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.

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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!

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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.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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! =]

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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!

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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!

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In The Spotlight: My Bookmarks.

In The Spotlight: Bookmarks

So with all the time that we spend on the internet, I’m sure there are many of you guys have ‘bookmarks’ or shortcuts to the sites that you might visit pretty frequently to see if there are any updates or new news too read up on. This post is about the sites that I frequently read whenever I find myself at the computer. These are the sites/blogs that I go too whenever I need some inspiration or just need to read something interesting and new.

My bookmark bar!

1. Blank Palate/TravelCookEat

My Favorite Blog about all the happenings in Spain.

This is probably the one blog I visit the most. The author has created such a great way for readers to feel like they can experience Spanish cuisine from wherever they are reading it from. For the past year and the half, I have been making sure to come by every single Tuesday of every single week to read their weekly post called ‘365 Tuesday’, which was formely known as ‘Pintxo Astearteak’, or, ‘Tapas Tuesdays’.

Tapas Tuesdays were probably the single best thing about my Tuesdays. Even though the only thing the blog post consisted of was a picture and the description of the dish, it was was something I always looked forward to every week. The thing I really enjoy about these posts were how sophisticated it would be for how simple the post really was. Each dish for each Tuesday was specifically chosen for a reason. And that reason is because it was that damn good and seeing each dish makes me so envious that there is no where close to where I am to experience it. After working at Txori (RIP), I have found a love for pintxos so this blog was a great influence on me and the ideas I have while working in the kitchen. Here’s a link to her Top 5 Pintxos of 2011.

When the new year started, she has changed Tapas Tuesdays to 365 Tuesdays which doesn’t just focus on tapas anymore, but broadens it’s focus on what is currently happen all around San Sabastian. It’s a great change and I definitely enjoy it just as much as Tapas Tuesdays!

2. Burnt Lumpia & Jun-Blog

Burnt Lumpia and Jun-blog

These are two great blogs for those new and also very familiar with Filipino cuisine. I’ve grown up eating Filipino food but I feel like I still learn so much about this cuisine I thought I already knew.

Burnt Lumpia is a great blog where the author really shows his personality through his posts. He gives a great perspective about what Filipino food is to him and I find it easy to relate to who he is and what he is trying to portray. He is currently in the works for making a new Filipino Cookbook so it’s been a great time following his blog and seeing the progress he is making.

Jun-blog is a great reference for those who are new to Filipino food. I really like the fact that they have a ‘Glossary to Filipino Cuisine’ that outlines some of the most basic and foundations to Filipino food. The blog is nominated for one of Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards in the Best Regional Cuisine Blog. It’s an amazing thing to be nominated for such an award and it makes me proud that a blog can represent my culture and its food in such a great way.

3. Absolutepunk.net & FreshNewTracks

Fresh New Tracks and Absolutepunk

They say music makes the world go round and I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I need to find some new tracks to put on my phone I look to Fresh New Tracks to find any new music that had just came out. They have a good variety of music to listen to and also gives you a download link to put on your computer. Absolutepunk is a website that I have been following ever since I was in middle school and it feeds my inner-teenage angts with the latest news on not just punk-oriented music, but music of a wide variety. This is my main source of upcoming shows, rumors going on with the music industry, and when new albums are about to drop.

4. Comingsoon.net & IGN.com

Comingsoon and IGN

If there is one thing that Staci and I like to do more its watch movies in the theaters. Comingsoon is my go-to website whenever I want to know about upcoming movies and any movie news about movies that we are excited about. I also am a huge video game nerd so IGN fills my needs when it comes to video game news.

Conclusion

These are the blogs and websites that I check and I got to say that they really have an influence on my everyday life. As much as I try not to sit in front of the computer screen, at least I know that there are places I can go to occupy my time and find out something new that I can share with people.

Honorable Mention:

Http://www.Luukhoffman.com

Basque Stage Candidate Luuk Hoffman

Gotta give my new found friend from the Netherlands, Luuk Hoffman. This is his blog and I got to say that even though he is competition of mine, that he has some pretty amazing stuff. He is only 21 and he has a sophisticated touch when it comes to cooking. I have found so much inspiration from this guy and am pretty excited for all of the things he does and will do. He is someone that everybody should keep an eye out because he’s going to be doing big things!

Thank you guys again and until next time!

-Justin