Friday, 30 July 2010

armenian yoghurt soup w chicken & pistachio dumplings

I had dreamt of making this recipe for some time so I made it one of my 2010 Food Challenges to make sure I finally did it.

I liked the idea of a warm, sour, creamy soup. It seemed wholesome and hearty, but somehow still fresh. And the tasty dumplings stuffed with spiced chicken and dotted with pretty green pistachio were pretty.

The soup actually has a very mild flavour. It might be considered bland to some people, or homely and comforting to others.

The dumplings were also gently flavoured, although the mild spice added more impact. The nuts add a soft chew to the texture and I certainly would prefer to eat the soup with the mante rather than on its own.

It wasn’t a bad meal, it just probably wasn’t as exciting as I’d imagined, but you can’t win them all.

Tahnaboor (Armenian Yoghurt Soup)
Based on these two recipes. Serves 4.
¼ cup rice
1 teaspoon salt
500ml chicken stock
1 litre water
1 egg
250ml plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon cornflour
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve
½ teaspoon dried mint, to serve
1. Boil rice in stock and water with salt until very soft.
2. Beat together the egg and cornflour, then add yoghurt and mix well. Add 2 teaspoons water to loosen the mixture a little.
3. Pour the yoghurt into a large pot and cook on a very, very low heat to prevent curdling. Cook for 15 minutes stirring continuously.
4. Slowly add in rice/water/stock mixture, a bit at a time, stirring continuously to combine.
5. Turn heat to medium, allow mixture to come to the boil, then turn down again and cook for another 10 minutes. (meanwhile boiling mante)
6. To serve, ladle into serving bowls, top with mante then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of dried mint.

Mante (Chicken & Pistachio Dumplings)
Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller. Serves 4.
100g minced chicken
20g coarsely chopped pistachios
½ small onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
40 wonton wrappers
1. Combine all ingredients except wonton wrappers in a bowl and season to taste with sea salt.
2. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the centre of each wonton wrapper, brush edges with water, place another wonton wrapper on top and join ends together, pressing to seal.
3. To cook mante, boil a pot of water and gently lower in dumplings, cooking for 3 minutes or until mante float to surface. Be careful to prevent them sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Note: the original recipe called for 20 round wontons, folded in half, but I used two wonton wrappers pressed together per dumpling, to create more substantial dumplings.

This is my entry for the Presto Pasta Nights event. This week's PPN is hosted by Daphne from More Than Words, so be sure to visit her blog for other pasta and noodle recipes. PPN's founder however is Ruth from Once Upon A Feast.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

feasting in galicia

A Spanish friend of mine, Maria, has Galician family and before I left for my holiday she instructed me on the wonderful specialties I had to experience while visiting this rugged, coastline embracing the cold Atlantic Ocean. Percebes were a must!

Jonas and I joined Fabio and Special Friend for a road trip along the coast, visiting tiny villages, fishing ports and the numerous (and unexpected) eucalyptus groves.

We started in Vigo, drove north across the autopista bridge overlooking a beautiful bay with many barges and swung through Santiago de Compostela before following the coast all the way south into Portugal.

Apart from some of the spectacular coastal views, my favourite part of Galicia was Santiago de Compostela, a gorgeous medieval town that serves as the final destination on the St James Pilgrimage (a walk starting in southern France and traversing northern Spain).

Santiago was quite a special place and I wish we’d had a few more days there. We saw mass in the lovely old cathedral, the interior garishly gold and the exterior covered in wonderful green moss and plants. It was quite wonderful. In the evening, we loved getting lost in the medieval lanes, wandering from tapas bar to tapas bar.

Pulpo á Feira
Octopus tentacles are dipped repeatedly in boiling water to seal on the colourful skin then cooked until ridiculously tender. It’s flavoured simply with smoky-sweet paprika and olive oil.

Cubed pork cooked to perfection, seasoned with a little garlic and served with chips. So simple and delicious.

A small fishing village

These wonderful clams has been on my “to eat” for more than six years and I was so happy I finally got to eat them in Spain. They are particularly numerous along the Atlantic coast, in Galicia and Basque country, and are best just grilled until they pop open then topped with herbs and olive oil. I just loved them and would happily eat them on a daily basis. They taste similar to scallops but have a texture closer to squid.

