My First Week Pt. 1

My oh my! So its been more than a full week since I’ve been here and there is so much that I want to share! I’ve found that it is pretty difficult to maintain this blog as I am a very busy person, so please bear with me as I try my hardest to keep all of you guys updated with all things Spain! And since I have so much to say, I’m breaking up this post into 2 parts so you all don’t have to feel like you are reading a novel!

So after my first day, I woke up around 4 PM. No surprise here. I woke up feeling like I got hit by a bus, confuse of what time it really was, and had known I slept alright by the amount of drool that was dried on my face. It wasn’t a pretty site, but I didn’t care because I WAS IN SPAIN!!!

What it looks like when I wake up.

What it looks like when I wake up.

I decided to venture out in Lasarte so that I could get more accustomed to where I will be living for the next 3 months. I found Lasarte to be a very cute and small town just about 6 miles from Donostia-San Sebastian. I ended up being able to walk around majority of the town within an hour or so. I stopped real quick at a pintxo bar called, Gure Etxea, to grab a quick bite to eat. Ended up getting 2 gildas, one with salt-cured anchovies and the other with vinegar-cured anchovies, a jamon bocadillo, and a Txakioli to wash it down. It was a pretty perfect snack to fuel me for the rest of the day.

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I decided to go walk around some more and ended up finding this crazy building that overlooked the interstate. It caught my eye because it was tagged from head to toe with really cool looking graffiti. So I ended up walking up the hill to get a closer look.

graffiti building

As I was exploring the unique building, I happen to hear some music coming from the building. This really surprised me because it had looked as if this building was uninhabited, but I guess I was wrong! I noticed this room that had 2 old Spaniards jamming out on bass and electric guitar. They noticed me and actually invited me in. I was a little hesitant first as I could clearly noticed that they didn’t speak a word of English but we were actually able to communicate pretty well through the use of my awesome hand gestures and my broken-ass Spanish. “Cervesa?” one of the men asked me? Usually I wouldn’t accept alcohol, drinks, or any other kind of food from a stranger, especially in a different country. But the can was sealed and I was parched from walking around town so I had to accept! They eventually asked if played instruments and then they handed me the guitar and I played a couple quick riffs. I could tell by their smiles from ear to ear that they were excited to find someone else who loved playing music. It was then that they unveiled something under a couple blankets, a drum set! They set it up and then handed me drum sticks. We then commenced in a good 2 hours of jamming and rocking until the sun went down and the room started growing darker.  I would add the video of us playing music, but in all reality, we really didn’t sound that great. Haha I proceeded to say my thank yous and good-byes then headed home.

My 'bandmates'!

My ‘bandmates’!Look at that Mullet!

The next day, I decided to figure out my commute to restaurant that I will be staging at, Xarma. I definitely want to be prepared and don’t want to look like an idiot and get lost on my first day! I also got a hold of a friend, Antton, who I met through Juan Carlos and Carolin from the Vine. He Spent a couple summers in Seattle and he resides on a farm here in San Sebastian, so it was nice to already have a connection with someone who lives here. I took a 7 minute train to the Lugaritz station and walked to my work. A whole lot easier than I expected, thank goodness!

bus

Antton met me in front of Xarma and then we were off to walk towards San Sebastian. San Sebastian is a 3 mile walk from my work and it happened to be a gorgeous day. We walked around La Concha towards Parte Vieja de San Sebastian, which is the old part of San Sebastian where all the pintxo bars are. Antton took me all around San Sebastian and to some of his favorite spots and he treated me to some pintxos! Thanks Antton!

anttonwalk

Out of the bars that he took me too, Bar Txepetxa and La Cuchara were probably my two favorite. Bar Txepetxa is a special little pintxo bar because they specialize in serving anchovies. We ordered Antxoas con creama de centolla, vinegar-cured anchovies with a creamy crab sauce. I could honestly eat 50 of these. This pintxo is still probably one of my favorite bites I’ve had ever since I’ve been in Spain. I’ve been back to Bar Txepetxa 3 times since then, so be ready for a review of this restaurant soon as I plan to eat my way through their whole menu.

bar txepetxa

La Cuchara De San Telmo is a little gem that was recommended by many people (thanks Mara!). This is the kind of restaurant that I wish America had. They serve amazing food, have a beautiful space, and crank out food as fast as you can order. We shared the veal cheeks, octopus, fist-sized scallops wrapped in iberico ham, and the foie gras. I have so much to say about their food and plan to return as much as I can so you all can expect a review from this place as well!

lachucara

Antton then directs me towards my bus home and we part ways. It was real nice to have someone show me around and tell me so much about this beautiful place. I am grateful for the people at work for connecting us and am excited to hang out with him while I am here! Eventually, I’m hoping to stop by his family farm and see all the great cheese and products that they produce.

