Tuesday, February 14, 2012
You are a very effective counselor, counselor. Your arguments are persuasive and succinct, your logic airtight. The problem is your argument fails to pass the common sense approach favored by the esteemed jurists of this internet site. If you had one night in San Sebastian, your argument would be good enough for summary judgment. (Sorry folks, trying to justify going to law school.)
But you do not have just one night. Assuming you will catch a morning train to San Sebastian and spend two nights there, that gives you conservatively eight separate feedings (figuring lunch, tapas, late night dinner, breakfast, lunch, tapas, dinner, breakfast next morning). Ok, take breakfast out of the equation, that is a sucker's meal. So six meals in one of the world's greatest food cities, and you are going to spend all of them eating sardines on toast?
I'll counter your argument with a rhetorical question. If someone came to New Orleans for six meals would you tell them to eat only po boys? A two day gumbo only odyssey? Two days of just Mandina's, Liuzzas's and Frankie and Johnny's?
Look, I know it seems that while Lindsay and I were in Spain we Michelined our way around Catalonia barely stopping for anything not served on bone china. In fact, there were numerous meals in small tapas spots that we enjoyed thoroughly. One of our favorite spots, Mosquito (above), which we went to two or three times, was a beer bar the size of your office with an extensive menu of Chinese snack food. Plump dumplings, tender noodles, and spicy shredded beef anchored a menu built for drinking beer. There was nothing fancy about it. Just honest cooking and community, two hallmarks of any great meal. Plus there were peeps wearing skinny jeans - you and The Pope would have fit right in. We loved the flavors and vibe at Origens and the energy of the meals in the snack bars of the Boqueria. There is so much good food out there at every price point.
All that said, the two meals we remember the most were lunch at Sant Pau and dinner at Commerc 24. There was just something equal parts excitement, execution, and pampering about both. Now, people will say, "You are just paying for the art on the walls, the expensive china, the 20,000 bottle wine list." Yes, that is true. My counter to that is at more casual spots, you are not paying for highly tuned service, impeccably sourced ingredients, or a 1 : 1 staff to guest ratio. It is a trade off on both accounts.
Plus, there is an even better reason to set aside one meal and do it big. You are a busy man, the Folk Singer is probably busier. You aren't getting any younger or less busy, unless you win the Powerball. It will do your body good to set aside two to three hours and be pampered at the table. Consider it a couple's massage without the tantric spa music and a stranger's hands all over you. Traveling is all about experiencing different and new things to learn what you like sort of like college. How will you know if you prefer traditional tapas to upscale modernist cuisine if you don't try both?
I recommend you go to Arzak or wherever you choose for lunch. Most Big Boys in the dining world are open for lunch and dinner in order to make their numbers work. Lunch is usually less expensive, but no less good, and you get the benefit of being blissful in the afternoon. Take a long, luxurious lunch at one of the world's best restaurants. Drink plenty of wine. Be spoiled by a staff whose only concern is your happiness. Go home and nap. When you wake up, the tapas spots will be waiting for you.