Monthly Archives: April 2010

JON’S WEEKEND DIARY

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I’ve had a very busy few days so am relieved to find a few minutes to report to you all a snippet behind the scenes at San Sebastian Food from last weekend.

Friday 23rd April - Friday early evening was a private tour for a gastronome from Denmark, now the favoured destination for people wishing to try Noma, the latest number 1 restaurant in the world (http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners).  There followed my second pintxo tour of the evening at 9.30pm for an English couple as part of a Michelin Star gourmet weekend.  Jovial chats were had with the bar staff especially in Goiz Argi as I re-ordered for the 2nd time in one night their fabulous Brocheta de gambas with refreshing glasses of Txakoli (local white wine grown in nearby Getaria)

Latest batch of Idiazabal Sheep's Cheese at the farm on Saturday morning

Latest batch of Idiazabal Sheep's Cheese at the farm on Saturday morning

Saturday 24th April – Beautiful weather for a special countryside tour and I never tire of visiting, high in the hills, the hard working couple Imna and Mikel who kindly show my guests around their Idiazabal cheese farm.  I have huge respect and admiration for the intense work which goes into producing their finest quality cheese.

I bought an extra cheese for Turlough, an Irish chef and close friend of mine who lives here and who has worked in many of San Sebastián’s finest Michelin star restaurants including Zuberoa, Arberlaitz and recently Martín Berasategui in Lasarte.  He wants to take some cheese back for his Mum’s 60th birthday party next week. We then went on to the market in Tolosa, it was good but not as fun as other weeks, perhaps people were at the cider fiesta in Errenteria.

Being such great weather, we quickly headed off to Getaria, a fishing village not far from San Sebastián for a whole monkfish, grilled on the bbq and a delicious, simple salad.  I had to order some Kokotxas (the meat from the chin of Hake), cooked in a parsley sauce called Salsa Verde.  They were sublime but I think my guests weren’t so keen as I appeared to eat the lion’s share!

Still busy, busy with bookings, I managed to squeeze in a pintxo tour for a couple of Japanese guests staying at the Maria Cristina Hotel between 6.30pm and 9pm.  There was little English spoken between us but with thumbs up and rubbing of tummies, we all enjoyed some fantastic pintxos.  It was fun going to different bars I hadnt visited for a while and trying new pintxos on their menus.  I was surprised just how much my Japanese guests ate and drank and dont think my accountant (nor my brother who acts as a business guru for me) would be very pleased with the net profit, oh well!

Jon with martin B at Lasarte 24th april 2010

Jon with Martín Berasategui at his 3 Michelin Star restaurant

Then for the big dinner of the year so far, a night at Martin Berasategui in Lasarte, the three-Michelin star restaurant (position 33 in the world). It was a fabulous evening and I owe great thanks (and a steady supply of bellota jamón) to my cousin Mark who so kindly treated us all. Unfortunately my food photography is still of a very amateur level despite Damian from Go Spain giving me a crash course in the back of a taxi last week. So no photos of the food other than this one of me and Martín taken by Nicole after dinner!

Well, Sunday 25th April morning was another beautiful day, blue skies and warm breeze from the South and after picking up transport, it was time to drive over to the Maria Cristina Hotel to meet some American guests from Atlanta for a bespoke tour. We had plenty of time to chat en route which I always enjoy and took the old Igueldo track road back to San Sebastián by 2.30pm.

I then joined friends for Des’s birthday lunch at the new Kursaal restaurant Ni Neu (‘me and myself’ in English or ‘yo mismo’ in Spanish).  The menu, for 39 € including wine, was pretty good and sitting outside with views of the river, mountains as well as the sea was relaxing (the Torrijas dessert, a type of French Toast was fabulous).

Martín wine tasting rz

Martín, sommelier serving the first wines of the evening in the Rekondo private cellars

By 7.00pm it was time for San Sebastian Food’s inaugural wine tasting and tour at Restaurant Rekondo.  I was very excited because its such a special event and it went without a hitch.  Txomin, the owner and wine lover who has single handedly selected what is certainly the most important wine collection in Spain, is the epitomy of modesty.   With waves of his hands and an appreciative smile, he shyly rebuffs our compliments and tries his hardest to persuade us that his daughter, Edurne and Martín (their sommelier) are the ones to thank.  It was a fantastic experience and I’m already looking forward to returning this Sunday for the next tasting so now I need to find some bookings!

With that in mind, we now have our first bookings under our belts for the Discover The Basque Country Tour, 5th – 8th July – 12 places to go!

Our tour is highlighted on US websites

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We are told that one website reference is worth a thousand words in print, so we are very grateful to colleagues involved in the Basque diaspora in the US, and in Basque studies internationally,  for giving our ‘Discover the Basque Country’ tour highlighted mentions on two websites.

Thanks to Joseba Zulaika, Sandra Ott, and Lisa Corcostegui for propelling our brochure onto the site for the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where Paddy has twice enjoyed giving readings from his books. See http://basque.unr.edu/02/2.1t/2.1.1.news.htm#tours

And thanks to Jon Ysursa, of the North American Basque Organisations network NABO, for telling his members about the tour on http://nabasque.org/NABO/Tours.htm

First bookings!

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Great news! It is always rather scary to put a new project out in the ether and wait for the response so we are very excited to report our first bookings this week for Discover The Basque Country – 5th – 8th July. Both Paddy and I have been putting in the hours and our marketing and PR skills have been stretched to the very limit!

Unfortunately, Paddy’s plans to be in Chicago were dashed due to the Icelandic volcano but postponement on his latest work meant he had some extra time to spend on marketing our tour!  With places now down to just 12 remaining, we’re both keen to fill the places as quickly as possible.

Saturday 24th April - Early evening views of La Concha

Saturday 24th April - Early evening views of La Concha Bay and Monte Igueldo

We are hoping for press coverage in the UK in the coming weeks so will keep you in touch with all the latest developments.

I’m just going to jump on my bicycle and visit restaurant Bokado to discuss arrangements with them for our gourmet dinner on the final night of the tour (Wednesday 7th July).  This is a quick visit to discuss the numbers and finalise pricing and I will be returning again to chat about the menu nearer the time.  I highly recommend both the restaurant and bar for visitors, it makes a great stop off for a café cortado (espresso cut with hot milk) when walking the Paseo Nuevo around Monte Urgull.

We have reserved for our guests the beautiful private dining room with an open private terrace overlooking the bay above the main restaurant. It will make a spectacular culinary end to the tour!

One of the great things about a blog is that you get to keep a record of what you get up to.  So, I’ll be posting up a little snippet from behind the scenes at San Sebastian Food from last weekend very soon!

Welcome!

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What a week we chose to launch our Discover The Basque Country tours!

Everyone involved in travel only had, quite rightly, one thing on their minds for the last few days: the closure of European airspace due to the volcanic ash. Our hearts went out to so many people stranded abroad, or unable to travel to weddings, funerals or long-awaited holidays.

However, the events forced us to think again, and remember that there are very good options to travel to the Basque Country apart from flying, at least from other parts of Europe. The region is exceptionally well served both by the European rail network and by ferries. We must all hope that the volcano has now done its worst, but we are also reorganising our own arrangements for July, to pick up from train stations and ferry ports as well as airports.