Fall Food

One thing that Europe has always been known for is their greater respect for their product. Each area has their distinct product that they are known for and everyone from that area will go to the grave saying their product is the best. I know a Spaniard who refuse to eat any jamon thats not Spanish, an Italian who laughs at the pasta we have for staff meal so instead eats a pile of shredded carrots and well we all know that san Pellegrino has the best water in the world.
The dedication people have to their products is clearly seen in the incredible flavors. Though sometimes you find the little things that really blow you away. At the market today I saw some pears that had wax on the ends of the stem. Why would they do this? Sure it looks cool, but there has to be more to it. I came to find out that they do it in the fall so that the pears can become perfectly ripe and retain more of its natural moisture…and yes it was absolutely perfect. Velvety soft texture, an incredible natural sweetness and juice falling down my chin on every bite, omnomnom.
We do something similar in the US, spraying them with wax. Though it’s not nearly as romantic and forces you to scrub away or peel some of the integrity to the pear. Blah. I gotta say im loving Basque country with every bite.

Next time im buying the whole crate.

Olive tree! Stuffing this in my suitcase home too.

100 euro for 100 ml of balsamic…they dont mess around here.

Food and Fellini

A look into my weekend…

A walk by the “football’ stadium in San Sebastian…ive beein itching to watch a game.  Anyone in?

Fellini Exhibit at the museum!  How lucky am I?

wandering

pondering

Appreciating

eating

Couple shots from La cuchara.  Id love to show you what we got though believe it or not we kinda accidentally ate everything as soon as it came out…good or bad?

Smokey, sweet, tender, acidic, irresitabley damn good octopus.  Big thanks to Marti for the recommendation!

No nights complete without some churros and chocolate.

Mise en Place

No pictures, just a crazy day.

I am convinced that life revolves around the phrase “mise en place”.  For those that don’t know it means to have your things in places, lined up, organized, everything in order and ready.  Without “mise en place” a kitchen would fail.  Simple as that.  If your only thinking about today, your a day late.  You have to be constantly thinking about tomorrow or the day after.  Mise en place is anticipating your bosses needs, anticipating problems before they happen.
Well try as we might to always be a step ahead that doesn’t always happen, like today.  We were in prep service and the team and I were flying through our jobs.   I mean we were moving, knocking everything out flawlessly without skipping a beat.  The weeds didn’t exist to us tonight.   Chef  gave us extra side work.  Didnt matter, we banged it out and were on the edge to finishing 15 minutes early. Rare.  I finished seasoning the espumas, brought them to chef and got them both approved on the first try…rare for most…a first for me.  Clutch.  We left for family meal as one of the first in line with grins on our faces.  “Todo perfecto” as we like to say.  Well that all came crashing down on me right after we got back from comida.
It was three minutes before service starts and as im moseying around spot checking the station Reynaldo (a fellow cook on fish station) comes up to me asking what parsley did I use for the potato espuma?  I look at him confused. Of course I used the 2 grams that was mise en placed for me that…(my heart stopped).  The two grams that is still in the cooler and not in the potato espuma where it should be.  Right at this moment my hands are trembling, mind racing, throat tight, and heart at an obsolute dead stop.  Its impossible, absolutely impossible.  How do I forget to put the parsley in there.  Oh thats right I was so anxious from flying through everything else I decide to skip a step apparently.  At that moment I knew I had to pull something out of my culo or I was dead.  Make a new espuma? no way, too long too obvious.  Play dumb and do nothing?  One cook thought so, but that would be suicide.  I thought back to when I was practicing for a competition with Chef browning when we were playing around with different types of foams through isi canisters.  He was emptying pure co2 out of a canister by holding it up right with a cloth over the tip…”killin the ozone n’ making hippys cry”.  What a blessing for his sense of humor reminding me of that,  and saving my life. As if I had wings I took off like a jet to the other side of the kitchen for a bowl, dumped the espuma, threw the parsley Reynaldo whisked it and took the dishes, I was pouring it all back in and finally took a breath.  I got away with it, I was home free.  I was mid pour when I hear chef turning the corner giving out orders.  He gets to me and catches me.  This is when I stop breathing again.  I’m already imagining my head literally being ripped off.  Though after being questioned with my head down in shame all I got was a “be carefull next time”. . . .”oido (heard) chef”  My hands were still trembling but I had never been so relieved.  By some miracle I still had my head on my shoulders and service was going to go smoothly as ever if nothing had ever happened.

