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    Infinite Jest
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    i'm marti.

    Thanks for coming. This is me —what I'm doing, loving, and, most importantly, eating. I hope you enjoy.

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    Elkano : Getaria, Basque Country

    Well, folks, we did it.

    My unstoppable friend C. and I finally made a big ole check off of my Basque Country To Eat list.  (What? You don’t have one of those?)  This check was in the form of a visit to the venerable asador in nearby Getaria, Elkano.

    She knows me. She knew (with much more sureity than I) that Elkano would be a dining experience for the books.  You see, of all the main food groups, fish is the one that drives me the least wild. I never had that desire to just keep eating, moaning, over a plate of salmon like I do over steak, cheese, or even garbanzos.  That is my pathetic excuse for never gracing the dining hall of this spot that foodies love to love.  But C. refused to listen to my (admittedly weak) protests and booked us a table.

    The amuse bouche was verdel, a type of mackerel that fills the port of Getaria with regularity.  I love mackerel, for its not-too-fishiness, and for how nice it eats when cooked, not by flame, but lightly in an acidic dressing.

    A round of jamón is generally my default pre-appetizer appetizer. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs, when I see a white tablecloth, I am conditioned to order something fizzy to drink and a plate of Iberian ham.

    At this outing, for the main events, I deferred to my more-experienced dining companion.  To be clear about what kind of people we are, "more-experienced"  means that she had been to Elkano the week before and was already ready for Round 2. When she suggested it as our spot for our “goodbye” lunch, I scoffed.

     “Are you SURE you want to go back? You were just there! And your time is limited!

     “Yes.  We’re going.” I was still baffled by her response (I mean, why not try something new?) until we actually went.  

     Turns out, she knows me.  First she ordered kokotxas, which I have not given their due on this blog: flesh from under a fish's chin, tender and gelatinous. Three ways, with an extra serving of the way she found to be her favorite a week ago, in pil pil sauce. We had a plate of these, drenched in an emulsified oil-fish stock sauce, and they were perfection. Plus one perfectly grilled fish chin flap (oh! the awkwardness of translating kokotxa) and one perfectly fried and battered V-shaped jowl (now I'm just being awkward on purpose. but seriously, how do you say kokotxa???).

    Then it was time for the main event: rodaballo, or turbot.

    Grilled outside, on a well-seasoned rack of adjustable-heigh grates, this is the true star of Elkano. If you are going to eat, in fact, it's best to reserve your rodaballo beforehand, lest you miss out on the day's catch, which consists of only the fish deemed worthy by the chefs.  

    If the turbot came out, and you ate it, and that was the end of the story, it would still be an amazing dish.  But at Elkano (spoiler alert? is that a thing for restaurants?), they bring you the dish, allow you to ooh and aah, cut you a portion of the filet, and after you chow down for a while, along comes Aitor.

    Aitor Arregui is the son of Pedro, the original grillin' man behind Elkano. This is a photo of Aitor and C., admiring an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a fish bone. 

    I think that about sums up Aitor. And the day.

    But my point is this: Aitor comes by, explains how to eat every single weird little corner of the fish, as he carves it out for you. Gelatinous bone bits? Check. Eyeballs? Check. Cheek? Check. And on and on, for 20 minutes. (Or was that because we were the only females in the restaurant that day?)

    Fish perfection. Which is what makes this tiny spot in a tiny village worthy of a Michelin star. 

    Finish that off with—what else—cheese ice cream.

    Elkano: Herrerieta Kalea, 2, 20808, Getaria, Guipúzcoa | (reserve by phone) +34 943 14 00 24

    More reading:

    Quique Dacosta (famed Spanish chef) pays homage to Elkano's Pedro. 


    The Humble Walnut : A New Year Post


    January 19 and I have not made a single post in 2015.  Call it winter hibernation, call it the don’t-do-it-til-it’s-perfect-so-it-never-happens syndrome, call it a dry spell.  Whatever you want. But as I see it, the lack of posting can be attributed to two things. One of the things I will need your advice on, dear reader, so read on.

    The first reason: I have been too busy.  Baking, writing, consulting, and just living. Lately, I have also been pursuing one of my newest hobbies, sleep.  I suppose one has certain seasons of life where sleep deprivation is more appetizing, but for me, the past few months have been all about getting those proverbial eight hours. 

    Suffice it to say, never before have I been as aware that there are limited hours in the day. 

    But I write this blog because I love it as an outlet, because I used to yearn to read a blog like it, and because the Basque Country is perhaps the best place in the world.  So I will always come back.  Come back to relate the magical things that happen to me in this coastal town of San Sebastián. To recount the flavors that keep my eyes wide open. 

    I remember one of the first flavor shocks I felt upon relocating to the Basque Country. It wasn’t a Michelin-star meal, as you might guess, or a sizzling txuleta sprinkled with fat flakes of salt. It wasn’t one of the elaborate pintxos you can find on my blog.  It was a walnut.   

