5:31pm | April 3, 2013

Ryan’s Spain Trip

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Date: October 3, 2011

Location / Restaurant: Casa Pintos, Galicia

Dish: Very classic Pulpo a la Gallega ( Galician Octopus ) dish. The octopus is from the ocean a few hundred yards away from the restaurant but it still gets frozen for a few days to tenderize the meat. The wooden plate that it is served on absorbs the water from the octopus and allows the olive oil to coat the meat. Coarse salt and pimento garnish the plate.

Influence / Memory: It was a great casual way to be introduced to Spain. After almost 24 hours of travelling it was uncommonly warm weather for October and the perfectly simple lunch cooked by the two sisters was warming to our souls. The town itself was decorated with seashells and awash with sunlight. This area is known for simple shellfish dishes but the complex flavor that the shellfish naturally has in this area was something I will remember always.

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Date: October 3, 2011

Location / Restaurant: D’ Berto Restaurante, O Grove (Pontevedra), Galicia

Dish: Roe on a female cigala, Dublin Bay prawn.

Influence / Memory: It was an eye opening experience for a chef to see the fishermen delivering the daily catch at 8:30 p.m. to Restaurante D’ Berto.

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Date: October 7, 2011

Location / Restaurant: Etxebarri

Dish: Gambas rojas de Pálamos (Catalunya), exquisite grilled shrimp, at Etxebarri restaurant, Axpe, Vizcaya, País Vasco, Spain. Also the grilled Anguila (Eel) which had the flavors of a traditional Japanese Unagi but was cooked on the Asador to unbelievable results.

Influence / Memory: Michael Chiarello said it was “the best shellfish I have ever had.” It’s hard to compare all the different meals we had in Spain because the locale and level of dining was so drastically varied. But when asked, what was the best meal that we had, my mind automatically travels back to this small village in the Basque mountains. The way the Basque chefs use the Asador grill was an awakening to a piece of equipment that I was not familiar with but am now looking forward to using in our new restaurant, Coqueta. This grill could not be farther away from an American style grill than you could imagine with its wheel like lever to lower and raise the cooking area. It is used throughout Northern Spain and parts of South America, mainly Argentina, but I dare say that no one has mastered it the way that Chef Bittor Arguinzoniz has. Every course on our tasting menu was done on his special line of grills that he customized and built himself. He cooks over a charcoal that he makes himself. The dishes were all executed perfectly. They ranged in smokiness and charring in ways that I would never have imagined.

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Bittor Arguinzoniz in his kitchen at Etxebarri.

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The Asador grills used at Etxebarri

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Date: October 8, 2011

Location / Restaurant: Elkano in Getaria

Dish: Whole grilled Turbot

Influence / Memory: This was the most amazing Seafood experience of my life. Again I saw the Asador used to perfection and was surprised to see the grilling station outside every restaurant on the street. The turbot was so fresh and gelatinous and cooked perfectly that there was silence, broken occasionally by a deep sigh, as we consumed it. The town itself located on the ocean with twisting stone streets and famous for a great explorer seemed perfect to have this kind of oceanic epiphany.

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Statue of Juan Sebastián Elkano, the first man to command a ship that circumnavigated the globe. Elkano was from the port of Getaria.

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Outdoor grill with whole fish, including turbot, sea bass and sea bream cooking at Kaia in the port of Getaria.

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Luís Mari Manterola, grill master for 34 years at Elkano in Getaria.

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Ryan Mcilwraith at Jatextea (Restaurante) Elkano, Getaria. Observing a packed room enjoying the bounty of the sea.

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A whole rodaballo, turbot, fresh off the grilll at Jatextea (Restaurante) Elkano, Getaria.

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Aitor Aregui, a maestro at fileting turbot, fresh off the grilll at Jatextea (Restaurante) Elkano, Getaria.

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Txangurro, a classic spider crab dish, at Jatextea (Restaurante) Elkano, Getaria.

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