Saturday, 17 April 2010

Gastronomic Delights

The first of this year's artichokes
Back home and back to work. But what a wonderful Easter we had in San Sebastian! Just a four hour drive south for us, but a completely different world - one step over the border and Spain is about as different from France as Thailand is from Ireland. So now I am going to unapologetically talk about FOOD - a subject close to our hearts in case you didn't realise - as the north of Spain is quickly becoming the gastronomic centre of the universe, the ingenuity and intense flavours of their tapas (or pinxos as they are called in the north) being the magical foundation. The tastes are always fresh and exciting and the presentation precisely artistic. Even though the portions are small, you can go back and back again for more and, of course, you eat far too much. By French and English standards it's incredibly to boot, but who's complaining!

Salted Cod with pumpkin sauce and spring onions
And don't forget the closeness to the sea and thus the availability of fresh fish; ever-ripe fruit and vegetables (something we northern Europeans have forgotten existed) and the sharpness and clarity of the colours and, if it wasn't just a little too far away to visit, we would certainly make sure that every workshop we held here had a visit to L'Espagne on the itinerary. (Maybe if we made them a 7 or 8 days we could even squeeze the Guggenheim in......?)

Sardines for sale outside a grocery store in San Sebastian
On our last night in SS we tripped across an unassuming little tapas bar in the old quarter where they were serving 8 taster courses for 30€ a head. But it wasn't the cost that surprised us so much as the sheer mastery of contemporary fusion culinary skills at their best, plus the exquisite flavours and enthusiasm with which it was served. They recommended a cook book (written in English as well a Spanish and Basque thank goodness), and we are busy trying out recipes to discover which are the best to serve at the workshops. And if you like your wine, Mike had great fun interrogating the staff at most eating establishments to discover what they recommended in the way of new, exciting and delicious wines to go with the meals. Boy, does he have some surprises up his sleeve.

This happy and relaxed couple present the meals at their home, a wonderful, rambling manoir, with commanding views across fields and woodlands. They produce amazing four course menus and dietary requirements are happily accommodated. They are quite simply the best "restauranteurs" in the area that we have come across in a very long time. As a wine connoisseur, Mike will be working with Gareth in the near future to put together a special vintage wine menu, and we are certainly planning to take our workshop participants to eat at least one meal here during their workshop stay. They may not be French, but Gareth and Sue epitomise everything a good French restaurant used to offer.

Gareth has recently built a "smoke house" and his fabulous smoked salmon, butter, garlic etc. is now available from their website.

1 comment:

  1. WOW!
    Your trip sounds fabulous!
    Lucky us to get to benefit from your experience..yumm!

    Can hardly wait these last 10 1/2 weeks!!!!
    Love to all there....