Friday, June 6, 2014

3 Michelin Stars and 8th Best Restaurant in the World Arzak is a greatexperience

Our visit to Arzak restaurant in San Sebasti├ín was everything we could hope for.   From the moment you pull up to the door someone is anticipating your every need.  The menu could give you sticker shock and there's no doubt it is expensive.  The tasting menu could be more than a lot of people would want to eat and must be taken by everyone at the table.  They offered excellent advice on appropriate serving sizes and everything could be ordered in half portions and they encouraged it, which made everything seem a bit more affordable.  Lunch and dinner menus are exactly the same.

Chef Juan Mari Arzak is happy and approachable.  He has a lot to be proud of.  

Scorpion fish mousse with kataifi.  1st amuse bouche was a big hit with us.

Amuse bouche #2.  Gilda with carrot and ssam-jang.  A nice touch of spice.

Amuse bouche #3.  Marinated anchovy with fish mousse and strawberry.  Absolutely delicious.

Amuse bouche #4 Proscuitto wrapped melon with bitter raspberry drink.

Hard to imagine.

Amuse bouche #5 was a chorizo in tonic water, presented on a crushed can of tonic.

Grilled lobster with tomato water, crisps of spinach and turmeric.  

Spider crab in a rock.  You had to break through the crust to eat the crab mousse inside.

Seasonal vegetables.  Asparagus, peas, radishes and mushrooms.

Fillet of seabass marinated in gin and juniper with potato crisps.

Monkfish with crispy lobster roe.

The whole meal was amazingly presented but this red mullet with oak leaves was served on a sea through plate with a tablet showing the ocean underneath.

The finish to the meal was a selection of sweets prepared as nuts, bolts, keys, flowers.  Endless goodness.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Haro is a great place to taste the wines of Rioja.

Unlike Napa Valley or the Okanagan in BC, Spain is more difficult to do wine tastings in.  Mostly you need to book a tasting time, but in Haro there are several tasting bars that you can just walk into.  Our favourite was our first stop in town at Roda Winery.  You can take your glass of wine down into the cellars and they have olive oil tastings as well.
I highly recommend a visit to Roda, they are welcoming and the wine is delicious withour being ridiculously expensive. 
We also stopped at Muga Winery where they offer flights of wine.  My favourite was the Muga Torre but at 50EUR, it is still sadly at the winery.

A little further east in Samaniego our next stop was Baigorri, interesting for both the wines, the tasting experience and the architecture

 Seven stories with a beautiful glass reception room at the top overlooking the vineyards and a magnificent tasting room at the bottom.
The tasting menu offers very good value for 35EUR there was 6 courses served with wines.
My first and favourite was the Crunchy salmon with trout caviar, aoili and dill oil.

The crunch was corn nuts.  Sounds awful but the whole dish was amazing served with a Rose made from Tempranillo and Granacha was a perfect pairing.

This mushroom and puffed pastry with Idiazabal cheese cream with smoked paprika was delicious with the barrel fermented white wine.

I love beans and this stew with spicy peppers was perfect with a young red tempranillo.

I can't give say I loved the blood pudding with chutney but the presentation was very nice.

My table mates swore the following Iberic pork jowl slow cooked in Baigorri Carbonic Maceration was delicious and I tasted it.  I think it was good but I just can't go over to the dark side at this time in life.

The pepper garnish was delicious and the Baigorri Crianza was a tasty wine.

Creamy creme caramel with blueberry sauce, ice cream and yoghurt was another hit.  I loved the yoghurt but am not an ice cream fan.  This one tasted like pure cream.  
I'd recommend a visit to Baigorri.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Best wine tour ever at Marques de Riscal in Elciego, Rioja, Spain

I've done a few wine tours before but this was the best yet.  I suppose operating for over 150 years gives you the time to get a few things right.  Starting in the vineyards of Tempranillo behind Frank Gerry's masterpiece hotel the tour took us through the complete wine making process from handpicking to bottling and finishing with a tasting of the Rueda white and Rioja Reserva.  The tour is well worth the 10EUR.

Fermentation tanks.

Wine casks to infiniti and beyond.

Bottling plant.  They produce 10,000,000 bottles per year.

Lunch at Bistro 1860 in the hotel was fantastic.  Our favourite dish was a warm mushroom salad with goat cheese and candied tomatoes. The candied tomato is the pretty smears across the plate.  The cheese was very fresh and tart and the mushrooms earthy and lovely with more of the Rioja Reserve.

The cheese terrine with honey and sesame was also a big hit.

House roasted peppers with anchovies were almost as good as they looked.  

We shared a couple of mid courses.  One was a red bean stew that we all loved.  

The fresh pasta with vegetables and poached egg was rich and satisfying and we probably should have stopped at that.  But no we kept going.  No need to make dinner.

I had a glass of the house Sauvignon Blanc with the Riojan style Cod.  The Spanish seem to love cod and so do I.  Delicious with the pepper sauce.

We also had the oven roasted Hake with potatoes and it was pretty fine.  

Another hake dish with green sauce and clams was the best of the main dishes.

We ordered Vanilla Creme Brulee with cheese ice cream just to find out what cheese ice cream was like. Hard for me to judge since I hate ice cream and I don't think anyone could really appreciate it after all that food.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A walk along the Calle Laurel in Logrono is fun, fun, fun.

Logrono is the capital of the Rioja region and the Calle Laurel is the tapas central. House wines were all good, but choose the one specialty tapa for each place. Our favourites were the mushrooms and shrimp on bread at Bar Soriano.
The peppers, olives and anchovies at Suria la Hez were surprisingly good. 

Our very favourite was Patas Bravas with aioli.
These were nicer looking than they tasted. 

Everything was better than expected. The people of Rioja love their food and take pride in what they serve you. Just wander and try whatever strikes your fancy and you'll have a great time. You just need a designated driver.