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.

IMG_8671

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.

spheres

“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

 

 

Advertisements

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

laurbana

Pintxo: Burger De Potro

IMG_0614

“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!

Pintxo Roundup: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

Where: Bar Borda Berri, Donostia-San Sebastian

IMG_8803

Pintxo: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

IMG_9470

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!

Pintxo Roundup: Bocadillo Con Todo

IMG_9186

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

IMG_9184

Where: Nagusia Lau Bar, Donostia-San Sebastian

IMG_9234

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!

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.

IMG_8661

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.

shoppingfried

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!

IMG_8662 - Copy

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.

getaria

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.

anchoasmaisor

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!

zumaia

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.

IMG_8918

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.

pulpomayo

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! =]

astelena

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!

atari

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!

There Is A Heaven. Believe Me, I’ve Seen It.

So after 3 connecting flights from Seattle through Chicago, Boston, and Madrid, I finally made it into San Sebastian. Surprising, my flying experience wasn’t as brutal as I thought it was going to be. Thank goodness!

I arrived at San Sebastian Airport and was instantly spotted by Andoni, one of the people who help out with the Basque Stage. I grab my luggage and then we were off to see San Sebastian for my first day as a Basque Stage Rising Star!

airport

There is a heaven. Believe me I’ve seen it.

IMG_8394

This place is unbelievable. That is basically the best way I can describe San Sebastian. Yeah, it’s been only about a week, but i’m still in disbelieve that I’m actually here. This is the one place I have been wanting to visit ever since I started working at the Vine. And now that i’m actually here, it’s like i’m getting to see this amazing country in High Definition. It’s all so real.

So upon my arrive in the Basque Country, I was ready to just see everything. Without any plan Andoni and I left the airport and made our way to where everything is happening.

I had a real great time with Andoni as he showed me around town. The first place he took me was to one of his favorite pintxo bars called, Borda Berri. He recently just had surgery so he had the pleasure of watching me scarf down couple plates of pintxos and a nice glass of txakoli. I was pretty excited that I was able to understand most of the menu. I surprisingly wasn’t too hungry from being jacked up after a 14 hour flight. So I only started with two pintxos. Andoni recommended the Kebab de Costilla de Cerdo, but they were sold out of the already unfortunately. But that’s alright. It gives me another reason to return and try it later! So I ordered the Pulpo a la plantxa con membrillo (Octopus seared on the plancha with quince paste) and Arroz Bomba con Txipiron-Maiden (Bomba Rice with Calamari). After I put in my order, I order a glass of txakoli while I wait. Andoni fills me in about San Sebastian and I express to him how excited I am to finally be out there. The food then comes and I start indulging into my first bites in Spain.

bordiberri

Both dishes were really great. Seasoning was pretty spot on. The seafood was cooked perfectly. And a lot of surprises in each and every bite. I have never really seen pulpo paired with quince paste but it was delicious. The flavors were perfectly balanced between the creamy potatoes, pimenton oil, alioli, and ever so tender octopus. And each bite that had membrillo was just so new and refreshing that I really think that it is a matched in heaven. It is definitely the best octopus dish I’ve had so far in San Sebastian. The calamari dish was really delicious as well. After the first couple bites, I really felt like that the dish really could have benefited from a nice squeeze of alioli, but then I reached to the bottom of the bowl and there laid a pool of it! I was so happy because it really turned a good dish into a really amazing one.

We then headed out and walked down more streets of the old part of San Sebastian. We stopped in another pintxo bar for one more bite. This time a pintxo with a hake and monkfish mouse with alioli on top of toasted bread. This was extremely delicious as it had a very mild fishy flavor and had a super light and creamy texture. It was like eating a fish rillette cloud.

donosti

Andoni then proceeded to show me the more of San Sebastian and took me to the docks that overlook all of La Concha. Luckily, it was a gorgeous day. Apparently, it had rain the majority of the past 3 months so it was nice to get to see everyone out and about. The view was gorgeous and it left me speechless.

Later we met up with my new roomie, Susy Santos, who is the Basque Stage Top Chef winner, as well has the previous Basque Stage Rising Star winner, Clifton Su. They have been here in the Basque Country for the last 3 months and I have been able to read their amazing experiences on their blogs. Sadly, Clifton flew back to his home in Cali the next day, but I was really glad to meet the guy behind the keyboard.

