What better way to spend a day off than driving along the coastal bay, around the cliff bends and over the hills to arrive at the top, where an amicable agriculturist welcomed us to taste, to converse and to learn. Sergi, the jefe of the carne partida (meat station), graciously invited us to visit one of our local herb suppliers at Restaurant Martín Berasatégui. Upon our arrival at the summit where the agricultural center is located, we were greeted by a jolly, stout fella, Jaime, the founder of Aroa. Aha! I recognize him from the restaurant! Every week, Jaime comes by the restaurant to deliver fresh produce. This was exactly the opportunity I was hoping for, to meet our local artisan and have a fresh look at what he does best.
We were joined by fellow Americans, Leslie and Manuel of Viridian Farms, and Gabriela of Tenedor Tours. The more the merrier! Jaime showed us the 100% organic tierra where he grows all sorts of goodies from lettuce varietals to strawberries to guisantes de lágrima (tear peas?), a Basque gem.
Guisantes de Lágrima
We tried leaves right off their stems. Forget about farm to table, this was straight farm to boca (mouth). My favorites include the various rúculas (arugulas) and the fiçoide glaciale, for completely different reasons. Arugula has a special home in my estomago (stomach). Some I tried at Aroa were nutty and peppery, others were tannic and citrusy. Arugula, you never cease to amaze me. On the other hand, I liked the fiçoide glaciale not only for its dewy and aquatic appearance, but also its long, juicy finish. Indeed, the opposite of arugula but nonetheless great.
Did I mention our fellow inhabiters of the hill? Sheeps, cats and chickens, oh my! Athena and I had to run over [in the mud] for a closer shot of the ovejas (sheep) that for some reason, I cannot get enough of in País Vasco, no matter how many time I see them. Maybe I just like math.
Jaime was very hospitable and invited us for some medleys-in-a-cup as well as some vino. I chatted with my new friends in Spanish, English and Spanglish over [the tastiest] leaves and wine in the picturesque Guetaria. This visit certainly surpassed expectations, as I though Sergi was bringing us to an arbitrary [indoor] lecture on herbs. Bravo!
Lucky for us, that was not as good as it got. There was more to come! We headed down the hill from Jaime’s Aroa with our new friends for some txakolí, but not before stopping by the famous anchovy spot in País Vasco, Itsas Mendi. Sergi pulled some strings and we got an inside peek at the [manual] anchovy process.
These are the quickest anchovy de-boning ladies I’ve met. Of course I’d never met any in my life until then but those grandmas can de-bone anchovy circles around you or me any day! Of course we did not eat empty-stomached. After touring the back room, we tried both the anchovies cured in vinegar as well as the ones in olive oil. Yum! I prefer those in vinegar. Next time we go to Guetaria, I will take a video of the journey because everything is so verdant and picture perfect, I cannot do it justice in words alone.