BLOG: Mark on Juan-Marie Arzak

For some reason, Juan–Marie Arzak (whom I know loves me like a brother), decided to start calling me ‘Grumpy’ (or, as he pronounced it, ‘grahmpy’) when we visited him this time. (I suspect he was prompted by some of the grumpy crew members.) In any case, it was – as usual – an amazing visit to his restaurant, incorporating a fantastic lesson in making pil–pil, one of the truly miraculous dishes of Basque cuisine, a fun trip to the port, a sampling of a few of the local pinxos bars, and of course a quiet meal at Juan-Marie’s restaurant at the end of the day.

When I got home, I made this sort of rough shrimp equivalent of pil–pil, with similar flavors but fewer challenges.

Roasted Shrimp with Herb Sauce
Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 cup parsley (thin stems are okay; discard thick ones)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds shrimp, in the 20 to 30 per pound range, peeled
1/3 cup shrimp, fish, or chicken stock, white wine, or water

1. Preheat the oven to 500dgF. Combine the garlic and oil in the container of a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the scallions and parsley and pulse until the mixture is minced. Toss with the shrimp, salt, pepper, and chilis.

2. Put the shrimp in a roasting pan that will accommodate them comfortably. Add the liquid and put the pan in the oven. Roast, stirring once, until the mixture is bubbly and hot, and the shrimp all pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dueling Breakfasts

At the Marqués de Riscal Hotel & Vineyard, Gwyneth and I had a funny breakfast together. She had yogurt with honey on the side, fruit, and coffee with soymilk. I, on the other hand, had torta del Cesar cheese, tongue terrine, eggs, sausage, thickly sliced rye bread with olive oil and crushed tomatoes, melon, and espresso with sugar.


Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Boquerones are the great Spanish white anchovies pickled in vinegar and stored in olive oil. Since they’re not preserved in salt, like most anchovies, they don’t have the intense saltiness usually associated with anchovies. Instead, they’re mild and tender. Great on pan con tomate or just a toothpick!


Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Mark and Claudia ate these in a pintxo bar in San Sebastián with Juan Mari Arzak. This is one of the easiest ways to prepare mushrooms, but it is also decadent and impressive. The Basque Country is known for its mushrooms, and you find this dish in pintxo bars all around the region.

Serves 4
* 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra–virgin olive oil
* 1 pound porcini or mixed wild mushrooms, cut into 1/8 inch–thick slices
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 4 large eggs
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are nicely browned and softened. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Fry the eggs sunny–side up in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Transfer to a cutting board and cut away the whites from the yolks (discard the whites). Spoon the mushrooms onto four plates and sprinkle with the parsley, salt, and pepper. Make a little space in the center of each portion of mushrooms, and nestle the yolks in the mushrooms. As you eat, mix the yolk with the hot mushrooms to create a rich, silky sauce.

Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What’s in My Suitcase: The Joy of a Uniform

It’s very easy to pack when you wear the same thing everyday. Throw a few pairs of Crocs in the bottom of your bag, some funky colored socks and shorts, a stack of crisp button-down shirts, a vest or two, and you’re good to go!”


Posted Tuesday, January 23, 2018

BLOG: Bitty in Basque Country

“I’d been in Bilbao before, and wasn’t impressed. Just goes to show what an idiot I can be: This trip was amazing. It wasn’t just that Mario and I got to eat tapas at like four different places in an hour; it was that they were all in the same plaza, and they were all good. (I went back con mi amor the next night.)

Hanging out with Gehry wasn’t bad, either, though I didn’t get to see the museum. I did, however, get to taste grilled caviar in the Basque countryside. Not bad.”


Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Episode 113: “Madrid and the End of the Road”

Mario, Gwyneth, Mark and Claudia end their epic road trip in Madrid. They have a full plate of activities lined up: lunch with the world’s most famous chef, an architectural tour of modern Madrid with a few palaces and some history thrown in, a quick appearance at a Real Madrid soccer match, madrileño nightlife and cocido madrileño, a delectable hangover cure. The series concludes with a no holds barred, road trip–team vs. road–trip team kitchen battle.

Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

Episode 112: “Pure Paella”

Gwyneth is in heaven as the road trip heads to Valencia, a paella–lover’s paradise. She regales Mario with the story of her first trip to Spain as the two share a beach–side walk and talk. Meanwhile, Mark and Claudia tour Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Gwyneth and Mario cook paella with a Zen Master in the Albufera, the epicenter of rice in Spain. The foursome is reunited over a dinner of unforgettable tapas at local favorite, Casa Montaña. Then, the final leg of the road trip heads to Madrid for a whirlwind tour of the city.

Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

Episode 111: Island Hopping

Gwyneth and Claudia pry Mario away from the golf course long enough to enjoy some of Mallorca’s incredible sites. Mario and Claudia start the day with famous local pastries, ensaimadas, and take a seaside drive to the famous Palma Cathedral. The next day, Mario and Gwyneth share breakfast in scenic Deiá before heading to the beach to prepare a seafood grill. Later, Claudia and Mario hop over to Menorca where they and the local fishermen fire up a killer lobster stew, paired with an unlikely boozy beverage.

Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

Episode 110: “Gawking at Gaudí and Asturian Adventures”

Claudia arranges a one–of–a–kind tour of architect Antoni Gaudí’s most famous buildings. Mark and Mario head west to the rugged region of Asturias. The boys stop in Oviedo for some local sweets before reaching the mountains. They visit the hilltop town of Covadonga for a little religious history. Further in the countryside, Mario and Mark enjoy a meal from a heartwarming Asturian home cook.

Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

Episode 109: “Castillian Hog Heaven”

Footloose Mark and Claudia are in hog heaven as the road trip winds through Castilla y León. Mark and Claudia hunt down a plate of incredible Jamón Ibérico in Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor. Their interest perked, they decide to head right to the source – a traditional farm that raises the famous black–footed pigs. Their porcine pilgrimage continues to Segovia where Bitty and Bassols eat like emperors in the shadow of the city’s 2,000–year–old aqueduct. Feeling a little pigged–out, Mark and Claudia return to Basque country, unearthing a medieval cathedral and sampling Vitoria’s finest tapas.

Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

Episode 108: “A Sultan’s View of Andalucía”

Gwyneth and Mark get a taste for Spain’s Moorish history at the majestic Alhambra, the legendary hilltop palace in Granada. Claudia joins the group for a scenic drive along the Andalucían coast and, with Mark chiming in from the back seat, the group stops for local treats along the way. Mark teaches Claudia a thing or two about Moorish architecture as they explore beautiful and historic Córdoba.

Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

Episode 107: “From the Sublime to the Surreal”

Michael Stipe joins the road trip and cruises around Barcelona with Mario and Claudia, including a stop at the colorful La Boqueria market. Gwyneth and Mario travel outside of the city to the 3–star Michelin kitchen of Chef Carme Ruscalleda. A tour of the historic Jewish Quarter in Girona really hits home for Gwyneth. Mark and Claudia have a surreal time at the Dalí museum and then drive to culinary hot–spot Roses. Chef Rafa appeals to Mark with his minimalist style of cooking Catalunya’s finest seafood.

Posted Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Episode 106: Rockstar Surprise in Catalunya

Claudia takes Gwyneth for a nighttime drive through her hometown of Barcelona. Gwyneth does a celebrity appearance and then the two ladies sneak off to the gourmet department to stock up on snacks for the next leg of their journey. The next morning, Mario and Gwyneth dive into Spanish bubbly in the cellars at Segura Viudas. Meanwhile, Mark and Claudia take to the seas to enjoy some of the most sought–after shellfish in the Mediterranean and later to a fish auction that has all the excitement of a Major League game. Back in wine country, Mario and Gwyneth grill a Catalan feast. Later, Mario shocks Gwyneth when they pick up an unlikely hitchhiker. That night in Barcelona, Mario and Gwyneth join friends for a rockstar dinner at the über–trendy restaurant Inopia.

Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008

Episode 105: Basking in Basque Country

Gwyneth and Mario greet the day at the astonishing Marqués de Riscal Hotel with a behind the scenes vineyard tour. Feeling peckish, Mark joins Gwyneth for some vine-side grilling. Mark and Claudia set out for San Sebastián, where Claudia takes the wheel in the kitchen learning from the master, Chef Juan Mari Arzak.

Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008

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