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.