The Stage At Xarma Jatetxea

For my previous blog posts about my experience at Xarma Jatetxea, please check the following links!

The ‘Charm’ in Xarma Jatetxea

The Toys at Xarma Jatetxea

So what is it like being a Basque Stage here in one of the culinary capitols of the world? It’s unlike anything I could have imagined. With working under chefs that have worked for some of the most renowned chefs in Europe from Juan and Elena Arzak to Michel Bras, I could tell that I was in for a learning experience like no other. So this is a blog post about my time working under chef Xabier and Aizpea at Xarma Jatetxea.


I was actually pretty surprised at what they had me doing on my first day on the job. I was expecting to do typical ‘intern’ tasks like picking parsley or peeling onions or something simple like that just to start out, but it was the opposite. Just on my first day, I made 3 types of spheres using the infamous methodology and chemicals that Ferran Adria of El Bulli Fame has introduced to the culinary world. I had prepped out and made a very ingenious Tomato and Apple carpaccio. And when it came to service, I was appointed to plating a majority of their first courses and appetizers.


“No tengas mideo!” Aizpea told me.

Of course all I could respond with was, “……… no entiendo! LOS SIENTO!!!”

“Don’t be afraid!” She responded back to me.

And from then on, I tried to my hands in every single thing I could.

I found myself doing more and more and getting a whole lot of hands on experience as the days came by. By the end of my first week, I had cleaned a case of beef cheeks, seared of the cheeks along with some oxtail, and braised them until they reached ultimate tenderness. I had cleaned and prepped up over 2 dozen squabs. And I have made basically all of the sauces that we use for all of the menus. By the end of the second week, I was appointed to prepping out and being in charge of two of the tasting menus that they offered and also was took control of all things pastry. I, for one, never thought myself of ever wanting to be a pastry chef as it is a whole different world, but I was quite excited to actually learn this side of the culinary world.

Beef Cheek Prep

Beef Cheek Prep

It amazes me of all the things I have got to do and have learned when I look back at these past 3 months. I wish that I could go more into detail to all of the things that I have seen and learned to here at Xarma as Sammic’s Basque Stage, but this post would be very long and rather tiring to read! So instead, I will post a bunch of pictures of my time here in the kitchen of Xarma Jatetxea.

Apple Dessert Prep

Apple Dessert Prep

Tomato Carpaccio Prep

Tomato Carpaccio Prep

Squab Prep

Squab Prep

Calamari Prep

Calamari Prep

Chicken Roulade Prep

Chicken Roulade Prep

Foie Bombon Prep

Foie Bombon Prep

Ham Croquetta Prep

Ham Croquetta Prep




No I did not mean to write ‘Fiesta’. But I guess you can basically call it that! This post is about a certain time of the day, where all of Spain shuts down and goes on a 3-4 hour break. Well, maybe not all of Spain, but it definitely feels like it! And that is what we like to call a ‘siesta’!

Here in Spain, most restaurants are open for lunch and dinner. Sounds pretty self explanatory right? Wrong. I was pretty stoked to find out that I had such a long break to explore San Sebastian and get to eat at various places around town. But when I am on break, it also means everyone else is on break! So for any future visitors of San Sebastian, make sure you plan accordingly when you want to eat out at all the great places around here. I must add that a lot of the restaurants are closed Sunday night, all day Monday, and often Tuesday.

But back to my Siesta! As I’ve been staging at Xarma Jatetxea, I’ve been lucky enough to work relatively close to the city of San Sebastian. It is a very scenic 2-3 miles to and from work, which is a good 30-40 minute walk depending on how lazy and slow I am feeling.


My favorite part of the walk to Donostia is the moment when I start to see the amazing site known as, La Concha. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked up and down this beach, but I just can’t help to take a picture every time because it seems as if it’s a different experience every time I walk by it. To me, I still feel as if this place is unreal. Places like this only exist in dream lands. And to be able to see this indescribable place almost every day for the past 3 month has me feeling like I have been blessed, personally, by God himself. This has always been more than just a walk to point A to point B for me; it’s a walk of the utmost amount of gratitude and gratefulness for being lucky enough to have this once in a lifetime opportunity. And I’m getting the most out of it as I can during my last weeks here.


I have been able to see some of the craziest, coolest, weirdest, and most interesting things on my siestas, here in San Sebastian. And it is my pleasure to share with you all of these amazing things that have kept my soul entertained and happy during my time between shifts!

Koh Tao and Atari

These are my go-to places in San Sebastian whenever I am in need of a coffee and/or drink. Koh Tao is very much a café that looks as if it could be planted in the heart of Capitol Hill in Seattle. This seems to be where all the ‘hip’ kids (and even older folks!) like to go because of the great amazing atmosphere the place has. With having very inexpensive drinks and some of the better coffee in town, I find that this place makes me the most ‘at home’ away from my home in Seattle. Also, it is the only place that I’ve found that serves the amazingness known as Café Bonbon!