Life is Mise en place.

wandering

Its fun to get lost every now and then.  Finding new things, turnings corners unseen, leaving the paved road to discover the beaten path. As my dear friend Dr.suess says “You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you will be the guy who’ll decide where you’ll go. Oh the places you’ll go.” This little old Lasarte sure has some sights to see…

Quite the lovely couple these two, are they not?

Am I the only one that sees these as art?

Plenty of trails, paths, hills and roads to get lost in.

These are my new friends Claire, Bessie, and john. Nice, but lazy.

If this isn’t something out of Dr.Suess im not sure what it.

Would have been a picture perfect relaxing scene if it wasnt for the fly that was following me.


Oh hi! K bye.

MB@MB

Marco Bahena @ martin berasategui …get it? hah.
Well heres some random shots from around the kitchen. Ive really come to embrace this place as my home. I live in this restaurant. I’m there more often than anywhere else, and theres no better way to have it. The other stages are my familia and my station my dojo.  Take a look inside…

When we have lunch we get to enjoy it outside, what a blessing…while its still warm out at least.

A lot of people ask what do you do when you don’t know spanish?  Well this pretty much sums it up.

Happy birthday Sergi!


A look into primeros.

and their baby greens for the tibia salad.

Oh how we love cleaning plates.

The original italiano loco.

Om nom nom

Heres a video of myself and the team with a big plate up of our salmonete (red mullet) dish.  I love these.  reminds me of my banquet days at the peninsula.

Wedding day

Weddings oh what a beautiful thing.  A time of warm fuzzy feelings, romance, endless love, and a day that all involved will remember for the rest of their lives…  That is unless your the one planning, cooking or in charge of the wedding.  Then its likely more about long nights, chaotic kitchens, and stressed out managers.  Not to far from the truth here especially when we have two different weddings happening on the same day.  Regardless of the chaos when you have a team as talented as the Berasetegui crew, things are sure to go out smooth.

Huevos roto with potato espuma lined up and ready to go.

Potato and jamon terrine with soon to be plated solomillo (beef tenderloin).

plates and plates and plates and…

Bacalao!

pincho, pintxo, tapa, problema

I don’t know what to call them, but these little morsels are the reason the world loves Spain.  Ever since I first Came to Spain last year for the international tapas/pinchos competition I have heard a handful of different stories from many different people of what they should be called.  The well known traditional story is that people would go out to bars, get a drink and bugs would fly in to their wine.  So peopled wised up and topped (tapa, get it?) their glass with a piece of bread.  It then evolved into people having bread with olives or ham or anchovies with their drink and tapas were born!  Story makes sense, its widely accepted… so whose the pinche who brought pinchos?  Well another wise man told me that pinchos are a type of tapa except that they are on a skewer.  Again, makes sense pincho coming from the Spanish pinchar (pierce) that works too.  Only problem is depending on who you’re talking to one story or the other is made up.  Some say that there is no difference or that its only called this or that and well everyone is so proud of their culture in Spain that they’ll swear by it to the grave.  To top it off there’s also the Basque who well don’t even want to say they are a part of Spain and they call them pintxos. So whose right?  Everyone and no one I suppose.  I guess it comes down to say what makes the locals happy or be prepared to be looked at awkwardly, scrutinized and very quickly corrected.

spanish “bacon” (this should be a blog post in itself), pequillo pepper, quail egg, chorizo

Beef tail (Rabo), with basque pepper, px reduction, patata

Seared foie gras with wildberry marmalade (my foie gras obsession continues)

Another day

Every so often I find myself working on prep or on the line and forget if its the day or night shift.  It takes looking out the window or the clock to snap back and realize that its Friday(our version of Wednesday) and its just the lunch service.  Since the style of the restaurant is a multi course tasting menu the routine is the same for night and day with out much adjustment to the menu.  The routine is working the lunch service, going home for a quick siesta nap, back for dinner service and then back home to do it again.