Estrella Galicia is a local pale lager and one of Jonas’ favourite beers. I drank some, but not being a beer fan I can’t wax lyrical on its qualities nor compare it to other beers. Suffice to say, many beer connoisseurs do say Estrella Galicia is a good, mass produced brew.

View of a church from the rocky hill tops

Local cheese and local cured meat. Good, great, best.

Pimientos de Padrón
These small, bite-sized peppers have a wonderful sweet flavour and come slightly charred and sprinkled with salt. It’s said that one in twelve will be extremely spicy, but after eating plates and plates of them throughout our time in Spain I got only one that was even mildly hot. After eating these peppers so often, I might just have overcome my distaste for capsicum.

Bodega Quinta do Buble (from Monterrei, Ourense) is made from 100% godello grapes and the 2009 vintage was an awesome, aromatic, gutsy wine that held up wonderfully against a plate of cured meats and cheeses.

Raya a la Gallega
Skate (sting ray) was poached in water, wine, garlic and paprika then peppers and peas are added and it’s served over sliced, poached potatoes. This particular one wasn’t very well cooked or seasoned, but I’ve seen photos of the dish which look much more intense and delicious so it’s worth a try.

A pretty fountain near the cathedral entrance
in Santiago de Compostela

These wonderfully strange little sea creatures are called goose barnacles in English, although I’ve never heard of them outside Spanish gastronomic dialogues. Does anyone know any other countries that eat them? They grow on rocks and are harvested depending cycles of the moon, being extremely difficult and dangerous to collect. In one small village I did see one man splashing around the rocks cutting lumps off for his dinner.

They come in small clusters, simply steamed and wrapped in linen to keep them warm. You rip one from the cluster, peel off the black skin and pull the short, pink flesh from inside the stone-like claw, discarding the fluffy red feathers that stay behind in the claw. They taste like more delicious, sweeter muscles and I adored them. Jonas and Special Friend thought they tasted alright, but Fabio was not a fan. That might have been due to him trying them first and eating the Kevlar-strength black skin before we asked the waiter how they should be eaten.

It was a wonderful holiday and a naturally pretty region, totally undeveloped and without pretention. There's not much in the way of architecture along the coast, but who needs buildings when you have rocky cliffs and sandy beaches.

For more on our recent holiday, check out:
* Food from the Basque Country
* A Fuego Negro, San Sebastian pinxtos bar
* Arzak, three Michelin star restaurant

Sunday, 25 July 2010

batida morango

I could drink this Brazilian strawberry cocktail rain, hail or shine.

It's amazingly delicious and Jonas makes a mean one.

Coming home, after a long day at work, to a smiling husband and a fat batida is too good to be true.

Batida Morango (Strawberry Brazilian Cocktail)

Jonas' very own recipe. Makes 1.

4-5 strawberries
½ lime, cut into wedges
60ml cachaça
15ml sugar syrup
Crushed ice


1. Muddle the lime and strawberries in a cocktail shaker.

2. Add the sugar syrup and cachaça then ½ cup crushed ice.

3. Shake until chilled through then pour into a glass and serve immediately.

Friday, 23 July 2010

orecchiette w peas, lemon & crème fraîche

It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to participate in Presto Pasta Night (a Friday food blogging event) and I’m pretty happy to be rejoining the pack with this great recipe.

Despite Jonas’ protests that it wouldn’t turn out very well, he was shocked to discover it was damn delicious.

I wasn’t so shocked, but it did turn out better than even I’d expected.

It’s pretty light, so it makes a perfect spring or summer dinner, or would even work well as an entrée in winter (that’s starter to you North Americans).

Orecchiette w Peas, Lemon & Crème Fraîche

Adapted from A Twist of the Wrist by Nancy Silverton. Serves 4.

8 ounces orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 cup frozen petite peas, or fresh if in season
1 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
6 slices prosciutto, torn in half (optional)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

2. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Cook for a couple minutes until fragrant but not browned, then reduce the heat to medium

3. Add the peas, cooking for a few seconds, then add the crème fraîche, lemon zest and kosher salt. Bring to a light simmer, stirring constantly, until warmed through.

4. Reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it while still wet to the skillet.

5. Toss well with the sauce, add the pepper and lemon juice and add the pasta water to create a loose sauce. Turn the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes as the sauce melds with the pasta.

6. Transfer to bowls and top with any sauce left in the skillet.

7. Lay the prosciutto and basil leaves on top. Serve immediately.

Note: you could use cooked bacon instead of prosciutto.

This week's PPN is hosted by Janet from The Taste Space, so be sure to visit her blog for other pasta and noodle recipes. PPN's founder however is Ruth from Once Upon A Feast.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

drunken cinnamon cake

When the weather is cold I love to indulge in warm desserts, especially those that are moist and laced with spices.

This Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe ticks all the boxes with its intense cinnamon flavours, sticky texture and the boozy syrup it’s soaked in. All delightfully good.

It’s dead simple to make and would easily work cold in warmer weather (mental note: remember this for a southern hemisphere Christmas).

But in the meantime, as we await the warm weather again, I’ll just sick back and intoxicate myself in sweet, wintery goodness.

Drunken Cinnamon Cake
Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe. Serves 6 .
4 eggs, at room temperature
200g raw caster sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra to serve
120g plain flour
80g almond meal
50g butter, melted and cooled
110g (½ cup) raw caster sugar extra
125ml sweet sherry
3 cinnamon quills
1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease six 1 cup metal dariole moulds or one large baking tin.
2. Whisk eggs, sugar and cinnamon in an electric mixer until triple in volume (12-15 minutes),
3. Sieve in flour and almond meal then fold in with a metal spoon, followed by the melted butter.
4. Fill baking tins and bake until risen and golden (25-30 minutes), turn off oven and cool cake with oven door open for 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
5. Meanwhile, for sherry and cinnamon syrup, combine sugar and 120ml water in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
6. Bring to the boil and cook until syrupy (2-3 minutes), add sherry and cinnamon quills and cook for another 2 minutes.
7. Pour over cakes (discard quills) and serve dusted with extra cinnamon.

Friday, 16 July 2010

cock the hammer, it's time for coq au vin

To say Coq au Vin is just chicken in red wine is to say that foie gras is just fried liver.

Yes, it is essentially chicken cooked in red wine, but the results are something much, much more wonderful.

While France celebrated Bastille Day in the sun, Jonas, Shamu, TomBob and I huddled together for warmth over a plate of this delicious French stew.

Jonas has recently started eating chicken and that fact is simply marvellous.

He cooked this recipe, following it to the letter, and the results were superb.
I highly recommend it.
And a husband who can cook it.

The recipe apparently served four, but in our experience it easily stretched to six, especially with the cream infused potato base.

Do try it.

Coq au Vin (Chicken & Red Wine)
Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller. Serves 4.

2 tablespoons olive oil
90g butter, coarsely chopped at room temperature
1.6kg free-range chicken, jointed
150g piece of pancetta, cut into 1cm pieces
12 small pickling onions
125ml (½ cup) brandy, warmed
750ml (3 cups) Beaujolais
500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
3 parsley stalks
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 small heads garlic, halved lengthways
1 tablespoon plain flour
200g mixed small mushrooms such as pine, Swiss brown and button, trimmed
¼ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1kg desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
50g extra butter, coarsely chopped
125ml (½ cup) pouring cream


1. Preheat oven to 160’C.

2. Heat oil and 20g butter in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add chicken pieces and cook for 10 minutes, turning until golden, then transfer to a plate and keep warm.

3. Add pancetta and onions and cook for 5 minutes or until golden, drain off excess fat.

4. Return chicken to pan, pour over brandy and ignite with a long match.

5. When flames are extinguished, add wine, stock, herbs and garlic and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. Bring to the boil, cover and place in oven for 1 hour or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

7. Transfer chicken, onions and pancetta to a warm dish, cover with foil and keep warm.

8. Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve, discarding herbs and garlic.

9. Heat sauce in clean casserole over medium heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until reduced to 2 cups.

10. Combine flour and 20g butter into a paste, whisk into sauce and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

11. Meanwhile, heat the 50g of extra butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or until golden, season to taste and set aside.

