Showing posts from September, 2010

elBulli - Roses, Spain - September 15, 2010

It seems not even remotely coincidental that if you draw a line between Figueres and Cadaqués, the sites of two museums dedicated to the life and work of Salvador Dalí, you will come very close to going right through elBulli. There is more than a bit of surrealism going on at Chef Ferran Adrià's famous gastronomical outpost next to Cala Montjoi, along the Costa Brava. The stripping of objects of their normal significance, the incongruous, dreamlike juxtapositions, the subversion of expectations, the quest for a more vivid, superior "reality" - I don't mean to dive right into the debate of food as art vs. craft, and maybe I'm disproprotionately influenced by our visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum on our way out to elBulli, but the parallels seem ineluctable.

There has been so much said and written about elBulli that it is daunting to try to add something meaningful.[1] A good place to start, which captures both the history and the current state of things, including…

Asador Etxebarri - Axpe, Spain

Asador Etxebarri and its chef Victor Arguinzoniz - the "Grilling Genius of Spain," as Anya von Bremzen dubbed him - have been known and adored by the food cognoscenti for some time. And yet in some ways, Etxebarri still seems to get something of the ugly stepchild treatment among the "destination" Basque restaurants. While Arzak, Martin Berasategui, and now Akelaŕe sport three Michelin stars each, Etxebarri only was awarded its first last year. Stars be damned: this was among the most delicious meals I've ever had, with the quality of several of the items establishing themselves as personal benchmarks.

The full set of pictures from our lunch is at: Asador Etxebarri - September 2010.

The story of Etxebarri is well-known at this point. Situated in a tiny village in the hills of Basque Country, down winding roads about an hour away from either San Sebastian or Bilbao, a self-taught chef set out to refine, and in some ways, reinvent, the idea of the asador, or gril…

San Sebastian Pintxos - Casa Senra, Mil Catas, Hidalgo 56

Casa Senra is not the most celebrated of San Sebastian's pintxos bars. But after a couple of visits, it's proving to be one of my personal favorites. Senra is not in the scenic Parte Vieja, but in the more business-like Barrio Gros,[*] and its layout is simple and utilitarian: a long bar stacked with platters of pintxos, along with several picnic-style benches along the wall, plus a few tables outside. Its pintxos are perhaps not as adventurous or inventive as some you might find. But the staff is friendly, the quality of the ingredients excellent, and the croquetas - well, they're possibly the best I've had anywhere.

The two pintxos closest to the foreground in this picture were a couple of my favorites: bacalao mousse topped with shavings of serrano ham and caramelized onions, and then behind those, soft bacon topped with escalivada-style grilled peppers, fried eggplant, Swiss cheese, and some more onions. Though these are out on the bar for the taking, the bartender…

Allez cuisine!

If you weren't able to catch Chef Katsuya Fukushima at our Cobaya Dinner earlier this month, here is another chance to see him cook:

Sunday, September 26 at 9:00 p.m. on Iron Chef America. Allez cuisine!

San Sebastian Pintxos - A Fuego Negro, La Cuchara de San Telmo

There are enough Michelin stars in and about San Sebastian to make up a constellation, but some of the best eating in this food mecca can be found in its many bars and their seemingly infinite selection of pintxos. We first visited San Sebastian about a year and a half ago, and sampled several excellent pintxos bars. We had the good fortune to be back in San Sebastian recently, and made return visits to several of those same bars, and some new ones as well.

Last year's post conveys my genuine awe at the culinary wonderland that San Sebastian is, and so I won't repeat myself here. I also won't dare try to recount each of the many morsels we sampled, which would be well nigh impossible. Rather, this is just a list of some of the highlights. Before diving in, though, a couple observations that are hopefully not duplicative of my comments from last year:

First, one of the things I found so remarkable is that even with the plethora of pintxos bars in the town - surely well more …

Four Chefs for Success for Kids

If you missed the last Cobaya dinner and want to get a preview of Chef Douglas Rodriguez's new restaurant, De Rodriguez Ocean, or if you just want to sample the cooking of four great local chefs, or if you want to support a worthy charity - actually, if you want to do all of those things - you may well be interested in the "Four Chefs for Success for Kids" event on September 15, 2010.

I know, that's a lot of "fours" and "fors" - almost four, actually. Stay with me. The event will feature Chef Rodriguez, Andrea Curto-Randazzo (of Water Club and the late and lamented Talula), Timon Balloo (of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill), and Tim Andriola (of Timo). Those are, in all seriousness, four of my favorite chefs in town. Tickets are $75 per person, $120 per couple, and all proceeds go to Success for Kids, a non-profit organization that creates and implements programs to empower at-risk children.

To purchase tickets, email or call 305.405…

Katsuya Does Cobaya

On Sunday evening, Chef Katsuya Fukushima was the "Visiting Dignitary" for the latest Cobaya dinner. Katsuya for the past fifteen years has worked closely with über-chef José Andrés, including as head chef at the minibar and Café Atlantico in Washington DC. Local über-chef Douglas Rodriguez (Ola, De Rodriguez Cuba) was the gracious host at his not-yet opened new restuarant, De Rodriguez Ocean in the Bentley Beach Hilton on South Beach, and also contributed a few dishes.[1]

This dinner presented a lot of firsts: there were several first-timers in the group; it was Cobaya's first time working with an out-of-town chef; it was the first time doing a dinner with a group of this size (over 60). We always encourage chefs to do the kind of cooking they really want to do, and as a result we often get to see a side of their culinary repertoire that may not be apparent from the work they do in their restaurants. For Katsuya, who is perhaps best known for the cutting edge culinary h…

Solo Bistro - Bath, Maine

The Squire Tarbox Farm's produce is perhaps put to even better use at Solo Bistro, in the town of Bath about fifteen minutes away. Bath is one of these pristine, postcard-perfect old towns that seems to have not changed at all in about 150 years, but Solo Bistro is a surprisingly contemporary-looking place. It looks like it was furnished straight out of a Design Within Reach catalog, with molded-plastic chairs in several hues, bare blond wood tables, Le Klint lights hanging from the ceiling, and exposed brick walls (the huge gray stones in a more lounge-y downstairs area are even more dramatic). The food is perhaps not quite as contemporary as the decor, but is equally well-constructed and precise.

It's a short menu with maybe a half dozen choices each for starters and mains. We began with a smoked tomato tart which I suspect was indeed using some of those same tomatoes we'd had at the Inn (the Squire Tarbox Farm was included among about a half dozen local suppliers listed…

Squire Tarbox Inn - Westport Island, Maine

After a couple days in Portland, we worked our way up Maine's coast to less populated territory: Westport Island, where we stayed at the Squire Tarbox Inn. The town of Westport was formed in 1828 on a petition started by one Samuel Tarbox and signed by all 73 of the residents. In nearly two centuries, that's grown to a positively bustling 745 residents, and it remains primarily a fishing and farming town.

History runs deep in Maine: Samuel Tarbox (the "Squire") was the great-great-grandson of one John Tarbox, who came to Massachusetts from England in 1639. The Inn is comprised of what was originally the Tarbox house, built in 1763, as well as the "newer addition" which was built in 1820. More recently, the original house, along with the "newer addition" and a carriage barn, have been converted to an eleven-room B&B.

We had first stayed here nearly fifteen years ago, at which time the property was also home to a dozen or so nubian goats (in a f…