Lasarte

We then headed back to Lasarte-Oria, my new home. We all hung around for a couple hours and then we went out to Lasarte, a bar that is close to our apartment. We all ordered a Calamares con Alioli. This was basically a deep fried calamari sandwhich that is slathered with the famous garlicky alioli. It was huge and so good. Lasarte is definitely a cool place and will be my go to bar whenever I need a quick trip out of my home. We all head home and then it was lights out since Clifton had to head to Bilbao at 4 to catch his flight at 6:30.

This was how my first day went in San Sebastian. It could’t have been more perfect as it was filled with good company, beautiful weather, and some great food and wine. I am ready for the Basque Country and all the adventures that it’ll bring. Til next time…..

-Justin

My Last Days….

I forgot how fast a whole week can fly by. It felt like yesterday that I worked my last shift at the Harvest Vine but it was actually a whole week ago.

IMG_7980

I couldn’t have asked for a better day of service before hanging up my apron and tie for the last time until July. it was a gorgeous day out, it happened to be one of the busiest days of brunch we’ve worked in a while, and best of all, I got to see so many familiar faces to say goodbye and farewell before I left.

sundaybrunch

The next day, Monday, marked my last dinner service i’d work in Seattle. it was the last Monday of the month so that means it was time for another Irbille Edibles Pop-Up at Olivar! (Check out my post on Irbille Edibles and the Evolution of Filipino Food Here)

This was a pretty exciting night as it was the 1 year anniversary of Irbille Edibles Pop-Ups and we were fully booked. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the kitchen with Irbille since day 1 and I can’t thank him enough for letting me sit shotgun in this incredible ride we’ve been on as his sous chef. He is the Shawn Kemp to my Gary Payton. The Timbaland to my Justin Timberlake (this is probably the most accurate analogy I’ve made in my life). We just work really well together. I’m so excited for him and the IE crew to tear it up in the kitchen the next 3 months and especially excited for his new venture in Kraken Congee. You are doing some big things my Friend and I’m proud of all that you’ve accomplished.

irbilleedibles

On Wednesday, my chef, Joey Serquinia, had told me to come in to eat at the Harvest Vine. It was National Paella Day and he wanted to make sure he sent me off right and cooked a Mega Paella. And with no surprise, the paella was perfect, as is all of his paellas. It was a special night as I got to be around everyone that I have spent the past 3 years of my life with. I had my beautiful family with me, my work family (there’s no such thing as ‘co-workers’ at the Vine), some of my favorite regulars, and some new and old friends that i have made while cooking at the Vine. The amount of love and support that I was surrounded was something can’t even describe. I am so grateful for everything that everyone has done for me. Especially Joey, Carolin Messier, and Jeffrey Watanabe. I couldn’t ask for better managers. Thank you for guiding me and taking care of me and my family. I love you guys and can’t thank you enough!

Photo Taken from Brandon Patoc!

Throughout the week, I also made sure to eat at some of m favorite places since I know i wont be able to enjoy them in Spain. So i was fat kid for the past week!

fatkidfood

Fast forward to Saturday. My last official day in the great North West. I had spent the whole day with he people most important to me, my family. All gazillion of them! it was the day before Easter and we were celebrating the 3rd birthday of my daughter, Tegan! It was another beautiful day that was filled with Easter egg hunting. filling up plates upon plates with food, passing around all the babies to different family members. This is all i wanted before leaving.

Easter

It was a very bittersweet moment for me as everyone congratulated me and expressed their excitement for me, but at the same time, it means that I was leaving one the biggest part of me behind, my family. This is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do, but I know in the end that the outcome of this will be greater than anything I Can imagine and everything I do is for them.

As of right now, I’m sitting in the apartment that I will be occupying for the next 3 months with the current Basque Stage and my new roomie, Susy Santos, and the most recent Basque Stage Rising Star, Clifton Su, as he packs and leaves tomorrow at 4 in the morning. Good luck on that 17 hour flight home dude! It’s the end of my first day in San Sebastian and am looking forward to sharing all of my experiences in my next blogs!