Atari is another great place I like to go. Atari is a great pintxo bar that has an amazing staff and great food, but of course they don’t serve any food during whenever I come in! They are located in the old part of San Sebastian right across from one of my favorite cathedrals in the city. On gorgeous days, I like to enjoy a glass (or a couple) of txakoli on the steps of one of my favorite and also one of the oldest cathedrals in San Sebastian.


The Sandman and His Lil’ Sandies

Okay, throughout this post I may make up names for a lot of these people because this is the type of stuff that goes through my mind whenever I see them during my walks. These are probably some of the moments I’ve enjoy the most during my walk by the beach. There is this man who makes some of the most amazing murals in the sand at the beach of La Concha. There are usually two different parts of the beach in which he uses as his canvases and it seems as if each the amazing piece of sand art always changes daily. One of my favorite aspects of these sand murals is that this man usually has an army of little kids who like to help me create and construct these wonderful pieces.


The Beatlettes

So this is probably the place that majority of my loose change has gone. This Mother-and-daughter super group has taken street entertainment to another level with their perfectly crafted and mastered art of puppeteering . Going off the record now and say that I am usually terrified at anything that has to do with puppets, but I found this just simply amazing. With perfect replicas of the Beatles, they have somehow managed to recreate what I feel like would be a true, live, Beatles experience. But with puppets! I can’t imagine the amount of practice it took for them to get timing down with controlling very specific pieces of each puppet from the head movements to strumming of the guitars to the crashing of a cymbal. They are musicians and artists in their own right because there’s much more going on than the twiddling of strings. Also, they always have a huge group of little children that like to sit down and watch as they do their music. There was this one time where all these little munchkins were dancing in a moshpit. Long Live Rock n Roll!


The Llama and His One Man Band

An amazing street act of this guy who is fitted head to toe with everything he needs to make up a whole band. Pretty surprised at the songs he was playing as they were all recognizable tunes. And plus he had a Llama as a Hype man. Super dope.


The Bubble Guy

Always see this guy on the nicest days out. Seems as if he is one with the weather because he is always out when the wind is perfect. He makes some of the craziest bubbles using two sticks with a string tied onto them and a bucket of soapy water. Watching him help very excited kids make some of the biggest bubbles I’ve ever seen definitely makes me have a smile from ear to ear!


The Saw

I had to double-take when I first saw this man. At first I thought he was playing a violin or some type of string instrument because I heard some of the finest classical music coming from his direction. But when I took a good look, he was actually playing music from a saw! Pretty ridiculous but quite an amazing talent.



I really don’t get what this guy does or what to call him. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen him do anything other than look really creepy. Also, I have NO clue if his little friend is a real person or is just a freaky little mannequin. I’m still waiting for the day for it to move and scare the living bejeezus out of me.


The Bongo Brothers

These guys are always bringing the jams to La Concha. Regardless if it’s an amazingly sunny day out or the gloomiest of days, they are always out and about banging on those drums filling the ears and souls of who ever walks by with some great grooves.


I’ve got to admit, regardless of the large amount of time I had between work shifts and how exhausting it would get for me trying to find ways to occupy my time, San Sebastian always had a way to fill that void. I’ve been very grateful to see so much of the life around here in San Sebastian and it’s something that I’ve grown to love so much. This is definitely a site I’m going to miss seeing everyday once I return back home to Seattle…..

Pintxo Roundup: Burger de Potro

Warning!! This blog post might offend many people out there. Please, don’t let this post change or alter your thoughts about the person I am. Because in the end….. Its just f*$^n’ food!

Where: La Urbana Burgo Bar, Pamplona, Spain


Pintxo: Burger De Potro


“Have you ever had horse?” 

“Uh……. No???”

“You want to?”

“Uh……. Sure???”

This is the conversation that a new friend I met during my visit in Pamplona had the moment we stepped in to La Urbana Burgo Bar. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to just to say yes to, well you know, eat a freaking horse!!

I was reading through the menu and I was already kind of iffy about having a burger. Mainly because it is actually quite difficult to find a good burger out here in San Sebastian. Maybe I’m just too picky or I’m spoiled by the great burger places we have in Seattle (i.e. Lil Woody’s, 8oz Burger Bar, Lunchbox Labratory, Dick’s Drive-Ins). But it seemed that this joint might have been pretty promising because it was super packed with happy diners who all seemed to be enjoying their burgers.

“Dos Troti por favor”, Mark asked the server. So we waited. With beers in hands. Anxiously waiting to taste the meat of…. horse…. To be honest, I was actually kind of nervous! I’m about to eat HORSE. Did I mention that it was also young horse?! It’s the equivalent to veal to a cow. That’s all I could really think about. It’s just like that moment when you get in line for a roller coaster you think you’re really wanting to go on. But as you get closer to the front of the line, you’re like, “Oh shit…. Do I really want to do this?”

