I’m staying in a shared flat and so there is an inevitable feeling of being home. This feeling transcends onto the streets as I navigate with ease through the corridors of old town. I ventured further today towards another beach. Here the surf pounds against the shore line and it reminds me of the westcoast. The heads of the surfers bob between the sets of waves. I sit on the beach awhile and let the oceanspray dust my face. I am aware that being an island girl the ocean always guides me. It carries me, swallows doubts and fears, soothes me. I am never lost when I am near the ocean. Here on this basque coastline I feel at home.

Today is a big day. Today is the day that my friend from France will come and meet me for dinner. Our friendship is built on a shared love for food and dining and although we haven’t known each other long we have dined in many wonderful places together in both Canada and Europe. But tonight is particularly special. We have made reservations at a three star Michelin restaurant. I am careful not to eat too much today. At breakfast the bars are filled with croissants and breakfast pintxos.

I order an espresso. That’s all I need this morning. Ok well wait, I’ll try one of those stuffed chillis. That’s enough. Hmm but that looks interesting I’ll take just one of those. God. Resistance is futile. A little nap and I will be fine.
This evening I put on a special dress. It is the first time I will have had the experience of eating in a Michelin star restaurant. Eric arrives and we greet each other with giddiness. I think we may have even jumped up and down a little. We are like children about to be taken to an amusement park.

We finally arrive. Eric takes a picture of me under the sign as I wish to capture every moment. We enter and are greeted promptly by a woman who leads us through the glass doors into the dining room-clean modern decor. We are immediately attended to. It’s an orchestra of staff that work like well oiled machines. We decide on the 8 course tasting menu. We struggle somewhat to connect with our Sommelier who is trying not to convey his frustration with our poor Spanish. But alas we finally understand his suggestion to have three different pairing wines.

We look at each other from across the table as though we had just fastened our seatbelts awaiting take off. The courses began to arrive. Each dish was presented like something out of a Warhol frame-beautifully staged.

txistorra with beer and mango

banana and squid

fish marinated with patxaran dusted with purple corn

pigeon with traces of mastic accompanied by feathery textured potato

But then something happened. We began to slip out of our anticipation and into the present moment, and in doing so became aware of the slight feeling of disconnect. Those that attended to us, and there were several, did so in such a mechanical way that the connection between us and chef was lost. There was an air..a subtle nuance of ostentation that cut the lines between us and food. It’s hard to explain, and even though Eric and I speak different languages, we understood each other instantly. A shadow cast over our excitement.
It was afterwards that we talked endlessly about what had just happened. And this is what we surmised. Food like this is the craft of an artist and since he cannot join us himself it is up to those in charge of His/her stage to become synapses to join us together. There was no eye contact, no authentic engagement, other than a brief explanation of what it is we were eating (but it was done so with such calculation it made me think they might not have noticed our absence and recite it without us).We were disappointed (to be clear)  not with the indescribably delicious food, but rather,with the overall experience.

The last course, for dessert, tiny oval spheres beautifully presented in an aviary. They told us to eat it with one bite otherwise it will spill out of its casing.

But it was kind of an ironic twist that, like an unruly child whose parents stood erected alongside the concrete wall near us, that I didn’t listen. And indeed the oval casing exploded like velvet red gun fire all over the white linen table cloth. Oops.
Out with a bang as they say.
Though deeply in love with food and all that comes with it, I really am not one to critique such a place. So it’s only with the subjective lens of a small town island girl that I offer my opinion. It is not just the food itself that creates meaning in a dining experience. It is the relationship that unfolds when all the pieces synchronize.
Regardless of our disappointment I leave without regret.  But still, I might grab a couple of pintxos on my back..just sayin’.