Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pintxos Perfection - San Sebastian, Spain

For those who haven't been to the beautiful, best in-city beach destination of Europe, you have to go! It's got my two loves side by side.  Golden sand and turquoise water along with an array of yummy food to boot!  San Sebastian is split into the new and old town.   The old town is where you want to be near as this is where you wander around the streets eating pintxos and drinking at all the different pintxos bars.  So the difference between pinxtos and tapas is that pintxos is pierced with a toothpick and the others are tapa.  Tapas from my understanding is a more general term for small plates of various dishes.  Pintxos is more popular in the Basque country.

There are plenty of different pintxos bars to wander into and after 4 days we definitely knew which ones were our faves and went back to for a pintxos or two.  Here is a pictorial list of all good ones we went to.  Some we just ate 1 or 2 pintxos and then left as it didn't have an atmosphere that made you want to stay.  Most of them were the ye oldy ones with not much variety of dishes so they didn't make it to this post.

Ok, so this was the first one we went to as it looked modern and interesting and funnily enough plonked ourselves next to a table of Aussie guys!!!

Beti Tai Berria - Address below
Pintox Variety: 7/10
Vibe: 6/10
Positives: Had my first Kalimoxo (pronounced kali mutcho)! A recent icon of Basque culture.  Equal parts Coke and red wine.  My fave drink along with another traditionally Basque drink, you'll see later on.

Baztan, Calle Puerto 8, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain. 9/10
Pintxos Variety: 8/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives: Was the first pintxos bar that sold meat pintxos!  The deep fried pork and chicken wings were delicious!  The staff were the friendliest and we ordered our own bottle of Txkaoli  (cha coli) which is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content.  Since we got back we have been searching far and wide for this drink, but no one imports this.  There are similar ones but damn just not the same.  We wish we brought some back with us.


Bar Zeruko, Calle Pescaderia 10, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain
Pintxos Variety: 10/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives:  It is great to see someone push the boundaries of pintxos.  This was one that I had found online before this trip and had it on my list to visit.  They have won awards for their innovation.  Naturally you order what everyone seems to be ordering.  So I ordered this amazing dish of smoked cod with a biscuit covered with sweet jam and cheese followed by a chaser of cucumber juice!  The smoke filled the bar and as each new group of people came in they asked the very switched on people behind the bar  what that smoky tapa  was and ordered this dish.  That's what I did! 

The guy that served us all night was amazing.  Each time you grabbed some pintxos from the bar you showed him and he would take back any that needed to be heated up and then serve to your table when it was done.  He kept tabs on everything.  Again we had kalimoxto, quite a few and stayed there for quite a few hours, people watching and eating amazing food.

Amazing sea urchin roe was so deliciously salty and creamy.  This was one that was at the bar but had to be heated up.  They disappeared quickly.  Hot tapas of tender beef with roasted capsicum sauce ordered from the menu.  Beautifully tender.

This dessert below was another one of their signature dishes.  It was a flavour bomb, literally!  The yolk like bulb was filled with a strong peachy, orangey liquid that was super intense.  I quickly spooned in the cream to balance it out and then ate the sponge with it.  The two little things on the side were a sticky date thing and the centre of a flower which was super peppery and again strong with a lingering numbing feeling in you mouth, kind of like Chinese Szechuan peppers.  The guy told me to specifically eat it at the end.  I wish I didn't have it as it took all the sweetness away.  But it was certainly a taste sensation.  And glad I tried it.  An American lady walked by and said she was watching my expressions as I ate it as she said she did the same thing and commented on how the flower bud tasted. 
This is a must stop by in San Sebastian.

Tamboril, Pescadería, 2 - Donostia
Pintxos Variety: 7/10
Vibe: 6/10 more for old local men
Positives: Cheap.  This little tapas bar was standing room only and specialised in mushrooms and stuffed peppers. We also found out that the pintxos from the menu were mostly deep fried.  The pintxos on offer ranged from the traditional omelette to a few strange ones like a fish roe one, see below in the middle bottom row.  The veins made it a big gruesome but it actually tasted nice and fresh with finely sliced onion and a kind of vinegary dressing.

La Cepa, Address below:
Pintxos Variety: 9/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives: Lots of space to stand at bar or sit down.  Restaurant area at the back.  A la carte, and lots of large and small plates made to order.  This is where we tasted different grades of Iberico ham!  OMG, melt in the mouth meat!  I never really felt like dessert but had dessert here and chose the the chocolate mousse.  It was to die for, I can still taste it now as it wasn't super sweet just rich in cocoa flavour and super creamy!

Bartolo, Calle San Bartolome / San Bartolome Kalea, 15
Pintxos Variety: 7/10
Positives: Friendly staff who were happy to explain what each pintxos on the bar was.
Negatives:  Filled with young tourists as tourist groups walk by and the guide stops outside this one.  We witnessed and heard the spiel.