But of course, as scared as you may be as you step onto that roller coaster, you end up walking off with a huge head-rush and having the time of your life. And this burger ended up being probably one of the better burgers I’ve had here in Spain. It’s meat was very lean. Very flavorful. And was almost a cross between venison and beef. I was quite surprised at how much I wanted to eat more and more of it. There was really not one thing I could complain about this burger. Well, other than wishing there was more!

Now I guess I can check ‘eating horse’ off my bucket list. I have told many people about this experience and the reactions and comments I have got from them haven’t been   really that great. But hey, I’ve always told myself that I’ll (almost) always try something once and in the end, I really am glad I had this experience. Who knows…. Horse burgers the next trend in America??? Most likely not… But we’ll see!

The Toys of Xarma Jatetxea

One of my first impressions of Xarma when I walked into their kitchen was, “Hot DAMN!”. Pardon my language, but I was actually really astonished at how great of a kitchen they are blessed with. With only having a 35 seat restaurant, it was really surprising to see the kitchen to that caliber. But after having worked at this restaurant for about 2 months and seeing the quality of food that comes out of the kitchen, I can see how Chef Xabi and Aizpea utilize their kitchen to its fullest potential.


So this post is about all the  crazy, cool, and new pieces of equipment that I have had to use and had to familiarize myself with!

The Can Opener

So they have all the typical kitchen equipment that you would find in any typical restaurant kitchen. You know, stuff that isn’t really post worthy since they are all tools that you would find in any kitchen. One kitchen tool that would fit under this category would be a can opener. Right? WRONG. I remember the first time I had to open a can at Xarma and I swear I have never felt like a huge idiot in my life. It took me about 10 minutes until I actually had to ask someone where to fine the can opener. They pointed me into the direction of the drawer that I had actually looked in a gazillion and then pulled out this small, red little thing that I had actually picked up in my own hand and looked at, wondering what in the world it could be. I’ve never been so embarrassed asking looking for something that I feel like I’ve used a million times!


Sammic Vaccum Packaging Machine

This is probably the machine I hear the most out of any piece of equipment while in the kitchen. “PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”! That is the sound of freshness being concealed! This great piece machinery made by Sammic, the company that sponsors the Basque Stage, is how we ensure freshness of our proteins, sauces, basically everything.During my visit at the Sammic headquarters, I had spotted the exact same model of vacuum packing machines that we use at Xarma and my tour guide, Asier, had told that the machine is one of the best out on the market. Their vacuum packing machines gets rid of 99% of the air, ensuring that whatever you are packaging stays fresh for a longer period of time. I don’t know how many times I have accidentally made a mess in this machine from overfilling bags. Sorry guys!!


Rational Combi-Oven

So when I saw the vacuum packaging machine, I was expecting to see a thermal immersion circulators, or better known as a sous-vide cooker. It only makes sense when a restaurant uses a vacuum packing machine so frequently. But I couldn’t see one insight. This all made sense when really took a look at their oven. I have only heard myths about the greatness of these special ovens called, “combi-ovens”. They basically do anything and everything you want. It is a convection oven, it also steams, it also combines the two, and it also is self-cleaning. I wouldn’t be surprised if you can download apps on it and play your favorite Pandora station off of it. But seriously, this thing is an amazing piece of machinery. It dials in into the most precise temperatures with any amount of humidity you want. At the same time you can choose what how much air you want cycling in your oven. This basically does everything a sous-vide machine does plus some! And whenever you feel like it’s getting a little dirty, just pop in a little soap disc, and turn on the clean cycle, and in two hours, you have an oven that looks like it has never been used.  This machine is a BEAST.


The Thermomix

Next up, my new love. Sorry Vitamix, but I’ve been cheating on you. You have been so great to me, but there’s something better on this side of the ocean, and its name is thermomix. We use to have one at Txori that was brought over from Europe from one the original owners, but it was not in working condition, sadly. So this was my first time actually getting to use one and man, I never thought I could get so excited using a piece of equipment before! This thing does EVERYTHING. It has the power of a vitamix, but it also is a scale, a heating element, has a set timer on it, and I have even heard some crazy things that some models actually has a filter in it that basically strains as its pureeing the mixture inside! INSANE RIGHT?! Too bad they go for over  1,000 Euros, so I guess I must take advantage of this affair before going back to America where I am still happy settling with a Vitamix.


The Plancha

This next one really caught me off guard the first time I saw it. I looked at it and thought to myself, “hmmmm, well that’s interesting……” I really couldn’t put together the pieces to this one and still have a hard time wondering why it made in this specific way, but man is it awesome! This is the plancha (or flattop grill) at Xarma. IT HAS A MOAT! Why, you may ask? I DON’T KNOW. But IT HAS A MOAT! My guess is that the water has to do with something with temperature control and helps creates a consistent range of heat throughout the plancha. I have done some research and found that this style of plancha is a ‘French Plancha’. While using it, I have not experience any form of sticking or burning or anything less than perfect when it comes to caramelizing or searing items. The great thing about this thing is that it’s also really clean and looks spotless whenever we give it a nice scrub.


