2011 was a very special year for me in food, drink and travel. I spent the year working at Restaurante Martín Berasategui in northern Spain so naturally, I have many fond memories of the feasting I did in and around Spain. Grab a snack and enjoy the next few mouth-watering posts as my belly remembers 2011:
goat’s butter, toast, charcoal from the grill
Asador Etxebarri | Atxondo, Spain
Asador Etxebarri is as good as Bourdain [and everyone else] claims. You must take the pilgrimage to Atxondo at least once in your life [if not annually] and experience Victor’s masterful hand on the grill. If you don’t already know, the grill is custom-built, Victor is self-taught and self-trained, and the varieties of wood he uses makes this asador unlike any other in the area. Such was the perfect trifecta of the master, the technique, and the unparalleled Basque product.
My top three favorites? The creamy, melt-in-your-mouth-and-in-your-soul young goat’s-milk butter with natural charcoal dust (pictured above).
The palamós prawns. Were they tastier because they were happily spooning? I sure was. Double the slurp! These were the juiciest decapods I have ever consumed, and usually I avoid ordering them because 99.9% of the time they are overcooked, lacking salt and however else ill-prepared.
Fork and knife? Unnecessary. Tasty and tender was at my fingertips.
Oh, and take a page from my book: save the best–the brains–for last.
White tablecloth manners? Also unnecessary.
I channeled my inner [Chinese] zombie and shamelessly sucked on their brains and exoskeletons. All flavor.
The key to a great decapod is temperature control and generous seasoning with coarse salt. Oh, and a hint of that Etxebarri smoked wood taste.
To finish? A double surprise. A good dessert in Spain? And it’s flan de queso fresco?! In the words of Ralph Wiggum, that’s unpossible!
Sorry Ralph, but I’d choo-choo-choose this over and over again. Slightly sweet with a thin layer of caramel and an incredibly never-before-experienced weightlessness, this was the perfect finale to the crescendo. It boasted the savory taste of cheesecake with the texture of a light, not-too-eggy flan.
Great savory food owes a lot to perfect seasoning, but epic meals for me are eternalized by great desserts. And great desserts are characterized by the precise amount of sugar and a balance of both sweet and savory.
These are certainly dishes I’ll remember for now and for always. Asador Etxebarri. What a feast.