12. For mashed potato, cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender, drain and pass through a potato ricer into saucepan, add butter and cream, season to taste and stir to combine.

13. To serve, return chicken, pancetta, onions and mushrooms to sauce and cook for 5 minutes, turning to coat and warm through.

14. Serve chicken and sauce scattered with parsley, with mashed potato on the side.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

world cup final

This is a World Cup post.

I love the World Cup. Every four years I become a football fanatic, getting up in the middle of the night to watch all the games, following the tactical analysis on sports shows and reading up on the players on football websites.

I recite the stats, scream my lungs out and bore everyone to death.
And then I forget about it for another four years.

I get so emotional when I watch football that if I followed it every year I think I’d end up having a heart-attack.

This year I was going for Australia, but after we were knocked out I did something that shocked even me – I started cheering for Germany (again!).

Let’s face it, Germany isn’t a very popular country. We all know why.

No one ever cheers for them, but I was passionate about the Germany team. They were such a force and the players were so young. I was amazed by their skills and their youth.

When they lost to Spain I actually shed a tear. And I felt so bad for poor Miroslav Klose who was 2 points off taking the highest scorer ever in international football.

But after Germany beat Uruguay to take third place, tonight Spain plays the Netherlands in the final and I am cheering for Spain.


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

apple baby dutch

This fantastic breakfast recipe changed my opinion about cooked apples.

It’s hard to believe, but until I tasted this I’d never enjoyed cooked apples. Not apple pie, not baked apples, not apple crumble. No cooked apple.

But now I’m a changed woman.

Perhaps it’s because dutch babies are baked German pancakes introduced to the US by German immigrants to Pennsylvania, from whom I am a descended.

The strange thing about the Dutch Baby, and about the Pennsylvania Dutch in general is that they are actually Germans, confused by an English corruption of the German word deutsch.

In fact, it just occurred to me while writing this, that my brother and I are the very first generation not to be born in Pennsylvania in a direct line of descendants from a German immigrant who fought for his new country’s freedom in the American War of Independence.

Way to bring an end to some 250 years of tradition!

But back to those delicious apples, they are perfect atop this fluffy pancake that puffs up wonderfully in the oven.

Apple Dutch Baby
Adapted from a recipe on the Williams Sonoma website. Serves 4.
Apple Topping
2 apples, peeled, cored & thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, chopped
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Cream, for serving
1. Adjust the oven rack to the upper third of the oven. Turn on the oven to 200°C.
2. Put the butter in a very large (12-inch) skillet with an ovenproof handle.
3. Set in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter completely (okay if it begins to brown).
4. While the butter melts, measure the flour into a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk and salt. Beat until smooth, using a whisk, large spoon or handheld electric mixer.
5. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sides are puffed up and dark golden brown.
6. Meanwhile, to make topping, heat butter in a frying pan. Add apples, cinnamon and sugar and sauté for 8 minutes until softened. Set aside but keep warm.
7. Remove from the oven. Loosen the Dutch baby from the sides and bottom of the skillet, then slide it onto a serving plate.
8. Pile the fruit in the centre and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
9. To serve, cut into wedges and serve with thickened cream.
Note: original recipe used regular milk, was served with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

Apples are my theme ingredient for Weekend Herb Blogging.

Originating in Central Asia, the apple has more than 7,500 cultivars and is one of most widely cultivated tree fruits in the world. Heck, isn’t it the reason we’re all out here in the cold instead of kicking it back in the Garden of Eden?

Check out the WHB round-up from host Cinzia at Cindystar.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

arzak, three michelin stars

This was a marathon in fine dining. It cost a fortune and was worth every scent.

Here we are at Arzak, the three Michelin star restaurant of the Basque Country’s most famous chef, Juan-Mari Arzak. Running this suburban San Sebastian kitchen with his talented daughter, Elena, Arzak has inspired other famous Spanish chefs like Ferran Adrià and Martin Berasategui.

We arrived at 8:20pm, a little bit early for our 8:45pm reservation, after walking from Parte Vieja and hoping to have a drink to quench our thirst.

The restaurant’s metal roller door was down and the only sign of life was the laughter and work coming from the kitchen.

