Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Best Lunch Ever! (For Foodies)

Really, if you're happy with Burger King, don't waste your time on this post.  Re-watch Tina's video; you'll have more fun.

I, on the other hand, come from a family that spent every breakfast deciding what we'd eat for lunch and dinner.  Food is in my blood; it's past of my family heritage.  My father is a fantastic cook of mostly quirky Asian food (sea urchin delicacies, etc.), but he can make anything.  My Grandparents were all gourmet cooks and bakers and my Paternal Grandfather was the Director of Nabisco Labs way back when.  After Dad and Mom split, he with his wok, and Mom remarried, we were a motley mix of half, step and full siblings with a mother who was much more successful in the business world than in the kitchen. (I emphasize MUCH.)  Consequently, we ate at restaurants most nights, where we talked about, yep, the food.

So here I am in San Sebastian, a city that, according to The Lonely Planet Guide,  has more restaurants with Michelin Stars than Paris! (Actually a quick fact check on the Michelin website seems to prove that that's not the case, but whatever.) We only have a couple of days here and one of them has already been, ahem, frittered away with Jacques-oh-lee, so that leaves us with one day.  We throw caution to the wind and decide to eat at 2 different 3-star Michelin restaurants in one day!  What the heck!  We get the tasting menu -- that's 20 or more (!) courses of food -- all within 10 hours!

Friends tell us we can't miss Arzak, a restaurant run by a father/daughter chef team.  We can´t get dinner reservations, but we manage to score for lunch.  A stucco flat-front building with an awning just three feet from the roadway, the place is nothing to look at from the outside, but inside is different.  Actually, it's not that much different, but it's kind of sleek with shaped-cement walls inlaid with impressions of forks and spoons.  Subdued, gray tones and fine linens give the impression that we could be in fancy cave in Manhattan or Paris.   Before we know it, small plates of delicacies are being brought to our table four at a time.  We sample fried lotus root chips held together like a teepee by a fish cream in the middle, tiny shish kabobs of seafood with, what looks like spun sugar around them, but isn´t.  Thin disks of fig are served crispy with a sliver of Foie gras and tiny pommegranite seeds -- heaven.

(No earthly idea what that is, pictured above, but it has a liquid middle.)

We discuss the proposed health care plan and other worldly matters most of the time, then spend inordinate amounts of time debating what we just swallowed.  We love food alot, but are squeem-ish about a few things.  Asking for clarification in Spanish doesn't help, so some of the questionable things get washed down our gullets with some other good things.  Sometimes we eat a bite of something, like this foamy chip below, and find out that it's our vegetable -- eggplant!

Hours later, having eaten some of the best food ever and having solved all the world's problems, except for how to make the dollar go a bit farther against the euro, we emerge from our sleek gray cave back into the sunlight, blinking like a couple of moles, wondering why Europeans think that all Americans are obese.