La Mejilonera, Puerto, 15 - Donostia
Pintxos: 9/10 - the quality of mussels were so fresh, plump and juicy.
Traditional: Standing space only
Positives:  Fast and tasty.  They pretty much only serve up mussels and seafood.  You can pick from about 6 types of toppings for the mussels.  I'm trying to remember what they were.  Top one was served cold.  The creamy looking one was warm white sauce with a bit of chilli sauce.  This was my fave.   They also put this sauce on top of patatas bravas. The green sauce, have no idea what the flavour was.  Bottom left, we had a plate of plain ones then the red sauce was tomato and capsicum sauce.  Washed down with another Kalimotxo, it was a perfect pit stop before we arrived at the next bar!


A Fuego Negro, Calle 31 de Agosto
Pintxos: 7/10
Positives: If you are after more modern Basque pintxos then go here.  It has a more touristy and cool vibe than the others and prices more expensive and small serves.  We only had 3 plates as the kitchen was closing for the afternoon before opening again later at night.  The rabbit was tasty but tiny, liked the playboy bunny touch.


I took so many food pics that it was very hard to cull and edit this San Sebastian post.  Please feel free to email me if you plan to go and need some more advice on anything food or about planning your itinerary.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Le Mestruet - Paris, 2nd Arrondissement

This was a great find online.  It was close enough to our hotel, but in the next arrondissement.  I love how everything is so accessible in Paris by walking, and even better if you're on a bike.  Le Mestruet is traditional Parisian bistro that is always busy, so we were lucky to get a reservation for a table a few hours before.   There were a lot of tourists but also heard  lots of Frenchie speaking peeps too.
We had a drink at the bar first.  The attentive and fun waiters made this a great and memorable last night in Paris for us.  Plus it was the night that we felt like we were going to burst with food and alcohol!  I think the huge desserts put us over the edge.  Lucky we had a 15 minute walk back to the hotel to walk it off a bit. 
Our very own bottle of olive oil to "leoube" our bread with.
Cold pea soup with peppermint and basil.  Had to give it a go and it was really refreshing a great way to line the stomach.  If I had a heavier entrée I really would've burst!
This was the potted rabbit.  We had to order a protein that was a bit out of the norm.  And I'm glad we got this.  The meat was soft and flavoursome.  Hubby didn't like the gherkin so I happily ate that with the rabbit and bread.  Deee - licious!
Chicken with wine and fig sauce and custard tart.  The custard tart was the thing that made me order this.  It was in fact an eggy quiche which was rich and creamy.  I could not finish this.  Don't worry, no wastage though as my human vacuum cleaner always finishes my leftovers :)

Hubby ordered one of "Grandmother's Favourites".  The traditional creamy veal stew with baby onions and pilaf rice.  Again this was so creamy and rich, the meat so soft.

Ok, so this is the "not for small appetites" dessert, it actually says that on the menu.  Traditional Paris Brest pastry with praline flavoured cream.  This was to die for.  Looking at this now I could eat two of them, but that night. . . O M G!  More richness!  I guess this was what we wanted the whole trip.  Rich, buttery French food and my goodness did we get it!

And I ordered the macaron of strawberries with cream and vervain liquer, which I think from a quick google search is a liquer produced in the Alps. . .  Anyway this was a big, damn fine macaron that had to be eaten with a knife and fork.  I think I was in a food coma when this came out, hence I just noticed that as a food blogger/stylist (haha) I should've turned the macaron around to the non cracked side first before snapping away.  Jokes aside, this was truly yum.  The macaron had the strawberry flavour in the pastry along with the intense strawberry filling.  The cream mellowed everything out into mouthfuls of heavenly sweetness. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Au Jardin - Paris, 9th Arrondissement

Just a quick show and tell as I must get a move on with my holiday food posts.  There is still so much I want to show you guys.
This is another neighbourhood restaurant in the cluster we kept on walking by.  It had snails on the menu so we went in.  It is pretty hard to find snails on menus must not be as popular as it used to be I think.  And we didn't see frogs legs anywhere.  I don't think it was the right season for them.
This is what we ate.  The food was simply presented, good quality and traditional French.  It was delicious and filling.  Service was good and had no problems with ordering.  A cute restaurant with mainly locals.

The snail entrée below in a yummy roast capsicum tomatoey sauce with a parmesan crisp.  The snails were already taken out of their shell.

The eggs baked French style were perfectly cooked and had the great mushroom flavour through it.

The dish doesn't look great but it was a tender piece of beef with a cocoa sauce, which was the reason I chose this main.  Never had that combo before and lucky it worked! 

Guinea-fowl main below.

Pretty full so we decided to share the cheese platter as we never usually order this, as it's kid of an old people thing don't you think?  Anyway what better city to try an array of yummy mature cheeses?  All of them were really strong, went well with the different wines we tried.