Did we make a mistake? Surely they’d be open already, poised for serving their customers a welcome beverage before guiding them to their seat? Nope.

We stood like fools outside the door, watching the passing traffic and wondering if we were at the right place.

At 8:40pm we heard movement and the roller door slid up revealing a friendly face welcoming us inside a small receiving room with a few chairs. Time for a cava!

Service at Arzak was a strange mixture of gruff and friendly, but it was always charming.

The floor manager, one waitress and one waiter spoke English but our sommelier and other waiters did not, meaning that sometimes our questions were met with a confused stare and answered by silently scurrying away to fetch someone who understood. I don’t think we can fault them on that, because we are in their country speaking our language so of course some confusion may arise. They did their best to look after us.

Our floor manager was lovely (he’d worked with famous Australian chef David Thompson at his London restaurant, Nahm), and after talking to us about food he picked up that Jonas worked in hospitality and asked whether I was a food writer. I explained I wasn’t as exalted as that, with only a food blog to my name, but it was pleasing for both Jonas and I that our food and wine knowledge was recognised. So different from our early dining days when most waiters would dismiss us as kids on a big night out!

We were seated in the upstairs area which seemed to be reserved for foreigners, probably so that all the staff with English skills could be with those that needed them most. There was a friendly American couple from LA celebrating their wedding anniversary, a middle-aged table of four from Hong Kong and a French-speaking couple – all attesting to Arzak’s international fame.

Our floor manager encouraged every table to have the tasting menu and that’s exactly what we did. Although they were happy to provide a complete ovo-lacto vegetarian menu, Jonas decided to try one or two pieces of fish, which was quite brave and exciting.

Here’s what we had:


WINE MATCH: Txomin Etxaniz’s 2009 Txakoli from Getaria was a beautiful example of the young local wine, poured from up high to aerate the tiny bubbles. It has a strong scent of crisp, green apples and a strong acidity, almost like a sauvignon blanc but better.

Morcilla en Tempura
Tempura Blood Sausage

Because Jonas doesn’t eat meat, I got both of these but he ate the anchovies. The tempura outside was very crunchy and worked really well.

Antxoa y Fresa
Anchovies and Strawberries
Jonas claimed this was one of the best things he’s ever tasted and he wouldn’t even share a bite with me. Apparently the anchovy fillets had a tangy creamy sauce between them and the strawberry halves.

Puding de Kabrarroka con Fideos Fritos
Scorpion Fish Pudding with Fried Fideos

The soft, delicate fishy mousse worked very well with the crispy, crunch of the noodle casing.
Caldo de Alubia con Manzana
Red Bean Soup with Apple

Thick, warm, homely kidney bean soup was followed by a slightly sweet apple purée.
Bola de Setas y Polvo de Maiz
Mushroom Ball and Corn Dust

A bubble of mushroom soup burst in your mouth with a salty, almost bouillon-flavoured powder. It tasted a bit salty and raw for my liking.


WINE MATCH: Viñas del Vero’s 2007 Clarion made from buela grapes was a wonderful wine with a sweet-scent and crisp palate reminiscent of an Alsace pinot gris. I really liked this one.

Ensalada de Perretxikos
Perretxikos Mushroom Salad

While I ate the foie gras, Jonas enjoyed this fresh salad of local mushrooms, micro herbs, mizuna, radicchio, carrot ribbons and balsamic vinegar. The dressing was anything but simple and had such a strong but well-balanced flavour.

Cromlech y Cebolla con Té y Café
Cromlech and Onion with Tea and Coffee

This was my favourite dish of the night and one of Elena Arzak’s too. Cromlechs are prehistoric megalithic structures, and these two small pillars dominated my night. I can’t even begin to understand what it was made of, and perhaps that’s why it was so amazingly delicious and magical to me. Usually I can detect each individual component to a dish, but this just floored me. I can tell you the outside was crisp and wafer thin, with a perfect crunchy texture.

Inside it was salty, creamy and rich. They said there was foie gras in it and I saw small pieces of green pepper. Hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life.


WINE MATCH: The Gran Feudo Sobre Lías Rosado (2008) was a spectacular rosé made from tempranillo, granache and merlot grapes. It comes from Navarre and has the most pronounced strawberry flavours I’ve ever experienced in a rosé. Absolutely delicious.