Paco Jet

Let me talk about windows real quick. I am not talking about windows that you stare out of whenever you are daydreaming about being outside, but windows as in the specific period of time when something must take place. And here comes the paco jet. Here at Xarma, they like to make sure that all of their dishes come out with the highest quality possible. So that means that we spin ice creams to order for EVERY order. Now it seems like a pretty simple thing to do, but I found the hard way that it is quite difficult to get the timing just right. It requires the perfect timing to make sure that the ice cream is at the perfect texture at the time it needs to be plated. This means that we always have to be aware and be prepared for when a dish is about to come up in the tasting menus and also how each ice cream reacts after being spun. Some spin to the perfect consistency, while others need a little time back in the freezer to firm up a bit more. This has taught me to be really being on top of things when it comes to knowing where I am at with each ticket I am on. But other than that, I wish I had a paco jet in my house. This thing is an incredible machine that makes for the creamiest textures of ice cream ever. Whenever I have an extra $4,000 laying around, I definitely know what I am purchasing!


Texturas by Ferran Adrià

Aside from the tools we use at Xarma, there menu involves a good amount of molecular gastronomy and the chemicals which have been made famous by Ferran Adrià of elBulli fame. I was very excited to be able to see and understand how each of these chemicals work and have had a great time experimenting and using them to make some of the craziest stuff I have seen when it comes to food.


Working in a new kitchen is usually always nerve racking. It takes some time to get use to where everything is and learn how things are suppose to run in the kitchen. Throw in a huge language barrier and a change in measurement and it makes it that much difficult for someone! But regardless of all the challenges that I have faced with being at Xarma, I have learned so much and have got to work in this amazing kitchen with some of the most talented chefs that are putting so much effort to really help me grow as a chef. I couldn’t be more grateful.

The ‘Charm’ in Xarma Jatetxea


Xarma Jatetxea. Located in San Sebastian, smack dab in the middle of my home in Lasarte and Donostia. Headed by chef and owners, Xabier Díez and Aizpea Oihaneder, this is the place that I will spend my 3 months learning and staging at while in the Basque Country.

Meaning “charm” in Basque, Xarma is a restaurant where diners are able to see the dream that these two chefs have worked so hard to fulfill. From the décor of the very elegant 35 seat dining room to the ever-changing menu of very thought out dishes, Chef Xabier and Aizpea have very much created  a very restaurant with the upmost amount of ‘charm’ (pun intended).

xarma interior

Xarma offers 3 different tasting menus that range from various prices and dining experiences and also offer an a la carte menu. I find that the food at Xarma to be very exciting and quite impressive, especially with having such a small crew of them 2 and another chef named Marcos. With a super stacked resume of working under some of the most renowned chefs in Europe from Juan Mari and Elena Arzak to Martin Bersategui to Michel Bras in France. Through every dish that leaves the kitchen, you can definitely see all of the knowledge and skills that these talented chefs have gained from putting in their time at such celebrated kitchens.


April 5th marked the day that I would first step into the kitchen as their newest addition to their team. With a mixed feeling of excitement and nervousness, I was ready for anything and everything. From the get go I knew it was going to be a huge challenged not speaking any Spanish. But luckily, with working at the Harvest Vine, I was able to understand a whole lot when it comes to kitchen terms and ingredients.

Marcos, the other chef that works their aside from Xabi and Aizpea, showed me the ropes for a typical work day. I was quite surprised to find out that he has only been working at Xarma for a month when I started because it has seemed like he knew everything and anything about the restaurant. First thing we do when we get into the kitchen is take out the garbage and recycling. We then set up all the stations with cutting boards, utensils, mise en place for service, and then we usually take a quick coffee break then its on to prep.

At around 11:45, we set up a table in the dining room for family meal, which happens at 12. I have found this to be very nice as it reminds me of how things are back at the Vine. There’s nothing better than being able to actually sit down and spend some quality time with your work family before a busy service! I was actually very impressed with family meal as the chefs like to actually make an effort to cook amazing food for the staff. Everyone knows that only great things can come out of a happy staff!

family meal

After family meal, comes coffee time and then it’s back to the kitchen where we set up the rest of the kitchen for service. This means heating up complimentary bread that we serve to the diners, getting all of the proteins and items portioned for each of the tasting menus and heating up all the sauces so they are ready to go.


Then around 2 o clock (or 9 o clock if we are talking dinner service) the restaurants starts to fill up with hungry customers. I have always known that every kitchen runs different from one another, but I have never worked in a kitchen where tasting menus are so dominant in what the customers order. Especially with having 3 different tasting menus to choose from, it is very easy to get confused with which dishes belong with what menu and how the progression of the dishes should go out in. And then throw in items of an a la carte menu and you could basically say that my mind might have gone a little bit crazy. But with some studying and some guidance, I was able to learn about each menu from head to toe within a couple of days. Thank Goodness!

