Every now and then I wander into a restaurant by accident, or spontaneously, no reservations, no recommendations from friends, never having read anything of it in a newspaper or magazine. And as much as I recall with infinite pleasure my meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the table reserved there months in advance, or my many nights spent dining at Babbo‘s bar, having waited with wine glasses in hand for a space or two to open at the noisy and warm expanse of wood, these “accidental” meals linger in my mind and leave me sated in an entirely different way. I recently had one such spontaneous experience, and it is about that I now write.
Around the corner from my apartment in San Sebastián there is a wine and tapas bar called Divinum, a place of high ceilings and tables of light-colored wood. It opens early in the morning, and is full of people young and old late into the evening.
I walked in on a recent night and made my way to the crowded bar, behind which a very efficient woman stood. I ordered a glass of Albariño and studied the menu, settling on a pintxo of slow-cooked pork. It is served in a round shape on a small plate, with its own juice, thickened by adding raisins and pine nuts. It is fatty, in the good way, and tender, and one can taste the time and care that went into selecting the pork and preparing it, even if pork cooked this way does not require an excess of attention.
I could eat three of these plates at a sitting. Or more.
I next ordered a Rioja red, because I love Rioja, and its wines. This to accompany a wonderful plate of beef cheek, served with a rich sauce, full of warmth and meat that did melt in my mouth. Not figuratively, but actual melting. (The photograph I took of it does not do it justice, so I will not ruin my memory of this dish by including an ugly image.)
And how about closing a meal with a foie gras pintxo? Of course that is what I did. It was warm, and cooked just right, so the outer surface carried crispness, and the rest … well, the rest gave me what foie gras always does: an occasion to close my eyes and taste, blocking out all other sensations. It was served on top of a piece of toasted bread, and a swirl of apricot purée decorated the plate. I did not need the decoration. The flakes of sea salt on top of the foie added to its wonder. It is dessert, my ideal dessert. Of course, with it I drank a slightly sweet Riesling from the Pfalz.
That was my perfect meal, at least for this week.