To be continued……

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8 Legged Friend: The Octopus

One of the questions we that guests ask us at the most at the Harvest Vine is, “When are you guys going to get Galician Octopus back?” There was a time when my chef would bring in octopus in that were imported from the waters of Galicia. I have never had anything as exquisite as Galician Octopus in my life. I still remember the first time I experienced eating this delicate, most tender, and flavor-packing piece of octopus. It was served perfectly as a pintxo in the Pulpo a la Gallega style at the Harvest Vine’s sister restaurant, Txori. Its a dish where simplicity really shines. All the pintxo consisted of was a slice of the ever-so tender octopus tentacle with a sliced steamed red potato. It was then finished off with some smoky pimenton, very coarse sea salt, and then drenched in a shower of the finest Arbequinia olive oil we had in house. It was the ‘Perfect Bite’. I’ve never had octopus with such luxurious and silky texture as Galician octopus.

Pulpo at Txori Bar.

Sadly, the days of getting Galacian Octopus is long gone as it is a very expensive product to import in. At the time, Txori was open, so it was easy to share the large amount of imported octopus between the two restaurants. But there has been some rumors floating around the restaurant that we actually might be thinking about getting some in so let’s cross our fingers!

Luckily, we are still able to get in some beautiful octopus and baby octopus from Atlantic waters that are just as delectable and tasty! There are so many ways that we can utilize the octopus and all of its part.We serve the octopus in many different variations from the classic Pulpo a la Gallega to using it in a alioli-bathed salad with white beans and chorizo. But what it all comes down to is how the octopus is cooked to make it into the most tender piece of meat ever!

Me and the 8 legged beast!

Cooking octopus is as easy as just putting it in a pot of boiling water and letting it simmer for hours until its tender. But there are a bunch of little things that we do to help make sure that our pulpo comes out as tender as it can get. One of the many myths of cooking octopus is the infamous red-wine cork in the water pot. I have heard from many different people as of why we put the cork in the pot. One reason why is that the tannins from the left over wine on the bottom of the cork helps break down the octopus. I have also heard that its actually the type of wood the cork is made from that helps with tenderizing of the octopus. All I know is that we throw it in and it works like magic!

Only one is needed!

We also use a 3 stage blanching process before we actually leave the octopus in the pot of water to simmer away. So what we do is we bring a pot of water with the wine cork to a boil and then we drop in the octopus. Of course the temperature of the water drops when we throw in the octopus so we then wait for it to come up back to a boil, then we remove the octopus. We then repeat this process 2 more times and on the last time, we leave the octopus in to simmer until its tender!

Our friend after the second time being dunked in hot water.

The way we can tell the octopus is done is by carefully pulling two tenticals away from each other and seeing if the connecting skin between the two legs carefully tear away from each other. It is very easy to over cook octopus, so you got to make sure you check it regularly after the first couple of hours. We then chill it and then portion the octopus for service!

Sectioned Octopus!

From here we are able to portion it any way want from cutting the tentacles into little medallions or to leaving them in larger pieces so they will hold up on the grill. The octopus head is actually one of the meatiest part of the animal so we save them up and then dice them up to use up in a salad for the menu or even for our pintxo, or amuse bouche.

At the Vine right now, we have the grilled pulpo on the menu. We dress the grilled tentacle with a nice marinade of pimenton, parsley, and olive oil and then serve it atop a smooth puree of chickpeas. It’s has the nice flavors of the traditional Pulpo a la Gallega but has that different touch with the nutty flavor and textures of the garbanzo puree.

My Sous Chef's, Allyss, beautiful plate of grilled octopus!