As we get through the last couple tickets, we start the wrap up process as we refill our mis en place for the next service/day and start to put all of sauces and proteins into containers. As the last desserts go out, we turn of the oven and the planchas and we sweep up and mop up the floors.

This is basically how a typical day goes at my work. But in reality, there is no ‘typical’ day at Xarma Jatetxa. Each day I come in, I find myself still learning something new and exciting, especially working with chefs like Xabi, Aizpea, and Marcos. They always seem to find new ways to blow my mind and make me feel so freaking excited about food, especially Basque food. These are chefs that are doing really great things to a cuisine that is already so special in itself and can be seen as a model for the new and young generation of chefs that are wanting to bring new things to the table when it comes to the progression of what we know and perceive as “Basque cuisine”.


There is an unbelievable amount of gratitude I have for being Sammic’s Rising Star, especially for putting me in such a special restaurant like Xarma. I have learned so much and I’m only at the half way mark. I know I’ve said it so many times, but I just cant help to be so excited about all things to come in my last month as a Basque Stage!

Pintxo Roundup: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

Where: Bar Borda Berri, Donostia-San Sebastian


Pintxo: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil


Probably one of my favorite Pintxo bars here in San Sebastia via Andoni. This is the bar where I had my first bite here in Spain. And I had the chance to revisit it after my trip to the Sammic Headquarters. I was really craving some seafood so Bacalao was my go to! I have been familiar with Pil Pil, which is basically an emulsified sauce made from oil and the protein of a gelatinous fish, but I have never actually got to experience it. So this was my chance! I’ve always been so interested in Pil Pil because it really captures the essence of flavor from the fish and transforms it into a very creamy and decadent sauce. I also really like the fact that sauce’s name has came about because it is supposedly the onomatopoeia (vocab word of the day!)  of the sound that is made during the rotation motion that happens in the pan when the oil is being emulsified with the cod proteins to make the sauce.

The dish in itself was everything I wanted. The bacalao was super tender and had a very rich flavor. The pil pil sauce really enhanced the fishiness of the dish without it being too overly-fishy. There was a nice border of alioli that encapsulates the cod and it’s sauce that really rounded out this whole dish. And like I have always said, alioli makes everything better! With a couple slices of fresh bread and a glass full of txakoli, my day was made and my tummy was so happy.

But what is part of the cod was I eating exactly? It wasn’t until a couple days after when I  decided to actually look up what ‘Kallos de bacalao’ really meant. And to my surprise, what I was served was Cod Tripe. Seen as a delicacy in many countries, this part of the fish is actually pretty difficult to find. I was really surprised to find that I was eating the offals of the cod, but it kind of makes sense because it had a texture unlike any piece of cod I’ve had before. It supposedly isn’t actually like the part of tripe you’d find on a cow, but actually is the natatory bladder of the cod, or for all you fans of Asian cuisine, the fish maw. Either way, this dish was very exceptional and definitely worth ordering again!

My Trip To The Sammic Headquarters

Andoni in front of the Sammic Headquarters!

Andoni in front of the Sammic Headquarters!

On Wednesday, April 17th, I met up with Marti, Nacho, and Andoni for my visit to the Sammic Headquarters. Sammic is the main sponsor of the Basque Stage and is one of the main reasons for this great opportunity to live in the Basque Country.  Sammic manufactures commercial kitchen equipment and distributes their products to all over the world. The first piece of kitchen equipment that started it all was a potato peeler. No I’m not talking about one of those small peelers that you use to peel potatoes and other vegetables, but an actually machine that you place potatoes in and then it spins the potatoes and peels every potato until its skin free. Since then they have expanded their catalog to equipment from glasswear washers to vacuum package machines.

Marti and Nacho whatuppppppp.

Marti and Nacho whatuppppppp.

Upon arriving to the headquarters in the beautiful town of Azkoitia, Spain, I meet Amaia Altuna who works in Marketing. She is this very nice lady that seems to know about the company inside and out. She introduces me to my tour guide, Asier Bereziartua, and then it was off to see the factory where all the magic happens.

The Storage Facility.

The Storage Facility.

Asier works in the office of the factory and is the man that takes all the calls when it comes to information about the equipment and specific pieces and parts for all of their products. His English was pretty excellent so that made the tour that much more informative and exciting for me!


We start off on the main floor of the factory. The first thing he shows me where they melt down all the pieces of aluminum to form into specific pieces for each of their products. He asked me if I had seen the film “The Terminator” and then he has me look into this deep crevice that is filled with melted metal. The reference he makes is pretty perfect as it actually does look like T-1000 from the movie. It was a beautiful sight and almost hypnotizing as I just wanted to touch the liquid as it looked so pretty. But of course I knew that the consequences wouldn’t be the greatest. He then shows me a big pile of equipment parts that was not usable and they reuse and recycle any scrap metal to form into new pieces that they can utilize.


