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The film theme continues in this classic hotel, filled with glamorous black-and-white images of film stars who were guests over the years during the San Sebastian Film Festival. Opt for a sea-facing room and leave your balcony doors open in the early evening for a serenade from musicians down below.

Basque Country Off the Beaten Path: How to Eat & Drink like a Local

The sun had set hours ago, but the locals in Lekeitio were in no rush to get to dinner. They all had a first or third glass of txakoli in hand—the refreshing, local white wine—and were catching up with neighbors and friends while kids played in the pedestrianized square nearby. This is a scene I had left the cities to find: a quiet evening in a seaside village, surrounded by sounds only in Basque or Spanish—not a single word of English.

The evening unfolded one croquette at a time, with a small, cold pour of txakoli followed by a short stroll to the next overflowing bar. After a night of nibbling my way through Lekeitio, I set out along the meandering coastline to taste txakoli at the source.

Where to Stay : On the perimeter of the charming seaside village of Lekeitio, Hotel Zubieta is set in an 18th-century building that was once the stables of a nearby palace. A shady, peaceful patio is ideal for an afternoon coffee after drinking one too many lunchtime glasses of txakoli.

Manual Basque Flavors (Food Fare Culinary Collection)

I crossed the threshold into Laguardia, a medieval walled village in the heart of Rioja Alavesa the section of greater Rioja wine country that is located within the borders of the Basque country , aiming for one landmark: the oldest house in town. Dating back to the 11th century, Casa Primicia has a modest exterior and a storied interior, complete with enormous stone vats from the 14th century beneath the floor. The tour begins standing on top of these vats, on a piece of glass that enables visitors to peer below, where 20, kilos of grapes once filled each vat and the process of winemaking began.

I enlisted the help of a local—Carmen Romo, founder and director of Romotur , a Bilbao-based travel specialist—to narrow down the dozens of local wineries according to my interests.

Carmen helped identify not only wines worth traveling for, but wineries with a long and fascinating history. The cellar contains a secret tunnel that leads to the outside of the walled village. For Aduriz, taste is not the only thing that underlines gastronomy. Edible paper of leaves and flowers If we are eating to expand our imagination, food should not be merely functional or pleasant.

We like to say that Mugaritz is somehow an emotional trigger; if a person comes happy to Mugaritz, he or she will end the experience happier. Clams glazed with lemon If they come angry, they will finish the experience angrier. Mugaritz is not a cuisine of flavour. What does this really mean? To decode that, you need to go through the dishes.

Then, there is a dish simply dubbed Dried Hydrangea of Cocoa. Incredibly, it represents the distillation of thought around vanity. Vanity is interpreted as a bubble — made with chocolate, beetroot and honey. It is developed with scientific help from Azti Tecnalia, a technological research organisation working in marine and food research. Needless to say, this is food that will make you sit up. What appears to be a stone can be a potato. Plates are licked, cutlery is avoided.

The order of courses is broken so that sweets arrive in the middle and one could end with a large dot of savoury sauce. Full stop.


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Everything is unexpected, deceptive and intended to throw you off gear. To break the familiar, the kitchen and the lab intersect. But from the first day all the references that I had disappeared and culinary rules were broken. In my first week of working there, I wanted to give up. But in difficult situations, if you are able to reset, a great opportunity opens up.

Ferran taught me to see the world with different eyes and to have critical awareness. Its foams, airs and gels continue to flourish and often flounder in derivative menus even today, much after the restaurant has shut. You will find them in scores of wannabe modern Indian restaurants. Aduriz, too, seeks to do that and, like Adria, looks for scientific collaborations. Since , Mugaritz and Azti Tecnalia have been collaborators working not just on restaurant dishes but food proposals focused on nutrition and health needs of various demographics.

Then, there is a project for the elderly and their nutrition needs, taking into account several illnesses. New ingredients and cooking techniques are being studied, for instance, to come up with ways to allow diabetics to enjoy sweets.

Basque Country + Etxebarri

Mugaritz has lent its weight to the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Sciences, billed as the first scientific magazine about gastronomy, which publishes articles from researchers around the world. Sometimes a restaurant can be more than a restaurant. This overwhelming focus on science and technique in what is often thought of as art can be disconcerting. As we have seen with El Bulli, in the hands of imitators, gastronomy that focuses on technique over flavour to impress diners has the danger of becoming a soulless fad. How does Aduriz see this?

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e-book Basque Flavors (Food Fare Culinary Collection)

Once she learned this, Ms. Raij, who was dating Mr.


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  • The couple did eventually marry, but Ms. More salt! Montero was actually teaching her to be a better Basque cook. During the Middle Ages, salt production made the town the most prosperous in the region. The practice of curing is as old as the Basque seafaring tradition. Explorers, traders and fishermen salted and air-dried ham and cod to preserve them for long journeys. At Txikito, Ms. Raij and Mr.

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    Montero use a quick cure for cod and other meaty white fish. Raij said, rendering it ideal for use in the recipe for poached monkfish with garlic soup. The process also concentrates the flavors of proteins and allows for better browning, a factor the couple relies on for attaining the ideal sear on duck breast and pork loin. The potent brine known as salmuera transforms the texture of oily fish such as sardines and anchovies and makes for easy bone removal.