The name “Txakoli” (cha-co-LEE) is bad/Basque enough, but “Jatetxeak” (ha-teh-CHEY-ak)? Well,” jatetxeak” means nothing more than “restaurants” in Basque. Not so scary really, and for me, the elegant rusticity of so many restaurants in the Basque country – combined of course with the ultra simple, high qualty, almost obsessive nature of Basque cuisine – is one of the greatest sets of wheres and whats in all gastronomy.
And in every way Txakoli (this one is a Txakoli de Getaria, the most prestigious zone) perfectly upholds the Basque way with elegant rusticity. Nearly always white (yes, red Txakoli does exist), light, sea-spray briney and spritzy, it’s made from…ready? – a blend of Hondarribi Zuri, and a bit of its red-skinned brother Hondarribi Beltza (no skins used, so no coloration) vinified and aged for just a short stint, nearly always in stainless steel tanks. It’s typically bottled in tall, thin “Mosel”-style bottles, and in its native land, is expertly splashed out in long golden threads by skilled barkeeps from great heights into delicate cylindrical tumblers, and then it’s gulpled down with all kinds of chorizo, tuna, egg, and countless other pintxos (Basque for tapas), and any fish dish on the menu, you pick it…
The one I picked tonight returns once again to that particular Basque elegant rusticity – and in spades – in the form of bacalao al pil-pil. The name of this ultra-Basque classic is said to be derived from the sound of the always skin-on, well soaked salt cod, cut into large squares, frying in top quality olive oil. Before frying the fish, garlic and rings of dried red guindilla peppers flavor the oil and then are removed. The fish and oil are separated, cooled somewhat, and then the fish, skin side up, is cooked again alternately adding the oil, and some salted water little by little over the top of it which begins to release the gelatin in the skin. All the while, you need to rotate the pan in circular motion which is the last and crucial piece in developing what should be a very pale green emulsion of a sauce. No joke. The fish is served in a puddle of the sauce with the garlic and Guindillas garnishing. With bread…Oh…the first course was a simple plate of green beans poached in broth that I then used to make a puree of roasted Piquillo peppers, scallions, parsley and a little oil and lemon juice that I then tossed with the beans. More bread.
Mokoroa Txakoli de Getaria 2011
Light, bright gold color with hints of green underlying. Piercing nose of chalk, salt, pear and apple, vanilla bean, fresh herbs, ginger, hay, and taosted almond. Very fine, light spritz inside a light-bodied, clean, taut, and energetic structure with a sapid balast, and lip-smacking acidity that sprays fresh flavors of grapefruit, lime, apricot, yellow cherry jam, and rye whiskey across the palate. Great tangy bitter/sweet quinine finish.