We continue on the tour and he shows me some parts for their potato peelers that they made that morning. Amazing to see all the work they crank out in the matter of a couple hours.  Next he shows me the room that these newly formed parts go to get buffered and polished up to look all nice for assembling.


Aiser and where the polishing happens!

Asier and where the polishing happens!

We pass by the assembly line where we see workers putting together different equipment from dishwashers of many sizes to potato peelers. I noticed that these machines are all being put together all by hand and I ask Asier if all of their products are put together like this. He confirms that everything that comes out of their factory is put together by hand and then every single piece of equipment is tested to see if they are working in perfect condition before they distribute them to establishments. I find this to be an amazing thing about Sammic because it really shows that this company really care and have a lot of pride for all their products that leaves their factory.

The makings of two different dishwashers.

The makings of two different dishwashers.

Asier then takes me to my favorite portion of the tour, the development area. This is where they take equipment concepts and then build them to test them out. The piece of equipment he shows me that is was in the middle of development was a washing machine. It looked like any other normal commercial washing machine but he explains to me that there is a special part on the top of the machine that takes all the steam that the dishwasher expels once you open it and suck all of it up and then recycles it and turns it into clean, usable water for the next batch of dishes.  I found this to be such a great idea and very cool to see that this sort of machine is being developed.


Next, we head to the testing area where they test their equipment for a straight 24 hours. They developed these machines that press the ‘on’ button on their equipment every minute to see how well they run to make sure they are working properly.


To conclude our tour, we leave the factory and he shows me other parts of the Sammic Headquarters like the marketing office and the offices where the engineers work. Not too shabby place to work it seems like!


I am very excited to be working with such a great company and really appreciative of all they have made possible for me and all of the previous Basque Stages.  Special thanks to Amaia, Asier and everyone at Sammic for having me visit their facility. I am looking forward to trying out some of the products that this company produces and see them in action!

The room where all the Basque Stage magic happens!

The room where all the Basque Stage magic happens!

Pintxo Roundup: Bocadillo Con Todo


So one of the greatest aspects of living in San Sebastian is that I have access to so much amazing food. I am surprised I haven’t started this earlier, but I have decided to start writing about random pintxos that I have eaten throughout my trip. My Pintxo Roundups are great because it makes me able to share the great (and bad!) food I have devoured. Also, it’ll be a great filler between my blog posts! So here we go with my first official Pintxo Roundup.

Pintxo: Bocadillo Con Todo


Where: Nagusia Lau Bar, Donostia-San Sebastian


So I got to admit, this isn’t the greatest of pintxo bars in Donostia that I have been too. It has a nice variety of pintxos with adequate quality of ingredients. I chose to feature this as my first Pintxo Roundup because it was one of the closest bites of food that reminds me of something I’d get in America.

I’m pretty sure it actually isn’t called Bocadillo con todo, which translates to sandwich with everything,  because it literally had everything that a sandwich should have. Not a puny little sandwich with a slap of cured meat, which i actually find quite delicious. I grabbed this bocadillo on the go on my way back to work because my stomach was growling and it was the most substantial looking thing on the bar. And at only 2 euros, you can’t go wrong! It consisted of a nice slab of ham, bacon, sliced tomatoes, cheese, and slathered in alioli. It was actually rather enjoyable and melded really well together, especially with the garlicky mayonnaise to bind all the flavors together. The bread wasn’t half as bad either.

I apologize now to all of the people who had to watch me mow down on this messy sandwich as I was rushing back to work. Atleast you all got to see me thoroughly enjoy this monster of a bocadillo!

Everything Sounds Prettier In Spanish…..

Well except for when I try to speak it!  But listening to my surroundings could pass off to being a soundtrack to any great movie. The people here are just as beautiful as the language that they speak. One thing I have noticed myself doing here, which is totally the opposite in Seattle, is that I barely listen to my iPod. Even when it’s completely a ghost town out, walking around to complete silence is something that I never would experience in Seattle. It can be quite a beautiful thing. I find that when I listen to music, I tend to block out everything that is going around me because I am in my own world. But that is not where I want to be.


The view from our front terrace.

All around me is a new world. Everything I have became accustomed too in my past 24 years from the people I associate myself with straight down to the way I live my life, I left all that behind the moment I stepped on the airplane. This is my chance to get out of my comfort zone and indulge in a lifestyle that I will never be able to in the States or anywhere else. I can only grow and learn from these experiences and it’s my time to take advantage of this new world around me.

Living in San Sebastian has been quite something. I’m getting near towards the end of my first month here and I feel like that I’m getting close to figuring out my groove.

Let’s start off by my apartment. I live in this great 2 bedroom/2 bathroom flat provided by Sammic and the Basque Stage with fellow Basque Stage Top Chef, Susy Santos. This apartment has exceeded my expectations for living situation, especially in a different country. We have a nice little living room that has a couch, a dining table, and a door to one of our terraces that overlooks the neighborhood of Lasarte. The kitchen is quite spacious and even though very ill equipped, it does a great job of serving its purposes.  Also, I was surprised to see a washing machine in place of where a dishwasher would be in a normal kitchen. Just a washing machine, so that means that we have to hang up all of our clothes to dry.