Patata, Bogavante y Copaiba
Potato, Lobster and Copaiba
We both ate this mille feuille structure with its layers of crispy, wafer thin potato sandwiching sweet, perfectly textured lobster, which was so fresh it was almost raw. Jonas found the texture of the lobster a bit frightening but I adored it. The almost gelatinous sauce was made from lobster broth and copaiba, a South American essential oil that I discovered is a stimulant and is used for stomach ailments.

The lobster also came with a tiny salad of micro herbs, tapioca and seeded-mustard dressing, which was a refreshing end and softened the intense lobster flavour that might have lingered unpleasantly otherwise.

Huevo con Temblor de Tierra
Egg with Earth Crumbs
This soft poached egg was another favourite of Jonas’ and Elena Arzak’s. She said she admired the simplicity of the dish while Jonas just loved the way it tasted. It came with caramelised sesame, wrapped in a metallic coating, as well as crumbs of cacao and white truffle. It was interesting that the truffle scent only wafted out once the egg was broken and the yolk mixed through the crumbs.


WINE MATCH: Gran Fuedo Chardonnay (2009) was a very young wine that had not been aged in barrels and therefore didn’t have much of the buttery, vanilla flavours traditionally associated with chardonnay wines. Instead it was very clean and crisp, with distinct green apple and lemon flavours.

Lubina con Arroz Púrpura y Cactus
Sea Bass with Purple Rice and Cactus

The personalised menu I was given post-meal has this name written down, and it’s true that I did have sea bass, but mine came with spinach and walnuts. Either it’s an error or this is a playful name because purple and green does feature strongly in the imagery? Anyway, the dish was confit sea bass with spring-onion sauce, creamed spinach jellies shaped like garlic cloves, and a delicious Basque biscaya sauce of sundried peppers shaped into walnut jellies. Clear rice paper toffee shards held slivers of walnuts and smoky paprika, and a second piece was provided separately as a post-dish palate cleanser.

Rape Marea Baja
Low Tide Anglerfish
This dish was Jonas’ and it had the most amazing presentation. The plump roll of fish sat amongst wet sand and pretty seas shells, like a perfect beach scene. Of course everything was edible and Jonas devoured each element so quickly I had no chance to taste it and tell you what it was made from. I do know it contained fennel and piquillo peppers, but otherwise it will remain a mystery.


WINE MATCH: Arzak’s house red was simply listed as a Tempranillo Crianza (2004). I’m a huge fan of wines produced by the tempranillo grape and this wine was a good example of the crianza style with a heady aroma and light palate with berries and a touch of tobacco (or was it chocolate?).

Pichón con Chia
Pigeon with Chia
I asked for my pigeon to be cooked rare and they obliged with the best pigeon I’ve ever eaten. It was so moist and flavoursome, I was so very pleased Jonas pushed me to choose it instead of the lamb. It came with a shard of chia seed wafer and small bubbles of liquid tomato seeds, bright yellow and tangy to counter the richness of the squab.

Productos de Temporada en Cuatro Líneas
Seasonal Vegetables in Four Lines
While I enjoyed the exquisitely cooked pigeon, Jonas ate these seemingly simple vegetables. Stripes of potatoes and green lentils, leeks and tomato, split peas and mushrooms were decorated with edible flower petals and seemed a little dull to my eye, but Jonas assured me the flavours were quite bright and vibrant in his mouth.


WINE MATCH: The Gran Barquero Pedro Ximenez had the delicious sun-dried raisins typical of this type of sherry, but Jonas detected an extra lift of mixed peel. Perfect with our chocolate courses.

Sopa y Chocolate “entre viñedos”
Soup and Chocolate “between vineyards”

Truly spectacular. Bright, tart-sweet strawberry sauce pooled around soft bubbles of warm, liquid chocolate that burst in your mouth. Paired with verdant sweet basil ice cream, it was not only visually appealing but simply delicious. Our favourite dessert of the night.

