Monday, January 15, 2007

Almost homesick......

Naah.......just kidding. Still, sitting in the internet spot in Roses, north of Barcelona.....I had to put Conall´s Mix on the ipod.

We arrived in almost one piece. I was a little concerned flying into Bilbao a week after ETA hit the Madrid airport....and two days after the guardia civile found the THIRD cache of C4 ten kilometers from Bilbao. Also, Gilda sent two green loaves of bread from the marijuana store to calm Amanda´s nerves on the trip. They looked alot like bricks of C4 to me.....assuming they slipped past the pot dogs.....What price peace?

So, it was no surprise that we made it and the bags didn´t. We were stuck in Bilbao......with the Barcelona Blues again. As in many things, this was a Zen lesson. Our last trip to Bilbao sucked: bad, expensive restaurant; fought like cats and dogs; nearly got the car towed, etc. And, we had reservations at Comerc24 in Barcelona for the next day!

We sucked it up. The owner of the pension, a food nut. She got us a reservation at a place in her home town of Galdako called Andra Mari. It is family owned, been there a thousand years, and is across the street from the high school she went to. I was scared. Still, Michelin gave them a star last year (and took one away from another place in downtown....though not from the piece of crap that stole my money last year).

First, we had to go buy clothes. Jesus wept!! We went to a department store in Bilbao and fought like dogs against every grannie in the world over every questionable piece of clothing we could find. It was Macy´s basement sale in hell......Amanda was in desperate need of those loaves. I was wrecked, soaked in sweat and half an hour late for lunch.

Galdako is a tiny little town perched on a scary industrial highway. We found the high school, and eventually found Andra Mari. We changed in the parking lot....a Mike Jones special activity.....Impresses the hell out of the locals.

Andra Mari itself is perched on a cliff overlooking a beautiful big valley and mountains that we hadn´t noticed in our terror at fighting giant speeding trucks. Of course I failed to take a picture......Damn!! Gotta go back!!

The people were very sweet. Basically saying "Basque" and sweet, warm and wonderful is a waste of time. For some odd reason, the waitresses (chicks only here) dress in an odd traditional style from Aragon that looks like a cross between Austria and the Flying Nun. Blushing and smiling.....even the Basque version of Rachelle, though I took care not to piss her off.

The food was wonderful. Beautiful, perfectly prepared, imaginative without being weird....even inspirational. Quickly:

Little piece of squid on something something
Salad of baby mussels and fresh baby cepes in a cider escabeche. Wow!!
Foie gras wrapped in a lace thin piece of smoked bread with a jelly of salted cherries. Wow!!
Artichoke puree with cardoons a foam of something. Well, three out of four aint bad.
Soup of some kind of little mollusk in an amazing creamy risotto. Wow!!
Bacalao with essence of garbanzos. Mmmm.
Roasted hare and mushroom essence. Thank god this was the entree.
Apple sorbet with vanilla cream. Perfect
Parfait of something with brownie.

All this for fifty bucks a pop, including tip. Smiles, no extra charge.

After lunch we went in search of Extebarri.....the best restaurant in the world. It is lost in a lost mountain valley not farm from Galdakao. All the top chefs: Andoni, David Kinch, Arzak, etc say that this guy is the best. No one has ever heard of the place, not even Igone.

We found the place eventually, after a scary alcohol and bomb checkpoint. It is in Axpe, which is positively Alpine. And the place where the cops found all of ETA´s C4. A great place to be a lost tourist in a rent a car. Extebarri is closed till next week, and they are stilling thinking it over about me working there.

Upon return to Bilbao, still no luggage. What to do? Go out to dinner of course!!

This time we hit Zortziko, another one star. The kid from the pension made the call for us and talked them in to seating us at 9:30. We walked across the bridge into the new town and passed the department store.....the grannies were STILL battling over the sales clothes!!

We were a little nervous because Zortziko is a very elegant place.....Amanda was still wearing her Converse sneakers, and we had our department store clothes only. When we arrived, they showed us into a very elegant, empty dining room. At first we thought we were so badly dressed that they hid us in the back. Eventually we realized that we were IT! In the middle of a big city, on a Thursday, a Michelin one star restaurant was doing two covers!

You would never know. The food was perfect. The staff was just the right mix of super professional and helpful. The wine guy ....a local 22 year old, served up a local red of his choosing. He gave a two minute speech about the wine while carefulling pouring little tastes from glass to glass, checking the bouquet, checking the color. It was such a beautiful performance that Amanda was crying by the end of it.

Yes, I got his card. And, yes....he wants to come to California.


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