We live no more than 2 minutes away from the train station that gets to Donostia-San Sebastian in a quick 14 minutes and only a 7 minute train ride to the Lugaritz station where my work, Xarma Jatetxea, is located.


It has been quite easy finding my way around San Sebastian via train and autobus. The only thing that sucks is that they stop running rather early in the night with the latest bus usually being before 11 PM. This has made it pretty difficult for me some nights when we are busy at Xarma, because there is no way I’m leaving until my job is done.  Straight up. Even though this state of mind has resulted in me having to wait for an hour for a taxi in the hail, it wasn’t too bothersome knowing that I put my time in at work.


Hail at 1 in the morning while waiting for a taxi!!

This has been only one of the many challenges that I have had to face since living here. The biggest challenged for me has definitely been communication. I speak very little, if you can even count it, Spanish. I knew what I was getting myself into from the get go, but to my surprise, it hasn’t been TOO difficult communicating with the people here in San Sebastian. I am very lucky that the people here are really nice and actually are very interested in talking to me whenever it seems like I’m a little lost. I’m just grateful for peoples patience and willingness to help figure out what I’m trying to say to them.

With working at the Harvest Vine for the past 3 years, it has helped me out a lot when it comes to speaking about food. Ordering food at restaurants or pintxo bars has come pretty easy to me, luckily. And it definitely has helped out in the kitchen at Xarma. Just knowing the Spanish words for ingredients is a huge help.

But then comes the change in the small details like the way they measure things and even tell time. Nothing comes in pounds or inches. I have had to get use to the fact that I will be measuring things using the metric system.  After 12 o clock comes 13 o clock, military time. Dates are written with the day of the date first them follows the month, i.e. 23/4. Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.  These are just the small things I had to quickly get accustomed to living here.

So this is what it has been like living in San Sebastian for me so far. I’m glad that I’ve been able to get a little more comfortable in this place that I will be calling my home for the next 2 months. I’m really thankful for all the help and friendliness of everyone here who have made this a whole lot easier on myself. It just makes me really excited for all the challenges and adventures that will come with my time here.

Here are some additional things I have noticed about life here in San Sebastian:

-Asians are pretty rare to find here. I have been called “Gangnam Style” or “Psy” a handful amount of times. Specially from kids.


A shirt I happen to find at the H&M.

– Justin is an uncommon name here. Whenever people find out my name is Justin, they almost always say, “Like Justin Beiber!”. So I have dawned the name Justin Bieber with a lot of the people I associate with on a day to day basis.

– There are a lot of families here in San Sebastian. I feel like I see more kids here than any other age group. This makes me wish my family was out here because Tegan would love all of the great parks and things to do here!


– Everyone here skates goofy. Roller blades are still pretty big here. And everyone either bikes or walks around here.

– I have seen some of the coolest graffiti here in the most random places.


– Everyone from the Vine was right. I have seen so many mullets here it’s been amazing.


My First Week Pt. 2!

This is a continuation from my ‘My First Week Pt. 1’ blog post right here!

Thursday, I finally got to meet Marti! She is the person that I have been communicating back and forth with ever since I started applying for the Basque Stage. I was really excited to meet her because I have been an avid follower of her blog bout the Basque Country, Blank Palate, and she is just filled with so much information about what’s going on around here. She is definitely one of the most interesting people I’ve got to meet! We met again at Xarma to meet up with one of the chef/owner, Aizpea, to talk about my time staging there. I find out I started work the day after! So soon but I was really anxious to get started and learning.


I ended up going grocery shopping for the first time the same night and got all the fixings for friend rice and a bottle of red wine. I thought it would be appropriate to treat myself with something familiar before my first day of work.


Friday and Saturday were my first two days at Xarma. That is all I have to share for now because this deserves a blogpost of its own, fo’ realsies!

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Sunday, Susy and I planned to visit Getaria for Dia Del Txakoli!!! Getaria is a gorgeous town that is a 45 minute bus ride from Donostia. Dia del Txakoli, which translates to Day Of Txakoli, is the day where about 2 dozen wineries in the Designation of Origin Getariako Txakolina take part of a festival to share their latest crops of txakoli. Susy and I had found out about this festival through Viridian Farms. Viridian Farms is a farm based out of Portland that produces a lot of European products, especially from the Basque Country! We get a lot of product in from this farm at the Harvest Vine, so it was a great connection to have when I found out I was coming out here! They have been so great to us as they have given us a lot of great recommendations of what to do and where to go during our stay here in San Sebastian.


Unfortunately, it seems that Susy and I didn’t really do our research and had gone to the wrong town. We had bussed all the way to Getaria to see no festival in sight. You could only imagine the confused looks on our faces. We later found out that the festival was actually in town of Aia, which isn’t that far from Getaria. But to 2 American kids that didn’t have internet access or have sense of direction, we kind of just gave up on making it to the festival.

