Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Best Dinner Ever (For Foodies)

Another meal, another 3 star Michelin tasting menu -- this time it's dinner at the famed Restaurante Martin Berasategui (#33 in the San Pellegrino world's 50 Best Restaurants), just outside of San Sebastian in Gipuzkoa.  Having just finished lunch at Arzak (#8 on the list), we're still pretty full.

Chip and I totter into this elegant restaurant, pleased by the lit garden walkway, the high ceilings and the floor to ceiling glass vistas to the garden.  We're greeted by a lovely, English-speaking maitre d' and after intense debate, we place our orders and the first courses arrive.

See this fork?  It's normal size.  The asparagus is mini.  According to the chef, it took 10 people to make this mini salad of vegetables in gelatin!

That's only the start to a parade of teeny-tiny food courses, mystery foods and courses that come with instructions and warnings.  We're advised by a white gloved waiter not to bite down on our black squid ink ball until our mouths are fully closed.  One of us didn't follow directions at lunch and spewed orange liquid onto the tablecloth. I'm alarmed. Is this literally one of a squid's balls?  Is it literally filled with ink?  Will my teeth be black if I smile afterwards?  I imagine someone milking a little squid teat somehow, to get the ink out.  I resist the urge to hurl my mini salad, batten the hatches and swallow something I don't want to ponder further, and it's, actually, quite good!

C. and I discuss many controversial topics, like: was that a grape skin filled with chocolate or a chocolate jello ball we ate for lunch?  We debate whether or not we've eaten our weekly caloric intake in this one meal.  Is this a ball 'o some'um or some'um else?  Clam or mussel? Morel or truffle? What exactly is a sweetbread? Blissfully unaware that the top chefs in the world spend years studying the chemistry of coagulation and molecular gastronomy, we struggle with how to classify certain items -- animal vegetable or mineral.

Martin himself appears from the kitchen and greets us.  We take pictures, he signs the menu and we're invited into the kitchen.  What a place! Seeing the group of men and women in their flawless white aprons and toques prepare the last courses of the evening brings a tiny tear to my eye.  Here stand the very people have toiled over my mini meals, carved and poached my mini asparagus, and possibly, milked my squid.

Back at the table, the mini desserts keep coming and the cholesterol keeps building until we're like a couple of wax figures with mechanical elbows.  Conversation devolves. Will the children pass any of their classes?  Will they forgive us? Will we learn Spanish?  Soon, all I really want is to brush my teeth and go to bed.  Please! No more chocolate, I'm thinking.  Finally, the courses stop coming and I dart into the ladies room on the way out and there is the proverbial icing on the cake: mini toothbrushes and toothpaste!  Promising not to eat anything that isn't super healthy for the next 2 weeks, I grab a toothbrush and my husband, and we collapse into the back of a cab hoping that the cab driver will understand our pronunciation.


Gilman said...

What a treat! 6 start and six pounds all with in 8 hours. Beautiful place, wonderful food, and exceptional company.

Mental P Mama said...

Wow. Who needs Zagat's? We have Perkins'!

Jill said...

I read this just before Thanksgiving! It could be the start of something good or bad. I won't eat at all or I will be grappling with a huge turkey leg! Wow, sounds like great food