Nirvana


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Europe » France » Aquitaine
July 2nd 2015
Published: September 30th 2017
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Hazelnut Heaven ...Hazelnut Heaven ...Hazelnut Heaven ...

... upon arrival in St Jean de Luz, one of the first orders of business was a visit to a patisserie. The first one we came across was La Grange a Pains, where we found the Ferrero Rocher pastry. How could I turn that down?
Geo: 43.3879, -1.66028

After growing up here in San Sebastian during the 40s, I quickly realized that I needed to leave this place, or risk becoming a bum - beautiful babes, beaches, and Basque pintxos - how is it possible for a young man to succeed in this environment? Being an idealist, I toyed with the idea of building a noodle factory, but as advanced as the skills of the Basque region were, they simply didn't embrace my noodles!

Luckily for the Basques, I at least managed to spread my message of peace and love all over the region, and doing an especially good job of spreading the love to the pretty senoritas bahahaha! It's too bad that the Basques just didn't buy into my noodles, because I had to look into an alternate career, and hitchhiked my way over to a place where they truly appreciate a fine noodle - Italy! Wanting to diversify from noodle making, I obtained my chemical engineering degree in Northern Italy, and eventually settled in Alba, after graduation.

Alba may be known for white truffles, peaches, and wine, but I had come here for one reason only - to work for Pietro and Michele, the father and
St Jean's Beach ...St Jean's Beach ...St Jean's Beach ...

... strategically, we chose to day trip to St Jean today, since the weather was expected to be cool and cloudy. That way, we were able to enjoy San Sebastian's beaches during the past few scorching days.
son team that started up Ferrero - as in Ferrero Rocher! We clicked immediately, forming a creative powerhouse, quickly becoming the Italian version of the Three Amigos - the incredible combinations of chocolate and hazelnut we came up with would've made Willy Wonka jealous!

It was here, while working for the Ferreros, that I realized the greatest achievement of my life - inventing Nutella. Yup, that's right - I invented Nutella!!! It wasn't as simple as the combination of chocolate and hazelnut that the Ferreros had been trying to perfectly mix for years, as it needed bit of chemical engineering prowess to go along with a touch of peace, a touch of love, and a tiny sprinkle of Buddhist mysticism to create this ethereal treat.

But our relationship quickly soured, as I had wanted to take our collective invention to a higher level - Nutella Noodles!!!! Think of the possibilities!!! Sadly, the Ferreros felt that they had already achieved chocolate hazelnut perfection, and couldn't imagine that it could be improved on, believing that it would only be ruined by further tinkering. So I left Alba shortly after Nutella hit the market in 1964, and went to work for my good buddy Enzo
Famous Espelette Peppers ...Famous Espelette Peppers ...Famous Espelette Peppers ...

... extremely common in Basque cuisine, they make for beautiful decorations when people hang them from their houses to dry.
in nearby Modena, at his sports car factory - but that is a story for another day ...

I've always regretted my falling out with the Ferreros, and the fact that we never had the chance to reconcile, so it brought a tear to my eye today when we arrived in St Jean de Luz, and I was greeted by the most beautiful sight at the most beautiful patisserie - a Ferrero Rocher pastry!!!! I had left the Ferreros before they came out with Ferrero Rocher, but the pride I felt when I saw the pastry version of their creation brought me to my knees with emotion!

Imagine it - a Ferrero Rocher - a hazelnut enveloped in hazelnut cream, all encased inside of a wafer, then dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with crushed hazelnuts. Is there anything better? Yes!!! And it's the pastry version!!! I crawled inside of it as if it were an igloo and slowly ate my way out, starting with the luscious hazelnut cream in the middle, and alternating between chomping bits of the chocolate and hazelnut crusted top dome, and the shortbread base below. There are only a few things on Earth that can even come close to attaining Nirvana ... and one of them is the Hazelnut Heaven that this pastry is!

Finally, we had found the delicious French pastries that had eluded us in Bordeaux, and hoped that we would also find the fine French cuisine that had also escaped us there. Unfortunately, we still couldn't quite locate that in St. Jean, but the odds perhaps weren't that great of having an excellent meal here, in one of the most touristy towns in the Basque country. But it didn't matter, as St Jean was still a super cool little town to visit, with or without any good eats.

Eventually, we made our way back for our final night in San Sebastián - everybody was sad at the prospect of leaving this awesome place, and even though we needed to wake up at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning to catch a train to Barcelona, we knew that we had to have one last night of pintxos and drinking in town. In the end, we haven't really had a crazy night out in San Sebastian, but it didn't matter - the typical quiet night here is still spent eating and drinking until well past midnight, so nobody
No Thanks ...No Thanks ...No Thanks ...

... Amorino is one of the best international gelato chains, and if I found one in North America, I'd be all over it. But in Europe, the sight of one barely registers on the excitement scale, as there are so many better local varieties available.
complained about that. It's just too bad we couldn't experience Nirvana one last time, and find another Ferrero Rocher pastry somewhere ...

Peace out,

Lil B


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Tri Getting Intimate With His Eclair ...Tri Getting Intimate With His Eclair ...
Tri Getting Intimate With His Eclair ...