The rise and grind routine takes its toll on some people.  Though the truth of the matter is its really not that bad.  Like anything its a matter of being able to adapt.  Working here really helps push the boundaries of what you thought you couldn’t do.  It is a restaurant that is dependent on having a strong team of practicas (intern’s) and therefore moving up the ranks is a matter of standing out.  Pushing yourself to get to the level you want to be at.  Interns  are coming and going every week, so moving up is a matter of how bad you want it.

Can easily say that more than half the people are gone from this photo taken no more than a month ago.

Caio italia!

Though with the good comes the bad, and with that same opportunity you get from stages coming and going it means friends going as well.  Ive been on the fish station since Ive started and what started as a group of 15 or so practicas turned into the magnificent 7.  Which lasted a short time until people slowly started to head back home.  This week Alberto (or Italia as we called him) heads back to italy, last week it was Carlos from southern spain, and the week before it was Carlos From the U.S.  One day well have to get the band back together… for a mission from god.

Rioja!

So we are off on another tour with our dear friends at San Sebastian food.  This time we are off to see the best wine region in Spain, Rioja.  It is most well known for its reds though the area also haa bit of white and rose wines.  We met up with the group in San Sebastian and then were o for a day of wine’n and dine’n.  The three different vineyards we went two were Bodegas Bilbainas, Bai Gorri and Bodegas Carlos Sampedro.  As you’ll see we were able to explore wine production from large to very small production levels through each of these bodegas.  Hard to put a finger on which I enjoyed the best because well, were in Rioja and bad wine doesn’t really exist here.

The first Vineyard was Bodegas Bilbainas which was the largest vineyard on the trip.  Coming in it felt like we were pulling in to a mountain side mansion with wine ready to be poured at every corner.

Upon walking in we go through this small courtyard which has some of the same terroir that is used on their vines of which you can see in a cutout section here.

A small plot of their vineyard which is meant for guests to come by and check out.  Though you can really see the great views that wine country brings.

Next up was Bai Gorri which produced a bit less wine and was a really modern building surrounded by a whole lot of grapes and mountains.  This is the Vineyard that our tour guide Jenny (whose amazing) used to work at.  On the ride over i swear we were lost in the middle of dunes and mountains before we finally got to the small town that is shadowed by this incredible building.


View from the glass encased lobby.  I swear the mountains never end here.

Getting on with the tour we get to the fermentation tanks.  One of the really interesting things about the wine at Bai gorri is that the wine does very little moving around.  The structure is set up in a way for the grapes to be received and processed taking advantage of gravity.  Meaning they pretty much just go down several basement levels from being received to being shipped.  You can see an example with this photo above where the grapes are fermented in their tanks and then poured down into a tank below to go on to the next step…smart.

One of the gentlest grape crushers available.  This is what they use for their reserved wines for the finest quality wine possible.

Barrels on barrrels on barrels…you’ll never guess what it smelled like in their…

The goods!

or our final stop we head to a very small vineyard in a very small town with some very good wines.  Its an old town again out in the middle of no where surrounded by mountains and fields of wine…not that im complaining.

Its a small town which is really built around its wine industry.  Its the type of town where everyone in someway works in the wine industry some how some where.

We get to have a tasting of some of his wines but this time we had something very special.  Rather than aging his wine in some type of stainless steel or even wooden container he goes the very old method of cement containers.  Yes you heard right.  The wine is aged in a big cement vat with a wooden lid underground in his wine cave.  Cant get anymore old school than that.

We tasted the wine straight from the cement vat and then the same type of wine which had aged in the bottle for a few years.  The difference was tremendous.  Some of the flavor profiles were similar but the aging really mellows and balances the flavor.  There was an intense astringency and tannic flavors coming from the unaged wine.  Defidently a very cool experience.

His own little bottling set up.  He is involved in every step of his proccesing from start to finish, very hard to find.

After a few glasses and a bottle to take home we were off to explore the town before heading home.  Beautiful town to say the least.

and the views speak for them self.

salmonete plate up

So its going to be a bit more time untill I get everything up for the Rioja trip, though I have something great to hold you off untill then!  Heres a video of a plate up coming from the fish station.  This is the salmonete (red mullet) course which you saw some pictures of in a previous post.

From this you really get to see the intricacy of a plate up in a restaurant of this level and style.  In many cases one person will put out a few plates.  Here you’re most likely plating on just one, rarely two courses.  You get your one job and you do it perfectly.