Sammic Headquarters

Today we hopped in the car and took a drive up and down the winding hills and valleys to the Sammic headquarters in Azkoitia, a small town and coincidentally the same one where St. Ignatius of Loyola’s mother was born, for all you BC folks reading. The facilities were impressive to say the least, from the foundry to the server room–spotless!

Surprisingly, Sammic produces a lot of their equipment from raw materials to finished goods. We toured the foundry and watched workers pour hot, melted aluminum into molds:

Cuidado

After the aluminum was allowed to cool and set, the piece would be handcrafted to perfection. Notice the attention to detail:

Dough hooks

Besides episodes of “How It’s Made“, I’ve only seen production channels like these in China, except a lot more hazardous, inefficient and plenty more waste, perhaps attributed to poor management or difficulties associated with large-scale manufacturing. The workers at Sammic appeared to execute with speed and precision. They produce in lower volume batches, allowing for more fine-tuning as well as time for the research and development team to run sample tests. iQue bueno!

For such a young company (celebrating their 50th year anniversary this year), Sammic has come a long way in a short time. Check out these modern [large scale] potato peelers:

Para las Patatas

We will soon have the opportunity to use and test some of Sammic’s equipment in Chef Martín Berasatégui’s kitchen. How exciting! Having worked in tiny kitchens no bigger than the arm-span of space around me, I am new to operating large gadgets and machinery. Ah, the wonders of technology. This shall make for interesting button-pressing and lever-pulling. But in all seriousness, this is the inner-business-woman speaking, it will be an eye-opening experience to see how a 3-star michelin restaurant operates backstage, using various technologies such as Sammic equipment to improve its operations.

Chef Martín has been using Sammic equipment for many years. In fact, Martín’s relation with the company dates back to before he was even born. His uncle used to work for Sammic. Can you pick him out?

Tío

After our Sammic visit we headed to the hills for lunch at Anota Sidrería, a nearby cider house. The view was stunning:

The Hills Are Alive

I foresee many a sidrería visit in my near future where hopefully, I will be able to document quality pictures of the sidra barrels and the glass-filling technique. For now, here is a shot of Guillermo pouring us sidra:

Guillermo

One more day of ‘vacation’…then I’m in the kitchen. Practicing my best, obedient “Si, Chef!”

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Bar Zeruko

I’ve been here only twice but already Bar Zeruko is one of my favorite pintxo bars. The chefs incorporate innovative techniques and flavors into their pintxos while maintaining some of their Basquenticity. So far I have consumed at least 10 different pintxos and not been disappointed. If this was the case in Boston, perhaps I’d take credit for consistently picking ‘the winners’, but only because I’ve lived in Boston all my life and am somewhat experienced at deciphering menu marketing jargon, aka reading between the lines or weeding through the bs. No, it’s not me. Zeruko just gets it right.

Kokotxa de Bacalao

Who would think to pair cod jowl with foie? The unlikely pair fare well together because the foie is neither greasy nor uber rich. The acidity of the gelatinized sherry-like sheet  balances the finish so your palate is left feeling clean, and ready for more pintxos.

La Hoguera de Bacalao

As Zeruko is known for its bacalao, we proceeded to order more. Last time (as in two nights ago), la hoguera seemed to be the crowd favorite. I didn’t order it then because I figured it was all show. In this case I love to be proved wrong. The smoke smell is more potent than it tastes. The actual flavor it imparts unto the tender bacalao is quite subtle and perfectly so. We ate as directed, ‘self-grilling’ the bacalao for one minute on each side then topping it on the herbalicious bread chip. Divine. However, I did find the oozy, fizzy shot of green (perhaps a combination of sparkling wine and some herb purée) to be superfluous.

Hamburguesa de Txipiron

Every txipiron pintxo I’ve had in SS so far, I’ve loved. SS is squid heaven. So fresh, so supple. Here the chefs made the txipiron into a tartare patty (hence, hamburgesa) and seared it on each side just enough to crust, not too much to cook it through. Here texture is everything. Sandwiched between the airy tinta cloud and a crunchy crouton base, the ‘hamburgesa’ is not your typical burger, but it succeeds. Don’t forget to dip in wasabi relish. Tasty, playful and Asianified.

Picnic on Monte Urgull

I finally made it to Don Serapio today. Marti suggested we pick up some goodies and take a hike up Monte Urgull for a picnic. It’s a quaint gourmet store full of imported goods as well as local, artisanal treats like hand-churned butter. Of course I grabbed some to try. We loaded up on some jamón, cecina de león, queso de idiazabal y pan for the picnic. I guess I don’t have to be in Paris to faire le picnic!

Don

The ciabatta pan was decent for Spanish bread. iQue sorpresa! Crunchy outside, hollow ‘knock’ and a hint of yeasty goodness.

Pan y queso

A lover of charcuterie, I jumped at the opportunity to try cecina de león (cured beef leg) per Marti’s recommendation. The texture was similar to jamón serano but not quite as dry. There was a subtle smokey flavor to it that lingered at the end–nice touch.

Cecina de León

Of course we splurged on a bit of jamón bellota because there’s no rival to this king of hams. So rich, so nutty, so smooth.

Bellota

Of course I saved one piece for my last bite because when you are without chocolate to end on a sweet note, bellota is a suitable substitute. Such great, thin slicing on the butcher’s part as well. Bravo!

Sunny Bellota

Though a bit chilly, the hike up the “mountain” warmed us and the sun did peek through the clouds a few times. It was a beautiful view and a perfect way to spend a friday afternoon, eating and conversing with two fellow food enthusiasts.

Sol

La Tamborrada de San Sebastián

Alas, I have arrived again in San Sebastián! I was just in time for the yearly 24-hour cacophanous festival, formally known as Tamborrada. There are various tales behind the origins of the celebration, dating as far back as the 18th century. It’s all history to me. Did somebody say festival?

Conductor

We sang, we danced, we drummed. Various large groups of ‘chefs’, ‘soldiers’ and ‘musicians’ marched through and entertained us. Bravo! Their weeks of practice paid off! Continue reading