... his only complaint was that it was too sweet, unusual for Europe, where the taste for sugar isn't as extreme as it is in North America.
Basque Macarons ...Basque Macarons ...
Basque Macarons ...

... are actually more like biscuits than the ones we are used to eating in France. You will find mouchous here, which are more like what you expect out of a traditional French macaron, but the pistachio mouchou I sampled wasn't the greatest - doughy, chewy, and almost gooey, not light and airy as I had expected. I couldn't tell if it was just poorly executed, or the way that they make mouchous in the Basque Country.
Le Pasaka ...Le Pasaka ...
Le Pasaka ...

... being such a touristy little town, St Jean has no shortage of cute little restaurants dishing up seafood-based set menus. One of the exceptions at Le Pasaka was their starter salad - now THAT is a salad, bursting with cured meat, cheese, and eggs! One of the better dishes we sampled here, as the quality of our meals was quite uneven - some had good dishes, others not so much. The funny part was that Justin had ordered this because he thought it would be light, and it would have been - had he thrown out the meat, cheese, and egg ...
Sucky Seafood ...Sucky Seafood ...
Sucky Seafood ...

... you'd expect the seafood to be star of any St Jean restaurant, but their mussels were less than stellar. Some guys opted for steamed mussels, and some opted for this local fish soup, but the theme was common - tiny, chewy, bland mussels. The shrimp in the soup were no better, and the broth was nothing memorable.
Tam's Basque Chicken ...Tam's Basque Chicken ...
Tam's Basque Chicken ...

... this regional specialty was one of the best dishes at lunch - juicy chicken breast, smothered in a rich, hearty tomato and bell pepper sauce.
Justin's Duck Confit ...Justin's Duck Confit ...
Justin's Duck Confit ...

... exactly what you want in a duck confit, crispy skin hiding tender, moist meat. The fries were pretty good, too. So much for Justin having a light lunch!
Sad ...Sad ...
Sad ...

... one of Spain's most iconic dishes is paella, though strangely, your odds of having a decent paella are infinitely better outside of Spain, than inside! That statement held true in St Jean, though it was barely decent - really, it was rather plain, overall. We also sampled another iconic Spanish drink here - sangria! Too bad it tasted disgustingly artificial, smelling like lemon-scented bathroom cleaner, and tasting like the lemon-scented hand wipes we were given after our mussel dishes!
Gooey and Good ...Gooey and Good ...
Gooey and Good ...

... a Basque tart, was the perfect way to end lunch. Fragrant with the scent and taste of natural lemon, and not lemon chemicals like we had with the sangria, this was the best dish I had at Le Pasaka.
Iles Flottantes ...Iles Flottantes ...
Iles Flottantes ...

... meringue floating in crème anglaise, John's dessert also turned out quite well. Had we skipped the artificial sangria and seafood dishes, we actually would have had a superb lunch!
More Artistry Than Patisserie ...More Artistry Than Patisserie ...
More Artistry Than Patisserie ...

... the play of an Egg On a Plate looked particularly good - too bad I only had room for the Ferrero Rocher pastry!
Bar Bergara ...Bar Bergara ...
Bar Bergara ...

... though this place in San Sebastian's Gros neighbourhood came highly recommended by the owner of our apartment, we weren't very impressed. These fried txipirones (baby squid) were greasy, and a far cry from the incredible stuff we had at Bar Sport a couple of nights prior.
Scallop Prawn Gratinee and Foie w/ Grape Sauce ...Scallop Prawn Gratinee and Foie w/ Grape Sauce ...
Scallop Prawn Gratinee and Foie w/ Grape Sauce ...

... the gratinee was simply little pieces of chopped up scallop and prawn drowning in a cream sauce - forgettable. The foie gras drizzled in grape sauce wasn't bad, but again, not overly memorable.
Thursday Nights In Gros ...Thursday Nights In Gros ...
Thursday Nights In Gros ...

... is when all the university students are out, when many of the pintxo bars serve up a special of 2 Euros for a beer/wine and a pinto. Given the low price point, nothing overly gourmet is on offer - mostly things like mini burgers and tuna stuffed peppers on a slice of French bread - so we didn't spend too much time here eating, only strolling and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere as Gros became one giant block party, with patrons spilling out into the streets.
Back to Bar Sport ...Back to Bar Sport ...
Back to Bar Sport ...

... for some REAL txipirones! Too bad they weren't quite as good as the first night, tasting a tad bitter. But still light years ahead of the fried ones at Bar Bergara.
Back For More Cochinillo at Gandarias ...Back For More Cochinillo at Gandarias ...
Back For More Cochinillo at Gandarias ...

... there truly is balance in the Universe - while the txipirones weren't as good as before, the cochinillo ended up being EVEN BETTER than before! The serving was larger, the skin extra crisp, and the meat extra juicy. And the best part? Everybody else was too distracted in the bar, so Tam and I devoured most of it!
Early Night ...Early Night ...
Early Night ...

... given that we have a 7:30 AM train to Barcelona tomorrow, we called it an early night (1:00 AM, disgustingly early by Spanish standards!) and had a final round of wine back at the apartment.


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