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How A Basque Chef Smokes Out Food’s Subtle Natural Flavors

Chef Bittor Arginzoniz slicing beef. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Etxebarri

Chef Bittor Arginzoniz slicing beef. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Etxebarri

When my friend Andoni Luis Aduriz invited me to dinner in Spain’s Basque countryside, I knew the food would be wonderful. Aduriz is the chef at San Sebastián’s Mugaritz, one of the world’s most famous restaurants, so he knows cooking. But I’ll admit I had my doubts when he described the tasting menu we’d be having at Etxebarri, in the town of Atxondo. “Every dish has at least one grilled or smoked component,” he informed me.

Fast-forward to a grilled egg yolk, the bright golden orb quivering over a bed of zizas (chanterelles). Marbled slices of housemade chorizo, ibérico pork streaked fire-engine red with smoked paprika. Grilled baby octopi the size of large grapes, their flesh tinged with the slightest char. The nacreous iridescence of grilled bacalao. By the time we got to dessert — grilled puff pastry, topped with smoked-milk ice cream — I couldn’t help but laugh. At myself.



Zester Daily contributor Sofia Perez is an independent multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Gourmet, and Saveur, and she began her career in broadcast news at NBC. She's taught food-writing classes at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education, serves as a judge for the James Beard Foundation Book & Journalism Awards, and is the North American interpreter for chef Ferran Adrià. Most recently, she completed her first book, "So This Is How It Ends," a historical novel about the Spanish Civil War. A born-and-bred New Yorker, Perez is the proud child of two remarkable Spaniards who instilled in her their passion for food and their homeland.

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