But regardless, Susy and I know how to make for a good time! Since Susy has already been to Getaria, she showed me around town. She took me to Anchoas Maisor. This is where fresh anchovies die and go to heaven. Literally. It is here where fresh day-caught anchovies forego a process of being cleaned then packed in a barrel of salt for about 6 months. Then they are taken out of the salt, desalted, then meticulously filleted by the expert hands of the ladies of Anchoas Maisor and then carefully packaged with oil to help preserve them. It is an amazing thing to see how much care and love that these people here have these delectable anchovies. And to think that not at one point in time, that these anchovies are ever mishandled or mistreated since all of this work is done by hand. Bravo to all of you over at Anchoas Maisor.


We then catch a bus and head to Zumaia, which is a town just 6 km east of Getaria. There was no reason to go to Zumaia other than the fact that its just incredibly gorgeous. It is a very scenic area that has some of the unbelievable views of the Bay of Biscay. We walked around a whole lot and ran into a little fair that was going on. Stopped by a churro stand and got a nice bag of deep fried yumminess. We make our way up to Itzurun, a beach on the most eastern part of the town that has a nice view of the bay that run into some caves off of the beach. We also get to this crazy pier that stretches right into the water and gives an amazing view of Zumaia. And at some point we try to hike around some cliffs to try to get a better view of the water. But all that got us is a couple pairs of really muddy shoes!


On Monday, Susy and I met up with Marti, Nacho, and Andoni in San Sebastian for a good ol’ Pintxo crawl for my Welcoming to the Basque Country! We start off at Bidea Berri, one, if not, the only pintxo bar that serves grilled fresh piquillos. My god, were these good. Simply charred and then peeled and doused in a good amount of olive oil. Simplicity at its finest.


The next pintxo bar we go to is Bodega Donostiarra (well, I think. I did not get a picture or remember the bar name!). Here we got a variety of pintxos from Pulpo a la vinagreta, chorizo, Jamon Tortilla, and a potato pintxo that we called montaña de la mayonesa, which translates to mountain of mayonnaise. It was basically that with a slice of jamon and an anchoa olive on top. It may have been a little over the top, but definitely was tasty with some crusty bread to sop up all that alioli up with.


We thean head towards the old part of San Sebastian and go to Astalena. This was a nice little bar that had some great raciones and pintxos that I haven’t seen on other menus around town. I ordered Solomillo a lo pobre, which is beef tenderloin with fries, sautéed onions, and a fried quail egg. No complaints about this dish. It is a dish that I really could see being on a menu in America. There was a ketchup-like sauce made from piquillos that was good, but every time I ate it, I was always tricking myself into thinking I was eating ketchup. It only made me want ketchup more because it would of really complimented the dish better then the piquillo-ketchup. Marti ordered the Risotto de queso de cabra y tomate, Goat cheese and tomato Risotto. This dish was pretty good and really interesting. It was actually made with a wild rice rather than the normal Arborio or even Bomba rice. The sauce was really creamy and cheesey. Kind of too rich for my liking, but the flavor was right on. Susy had ordered the ravioli e foie y Margret, foie gras ravioli. Rich on Rich on Rich. This dish needed texture and some kind of flavor contrast. The ravioli was huge and was creamy and then it was drenched in another creamy porcini/mushroom cream that just added to the already large amount of richness. If this pintxo was 2 times as small, I can see it making a lot more sense, but this dish just seemed a little too crazy for me! Nacho ordered taco de bonito, seared tuna. The tuna was perfectly seared and still rare in the center. The meat was buttery and super flavorful. As it should be! =]


Our last spot was Atari. I’ve actually been to this spot a lot on my breaks between services at Xarma. I usually come during the downtime so I just get a couple glasses of txakoli and a café con leche then back to work. Here we wind down and the girls both order dessert, but I order savory because I was still in search for the best croquettes in town. I order just a small portion of croquettes de bacalao. They were tiny in comparison to other croquettes I have gotten, but I’ve got to say that they were extremely creamy and did not have that dense texture that I have seen in majority of the croquettes I have experienced. They were exceptionally delicate and the flavor was delicious! Nacho ordered the foie gras terrine. Its accoutrements were rather interesting as it came with a banana puree, apple, and a red wine reduction. The terrine in itself was perfect. Probably the best foie terrine I’ve had recently. It paired well with the apple and the wine reduction, but the banana puree kind of just throws everything off. Nevertheless, it was a really great dish and I have no room to complain. You get two huge slices of Foie!


This was an amazing night to really welcome me into this great city. I couldn’t have asked for better company and even better food. I am so grateful and appreciative for this opportunity that these guys at the Basque Stage and Sammic have presented me with. Just like the open arms that these amazing folks welcomed me with, my arms are stretched wider than the biggest seas to welcome whatever adventures and obstacles the next 3 months bring to me here in the Basque Country!