Saturday, December 23

Best Eats, 2006 Part I

It's that time again, children. For the second year running I give you the highlights of a year of very good eating, but this year there was one meal that stood out so much that it deserves its own entry.

Best Meal
Arzak, San Sebastian

This lunch, eaten with Kelly, Brinley, Duncan, Bernhard and Cristina, has not faded even a little in mind since it took place a week ago. This is serious 3-star Michelin dining, with a price tag to match. As Bernie wrote on his blog:
So, what exactly does a meal cost at Arzak? The first answer is: not enough. I would have given all my blood, promise my first-born, anything, on top of paying the bill. The second answer is: if you see my bank manager this month, tell him you haven't seen me. A late mortgage payment will be worth it.
Duncan managed to score a separate little dining room that was basically inside the famous kitchen, where we watched an army of chefs prepare course after delicious course.

Occasionally someone would wander over to throw some meat on the glowing hot grill, and at one point Elena Arzak, the daughter of owner Juan Mari Arzak and his culinary partner in deliciousness, came over and graciously chatted with us.

The menu was as follows. I have a Spanish/Euskadi copy in front of me as I write this; the English translations were jotted down on a napkin and began to seem less and less of a priority as the mealcontinued and the wine flowed.

Little Tastes
Arroz crujiente con setas
(handmade rice cakes filled with musroom pate and sesame vinaigrette)
Caldito de alubrias con manzana
(red beans with apple puree)
Arraitxiki con rabanitos
Puding de pescado con fideos
(redfish wrapped in fried pasta with figs)
Melon relleno de queso
(melon, cheese and parmigiano)

Celofan de ostras templadas
(unbelievable oysters, barely warm but still tasting of the ocean like when they're raw, served with potatoes and a gauzy cellophane draped over top)
Manzanas conaceite de foie
(caramelized apples with truffle oil and pomegranate and orange sauce

This was one of the real show-stoppers of the meal; Kelly and Cristina both woke up the next day with the taste of it on their tongues, like a dreamy after-image.

Cigalitas tibias al arte inyectadas de maiz
(split crayfish with corn)
Laminas de cardo y alcachofa
(braised leeks and artichokes)
Flor de huevo y tartufo en grasas de oca txistorra de datiles
(poached egg with mushroom and fresh chorizo

At this point I became somewhat mentally altered by the variety of food placed in front of me. The top of my skull began to buzz pleasantly. I think the technical term, although rarely used in restaurant criticism, is "tripping balls."

Beguiandi en ebstracto
(squid with apple compote)

Rape con hilos y medula
(monkfish with radish)

Pato bien azulon
(duck with purple potatoes)
Tacos de vacuno con patatas de pimenton
(beef with spicy potatoes)


There were too many to count, and at this point my desire to obsessively write down every dish in English was notably diminished. This was no doubt helped by many bottles of the excellent wines chosen for us -- the white Hermanos Lurton Cuesta de Oro, the red Les Terrasses.

Sopa y chocolate "entre vinedos"
Ostras de chocolate plateadas
Torrija de Champagne
Esfera (I remember in particular an amazing chocolate rosemary ice cream)

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