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Published: September 30th 2017
Santa Maria ...
... one of the most spectacular churches in the world, by nature of its unique location, seemingly hiding up a narrow street - it looks stunning from afar, but there's the true "wow" moment once you step out into the small plaza in front of it.
Geo: 43.3259, -1.97542
Being back in Spain always brings back memories, recalling my first visit here way back in the early 1100s. During that lifetime, I was a solider of fortune, a mercenary for hire, and my travels brought me down to the Iberian peninsula, where I was recruited by King Fernando himself, to battle the Moors. It was here that I met Pete, better known as Peter Gonzalez Telmo, or San Telmo - still don't know who he is? The Anglicized version is Saint Elmo, as in Saint Elmo's Fire, and Pete is the patron saint of sailors.
Anyway, Pete and I used to nurse our wounds after a day of murdering and pillaging, over steaming bowls of hand-pulled ramen that I would often prepare for us, after a particularly exhausting battle. Even in scorching-hot Spain, nothing is more comforting than a warm bowl of noodles and some cheap Spanish wine, to make us forget about your aches and pains! But we quickly grew weary of living the lives of warriors, and eventually went our separate ways to pursue our true passions.
Pete went off to Galicia to teach and convert the ignorant and poor, and I continued to travel throughout Spain, desperately
Ugh ... Another Rough Morning ...
... everybody went to bed last night at the embarrassingly-early hour between 3 and 4 AM (that's just when things start getting busy in Spain!), so I was left to party by myself. Nobody seemed to like the Estrella beer, so I polished off a few, along with a bottle of wine. Ugh ... my head ...
trying to spread my message of love, Buddhism, and noodles for the next couple of lifetimes. Obviously, I was horribly unsuccessful with the noodle aspect of my mission - it's painfully clear if you've been here and seen the dreadful state of Spanish cuisine, San Sebastian excepted, of course ...
So as we dined tonight at La Cuchara de San Telmo, a tear came to my eye as I reminisced about the good ol' days with Pete, and we all said a toast in his honour, with some more cheap Spanish wine. Unfortunately, there was no ramen on the menu tonight, but there was something even better - some of the most fantastic Basque cuisine you'll find anywhere! In a town with so many amazing culinary options, it's difficult to pick the best of the best - but La Cuchara de San Telmo might well be the one!
The chef is the equivalent of the continued bloodline of gastronomical royalty, having trained at the feet of the master of the Spanish culinary world, Ferran Adria. Here, they take traditional Spanish dishes and elevate them to levels that are beyond comprehension - take the Galician-style octopus, for example. It's typically just boiled in
salted water, sliced-up, drowned in olive oil, and then dusted off with a generous amount of paprika.
It's a very famous dish from Spain's northwestern coast, but hardly gourmet, and trust me, eating a whole portion of it gets tiring very quickly - until these culinary gods grabbed a hold of it! Far from Galician-style, it was grilled with all kinds of delicious, crispy charred bits, especially on the suction cups. Succulent like you wouldn't believe, this was the pinnacle of octopus perfection. It was a good thing that this was one of our final stops of the night, on our first crawl through San Sebastian's pintxos bars - had it been the first, we may have never gone anywhere else!
Some sailors believed that witnessing Saint Elmo's fire while sailing was a good omen, that it indicated the presence of San Telmo, himself. While we never witnessed any occurrence of Saint Elmo's fire tonight, I have to believe that we were accompanied tonight by my boy Pete, on our gastronomical adventure through pintxo bar after pintxo bar, as we tore through dish after dish of incredible Basque food, in an experience that can only be described as ethereal. How else
Strategy at Bar Sport ...
... it's important to set the tone at the first pintxo stop of the night - it's so tempting to go wild on the delicious spread of pre-made pintxos sitting out on the bar, but in fact, these are the lowest-quality ones available (even though they still rock). Our strategy was to stick to one pre-made pintxo each, to tide us over until the made-to-order platter was available - in this case, it was the most succulent calamari with just the right amount of salt, drizzled in a balsamic glaze and splashed with some red wine vinegar.
Perfectly caramelized and crispy on the outside, calamari juices dripped out of it when you bit into it - I'm fact, it was so warm and cozy that I climbed inside of it and had a nap, dreaming of a previous lifetime when I was a beautiful butterfly, emerging from a warm, cozy cocoon. It was far more comfortable than my crab crepe (pictured in the foreground), which was more like a sleeping bag than a warm calamari cocoon.
can you explain such heavenly food?
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