.