Big Night Out…Birthday Bash @ Alameda.

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Alameda – Michelin 1 Star

We had a big night on the schedule this week as Hound #2 had a birthday on the cards, so we needed to up our dining adventures a notch so hey, why not go all the way to the top? Which is exactly what we did – booked a table for 2 at the 1 starred Michelin joint here in Hondarribia, Restaurant Alameda. We are truly spoiled for choice in Hondarribia and surrounds as this New York Times article (Alameda gets a mention) so aptly pointed out with the title “A Dining Explosion in a tiny Basque Town”. From low to high, small to big, cheap as chips to most dear, we have it covered here – pintxos to raciones to bocadillas and our most beloved – menu del día.

The Hounds are not generally inclined to take the fancy or poncy route – been there, done that. The too luxurious decor, the horde of service staff, the über trends like foam and liquid nitrogen and of course, the price have sent us in a different direction. We prefer, 99% of the time, good quality ingredients cooked well and in relaxed & joyful environment. But hey, this was a birthday so ponce it was….

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Birthday Girl

We kicked off our meal with a free amuse-bouche platter – 2 bamboo bowlets with a most delicious pumpkin soup & fennel foam (Hound #2 declared it her favourite  bit of the meal – could have stopped there & saved some dosh). Also on offer were 2 chocolate foie gras bars on a bed of salt. Not to Hound #2’s liking, but she gave it a go & consumed half -always an interesting taste sensation with the mix of sweet & savoury – you get that infamous ‘umami’ thing happening.

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Gratis Amuse Bouche – Pumpkin Soup & Chocolate Foie Gras Bar

Ah, the wine of the night…the carta de vino was extensive and it goes without saying that it leaned toward the high side. But a few minutes of perusal took me to one of my current fave areas of exploration – Bierzo and the Mencia grape. This little beauty, Flor de Brezo by Gregory Perez (a Frenchman no less),  was from Bodegas Mengoba. An excellent drop on its own but perfecto with our food…would drink again.

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Sweet, Sweet Bierzo Mencia

Hound #2 took a wee bit of a gamble with her starter as crustaceans of the shrimp family are not always welcome down her gullet but she hopped outside of her comfort zone and took delivery of the langoustines….with foam. The plate was cleaned and no repercussions to report…

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Langostines…

I went sort of ‘vego’ (a nip of bacon for flavour) and placed an order for the artichoke confit…with foam. I would have to give it a solid 2 thumbs up – a dish I do not believe I could make at home and exceptionally tasty.

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Artichoke Confit

We went all “matchy, matchy” with our mains and both ordered the solomillo de vaca – sirloin steak. A damn decent specimen of beef cooked to perfection with a most savoury sauce and a bit of the ever-present potato that was creatively cooked – a mini version of Pommes Anna. And as Hound #2 likes to point out – the Spanish are none too big on their veggies, so a mini-me side salad was as far as we got…

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There’s The Beef….

And of course, being a birthday something sweet had to be consumed. The kitchen was very sweet and sent out an excellent rendition of a cheesecake slice replete with a candle (hint – she’s older than that) but this piece of chocolate from the dark side checked all the boxes…and the passion fruit ice cream not too bad either.

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Grand Finale….

So that’s ponce done for another year…but if you ever make it to Hondarribia and feel like a splurge, then Alameda is your ticket. Summer months would be perfecto as they have an outdoor dining terrace to make the experience complete.

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Txin, Txin….

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That’s Basque for Chin, Chin…We Think…

This past Saturday we decided, on a whim, to have a go at taking a Spanish train somewhere as we wanted to test out the viability of getting our pooch on board for a longer journey to say Bilboa. So off we went to the Big Smoke of Irun & we caught the TOPO train to Oiartzun only to find out that there’s nada in Oiartzun (do not worry if you cannot pronounce it, we can’t either). But a very kind woman at a bus told us we needed to go to Errenteria for any significant action and it was a simple 10 minute walk along the river. Done.

Errenteria is like many towns in the Basque country with a very sweet old part that is flanked or surrounded by huge industrial buildings & complexes. We quickly retreated to the old town which was a lovely mish-mash of narrow, crooked cobblestone laneways. And viola! We stumbled across this hole in the wall (literally) wine shop that was pleasingly stuffed with many non-standard, not seen on supermarket shelve wines. The owner was nice as and most pleasing to us was that we could pretty much understand what he said – Español improving sip by sip.

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Hole In The Wall Wine Shop…

Hound #2 was smitten with the robot label wine & made a slight insistence that it was on the ‘to buy ‘ list and I recognised a tasty bottle of Mencia we’d had a few times at one of our local tabernas in Hondarribia.

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Some Sweet Juice…

The Maquinon made by Casa Rojo reminded us both a a damn decent Aussie Shiraz…with a nice mouth feel & decent weight on the palate and deep, dark voluptuous fruits – a rebuy for sure. The El Castro de Valtuille was a simple but excellent representation of the Mencia grape and most definitely a crowd pleaser and would easily pass muster for anyone’s house or party wine.

La Cuchara de San Telmo…San Sebastián.

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Pintxo Heaven

Long time no post…took a wee while after my UK adventure trip to settle back in and combined with a wonderful family visit, time has just slipped away at warp speed. But just last night, we ended up in the Old Town of San Sebastián with a delicious mission of returning to a pintxo bar extraordinaire – La Cuchara de San Telmo. It had been one of our all time faves on our last visit to San Sebastián more than 2 years ago.

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Sign Says It All…

San Telmo is a wee bit different than the plethora of bog standard pintxo bars that cram the Old Town space in that all of its pintxos are: (a) hot and (b) made to order and (c) use a decent array of different & high quality ingredients.

We timed our arrival perfectly at 7:45 (kitchen opens @ 7:30) as the bar had plenty of wide open space and we got our orders in ASAP…

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Pintxo Menu Board & Keler on Tap – Yes!

Beverages were first on order – I opted for a caña of Keler, a San Sebastián brewed lager that is a seriously good brew. Hound #2 took the high road with a vino tinto – a beauty of a red, the Glorioso Crianza from Bodegas Palacio. She said it would be fine to get some for our house wine – guess that means she liked it.

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Chuleta de Vaca Asada con Pimientos del Piquillo

First out of the kitchen starting gate was the Chuleta de Vaca (Steak Chop) which though highly flavourful, was a tad tough and so not the medal winner of the night. The side sauces were excellent though & awesome with some bread brooms.

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Pulpo ‘Roca’ Plancha con Hojas Berzas Asadas (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Cabbage Leaves)

With the second dish of pulpo sliding across the bar, now we are talking serious pintxo talk. Many bars serve pulpo, but it is usually cold & marinated and though still good & tasty, this was a whole new level of pulpo perfection. The grilling puts it a wee bit on the tough side but once you broke the roasted skin you were in for a treat. And amazingly enough, the roasted cabbage was top notch.

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Carrillera de Ternera al Vino Tinto y Humus Garbanzo (Jaw of Veal in Red Wine and Hummus)

And though it may not win any beauty contests, this was, by unanimous consensus, the dish of the night. Just think of a REALLY SLOW ROASTED brisket (veal here) that is so tender nothing but the tine of a fork is required to pick your desired bits & packed with deep, deep flavours. And the hummus was the perfect complement – so rich you’d swear you were eating restaurant mash potatoes with a bucket of butter.

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La Cuchara de San Telmo

The photo above is only about 15-20 minutes after we arrived – phew! The Hounds slipped into a damn decent meal & a few beverages. If in San Sebastián, this is a must stop…