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

L'Office - Paris, 9th Arrondissement

L'Office serves fresh modern French food in the 9th arrondissement.  It is a tiny restaurant and we were lucky to get the booking for 9:30pm.  Yes everyone eats late here, there were even people coming in at 11! 
I found this by reading French food blogs and wanted to go to a similar restaurant called Septime but couldn't get a reservation.  It is supposed to be one of the must go to restaurants for foodies as it is a new type of cuisine they are serving up in a chilled environment.

There were only 2 guys running the show and the chefs downstairs, hence service a bit slow.  We sat by the stairs so saw each plate as they came up from the kitchen.  The dishes are clean and simple with that French flair and clever combination of flavours.  I think the owners are apparently American, hence we noticed a few Americans in the house.  Yet there were quite a few locals too.
Again the menu was only written on the blackboards and it was a set menu, this time for 33 Euro for 3 courses.  No amouse bouche or starter though.
Overall it's a good restaurant to try but I kind of was expecting better from all the blog reviews I read. 

Ok, my entrée was this the "saumon" tartare.  As you can see, these chunks of salmon are pretty big.  This is the best tartare of salmon we have ever tasted!  So clean.

Below, entrée of assorted mushrooms.  Very earthy tasting.  They did taste like they were just picked from the French woods, hahaha.  The hazelnut went really well too.  I'm usually not a nut person when it comes to nuts in dishes.  Snickers, yes, in a salad, not really.

My main of duck breast was ordered apprehensively as we had eaten a lot of duck over the past weeks, but seeing as there was only 3 options, to me this sounded the best.  And, lucky it didn't disappoint of turn me off duck.  It was absolutely delicious.  The mini turnips with the stem still on presented nicely and added a bit of zhusj.  The cucumber however could have been given a miss.  The winner was the duck, cooked to perfection and with the salty risotto it sat on, was a mouthful of satisfaction.

Ok, so even now with a bit of a fancy camera, I could not for the life of me get this pork main to focus.  Maybe it was saying something.  "I'm not worthy of a shot. . ."  All I can remember was ordinary.  Lucky it wasn't my main, haha.  Poor husband.  It was ok, the gnocchi and eggplant additions helped it along.

Dessert time!  I wanted the ricotta soufflé but it was sold out.  Damn.  So I got this runny concoction of chocolate and sesame something or rather.  It was nice.  Nothing fancy.  I thought it had sat on the pass for too long but when I saw the next one come up the stairs it looked exactly the same as mine.

The cheesecake dessert was nice.  Not too cheesy and was more like a brulee.  Looked pretty though.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Le Square Gardette - Paris, 11th Arrondissement

Back to reality, but reliving my recent holiday to Europe through my food pics.

First night in Paris was this bar/restaurant called Le Square Gardette.  Sitting at the tables on the pavement with "vin" in hand, looking at Parisian apartments glistening as the sun goes down, it was a perfect first night amongst the locals.  Then when our stomachs started rumbling we went inside.   It is an eccentrically decorated dining room with moose heads hung on the wall.  Feels like a grandma's house with old carpet and single stem flowers on the tables.

This place is further out from the centre but it is a developing hipster suburb with lots of restaurants popping up experimenting with modern French fare.  Tenne Belles is a coffee bar fave amongst Aussies for coffee in Paris which is a few blocks up from this place. 

This meal set the standard for the rest of the trip.  Like most restaurants it is a set menu.  For 41 Euro we got 3 courses which is pretty good value for what we got.  The menu is written on the day depending on what the chefs source from the markets.  The waitress had basic English skills and struggled to translate some dishes but we kind of got the gist of the main things.  If you are that keen on the exact dishes you can translate from the menu below. . .

If in the arrondissement I highly recommend this place.

I forgot to take a pic of the amouse bouche and we also got this tasty starter as a surprise before our entrée.  Forgive me it was a quite a few weeks ago but I cannot remember what this dish was.  Sashimi with zucchini noodles I think!

Below was my entrée of fresh taglitelle, with slithers of cuttlefish, shallot, egg yolk and raspberry sauce!  Amazing! 

My husbands' entrée:  Ceviche of white fish, with kiwi and popcorn and probably other things.  It was an unusual combo but tasted great.

Main of poached chicken with mango and some type of vegetable puree.  This was good but my least fave of the night, lucky it wasn't my choice lol!

My main of fish with ratatouille, eggplant puree and pamplemousse, which is grapefruit.  This was delicious.

Dessert time!  Chocolate tart with a yummy crumble.  I clearly remember this chocolate to be so creamy but not that sickly rich.  Even at the end of the meal you could scoff this and not feel ill afterwards.  Must be a really good type of cocoa.

My dessert was a meringue with tarragon Chantilly cream and grapefruit.  I left a few pieces of the "pamplemousse" (love that word) behind as it was just a bit too tangy. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...