    Sitting in a cider house, the meal over and trays of Idiazabal and apple paste parading across the dining hall, I grabbed a walnut from the wicker basket. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t like raw walnuts. Leave it to these people to not toast them first.’  I cracked it open anyway, picking the meat out of the shell, and tossed it thoughtlessly in my mouth. 

    I hope you don’t think I am being dramatic…it was a big moment.  All of the negative qualities I associated with raw walnuts, that bitter aftertaste, that unpleasant texture that was always either mealy or too crunchy, were nowhere to be found. This nut had a bit of bite to it, it was meaty in texture. A healthy, plump feel. A delicious, slightly sweet, walnut taste.  And one of my former firmly held beliefs was struck down as false, teaching me a lesson that would be repeated countless times over the four and a half years that I’ve lived in this country.  

     A lesson I gratefully re-learn, every time.

     So here’s to the humble walnut, to learning greatness from minuscule things.  To the fact that size doesn’t matter. And here’s to 2015, which will SURELY be a better year than the last.


    That Other Thing 

    I am trying to figure out what to replace Tapa Tuesday, my weekly post that gives you a quick, simple glimpse into my life.  It’s an easy post that helps to keep me accountable.  And that is where you come in.  

    What would you rather see:

    • El Lugar del Lunes (Monday Places, sounds horrible in Spanish, but hey)  This one is where I get to spotlight my favorite places in Donosti. They can be bars, they can be perches, they can be cafés….the idea is to cover a place where I am happy to just ‘be’.
    • Something about what I’m imbibing. Name tBa, but it would be a post about a mixed drink or a wine around town.
    • Or, a post that captures a perfectly normal moment in my day, no pretensions, no planning, just a snapshot of my day, either random or at the same time each week. Because it’s the little things….
    • Or, just keep going with Tapa Tuesday.


    Feel free to leave a comment with your vote. 


    pintxo astearteak (tapa tuesdays)

    bernardina::: hamburguesita de buey (mini burger)

    Vitoria-Gasteiz Kalea, 6 ::Donostia-San Sebastián

    This mini burger holds its own against a certain old part delight, coming in fighting with caramelized onions and super beefy flavor.


    Galette Bressane, the lost French pastry

    As I sat down to write this post, it dawned on me that I haven't really updated readers on my now no-longer-new job. A classic case of 'I want to do a beautiful, well-thought-out post' which translates into 'Beautiful, well-thought-out post never gets written'. I've been heading up the sweet side of San Sebastián's newest bakery since July...more on that soon (I promise). 

    I went on a French kick at the bakery recently, working up choux paste, financiers, and this pastry, the galette bressane.  Intrigued by an instagram post by Daniel Lindeberg, Stockholm's pastry genius, I set out to recreate this fairly under-appreciated sweet from the Ain/Bresse region of France. It could be called a cousin of the galette au sucre de Pérouges, which is sweeter and less dairy focused, perhaps, than the galette bressane. For those of us, however, who do not posess a phD in esoteric pastry variations, a useful descriptor would be brioche meets danish.

    To make, a small round of brioche is rolled out to a circle. Once you allow it to proof, you pinch a border and fill the inside of the border with the best creme fraîche you can find. From that point on, the possibilities are endless—finish with a simple sprinkling of sugar or garnish with raspberries and candied almonds.  The final product (baked at a relatively high temperature, since we are speaking of bread dough here), has that lovely taste of baked cream, which forms a nice textural contrast with the spongy base. 

    The reactions varied, including one "I like it, but I don't get it."  It may be true that this is a pastry that needs a context, if you are the type of person who goes in for already-established breakfast goods. But if you have an open mind and a hole in your belly, this sweet strikes just the right balance between moist, rich, light, and slightly sugary.

    If you have a killer brioche recipe, feel free to sub with it.

    galette bressane

    • 170g cake flour
    • 30g sugar
    • 10g yeast
    • 1.5 t salt
    • 130g eggs (2 whole eggs and a bit of yolk, depending on size)
    • 80g butter, cubed and at room temperature
    • 40g creme fraiche
    • 40 g sugar

    Sift together dry ingredients. Stir in the eggs, then add butter. Work the dough, kneading about five minutes. Allow it to rest about an hour, then place it in the fridge overnight or for half a day.

    Roll out circles 1/4 in thick and allow to rise for about two hours.

    Preheat oven to 450º. Pinch a border of about 3/4 inch. Prick the center of the circle with a fork a few times and brush with an egg wash. Mix creme fraiche with salt, and beat to stiff peaks. Spread over the center and sprinkle with sugar. (here's where you can add chocolate, raspberries, nuts, etc).

    Bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly browned.


    P.S. If you find yourself near the Bresse region, Lucy has some recommendations on her blog for where to get a good one: "One is on Wednesday evenings at the market on Place Carnot, and the other is at a bakery on rue St. Jean in the 5th arrondissement".





    pintxo astearteak (tapa tuesdays)

    kenji::: ensalada de algos y pulpo (seaweed octopus salad)

    Calle Mayor 4 ::Donostia-San Sebastián

    So, I love seaweed. So, I love octopus.  This dish is basically The Little Mermaid in delicious pintxo form.