Chocolate y Cristales de Colores
Chocolate and Coloured Crystals
This was tasty and yet bizarre. Chocolate mousse with decorated with shards of dehydrated vegetables: the first was milk and parsley and the second was red cabbage. Puddles of green sauce were heavily laced with garlic. Each element on its own tasted strange and disjointed, but eaten together it worked wonderfully.


WINE MATCH: our last desserts were served with a Molino Real Moscatel. It was beautiful and light, sweet without any cloying stickiness. It certainly had an apricot and lemon blossom smell, and I thought I detected a hint of coconut.

Dulce Lunático
Sweet Lunatic

This was a yoghurt sponge sitting atop homemade yoghurt and stuffed with passionfruit and banana ice creams. It was topped with more dehydrated vegetable shards and wasabi rolled sesame seeds. It was very fluffy and had a mild, tropical flavour that was gentle and comforting, but not a great ending to such a marvellous dinner. I think it should have been served before the chocolate dishes.

Hidromiel y Fractal Fluido
Mead & Fractal Fluid

This was an intriguingly named dessert, but not one I enjoyed very much because I’m not a fan of sweet lemon. Jonas really liked it, and I can admit it was good, just not my preferred cup of tea. The exterior seemed to be coloured white chocolate moulds, filled with the sweet lemon curd usually in a lemon meringue pie. It was served with a sweet sauce, or fractal fluid, so named after the pretty shapes made by the food colouring.

The last two desserts were served with roasted pineapple sorbet that was sublime.

Chocolates Artesanos
Artisan Chocolates

Stuffed full, we still made a little space for petit fours.
White chocolate and bean purée are coated in tiny pellets of freeze-dried red tea.
Dark chocolate ganache dusted with sweet smoky paprika and topped with a sliver of passionfruit jelly.
Shards of chocolate-caramel were dusted with bitter cocoa and had a gorgeous rich burnt flavour.
Squares of velvety milk chocolate are studded with salty popcorn are one of the best of the bunch.
A paper-thin sheet of dried apricot, similar to qamar el-deen, was wrapped around cinnamon-scented rice pudding. It had a comforting, homely flavour.
A wedge of candied pineapple was a sour-sweet refreshing contrast to all the intense chocolate flavours.


Throughout the meal, owners Juan-Mari and Elena wandered around the restaurant chatting to diners. In fact when Jonas visited the bathroom Juan-Mari kept me company with stories about his good friend, Australia’s famed chef Tetsuya Wakuda. I completely understand their connection, both being internationally celebrated with similar styles of cooking and presentation even though Juan-Mari is inspired by his native Euskadi and Tetsuya focuses on Australian-Japanese-French fusion.

Our conversation with Elena was even more interesting. She talked about her plans to visit Australia for the first time during Melbourne’s Food & Wine Festival and we recommended some of our favourite Melbourne restaurants (especially Vue de Monde).

After hearing Jonas was Swedish, Elena dashed off in excitement and brought back Mathias Dahlgren’s “Det Naturliga Köket” (The Natural Kitchen), a recently released Swedish-language cookbook that she said had so many beautiful images she was desperate to understand the recipes. Jonas talked her through some of the pages and we admitted that we’d tried to reserve a table at Dahlgren’s restaurant when we were in Stockholm in January but it had been all booked out.

Spending time with Elena and Juan-Mari was not some cheap parlour trick. They were truly interested in their guests’ experience and their presence in the dining room added a cheerful vibrancy.

Our meal at Arzak cost us a lot of money (€450 to be precise, including a good tip), but as I said from the outset: it was worth it.

Why was it worth it?

Because . . .
• the chefs are two of the world’s finest and have inspired so many other international chefs
• the restaurant is an institution, a gastro-temple, a foodie mecca
• the dishes were inventive and playful but perfectly balanced
• the staff are professional, warm and open, and clearly proud of their work
• the owners want every guest to feel special, excited and invigorated by their experience

But, most importantly, because the wine and food are delicious.

Avenida Alcalde Jose Elosegui, 237
San Sebastian
+34 943 278 465

Photos of the restaurant and Juan-Mari & Elena Arzak were provided by Arzak.

Other Spanish posts:
Food from the Basque Country
Feasting in Galicia
A Fuego Negro, San Sebastian pinxtos bar

View Anna's San Sebastian map in a larger version
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