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Biarritz and and the Basque Country


Margaret Pilgrim
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Esilda's instincts, as usual, are on point. The Basque "cassoulet" in Ainhoa haunts my memory. I need to have it again someday. And your memory serves correct; the eaux de vie shop in Saint Jean Pied de Port is Etienne Brana. FYI, I see that they are closed Saturday afternoons, Sunday and remember that their closure from noon to 2:30 foiled one of our visits. We have enjoyed staying with Freres Ibarboure in Bidart, and whose luxurious rooms (ask for #4) rent for about 1/2 high season in October, and Hotel Arce in Saint Entienne de Baigorry, which boasts a lovely dining room and quite decent kitchen. Unfortunately, the joyous little hotel we used in Usteritz has, I've been told, closed as its older owners have retired.

(If you have time, don't short the chocolate shops in Biarritz. I didn't bring home nearly enough. :wink: )

eGullet member #80.

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Yes, the chocolate shops in Biarritz. There are at least two or three that are quite good and one of them makes a wonderful gateau basque as well. It's a very close second to the one from Moulin de Bassilour.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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  • 1 year later...

This was posted in the Spain forum.

W. 20th October: Baïgorry to Hondarribia

Sleeping: Hondarriba Parador

Eating: lunch – ttoro in St.-Jean-de-Luz OR “cassoulet” in Ainhoa (I saw several mentions of the cassoulet in Ainhoa here or on Chowhound, but no one specified a restaurant name.)

Doing: drive with stops in Ixtassou (cherry preserves), Espelette (peppers) and  Irouleguy (wine).

Hiking: Old smuggler’s road from Sare to Zarramundi and back

The answer is to partially found earlier in this thread. The restaurant in which I had my excellent Basque cassoulet was Ithurria. The cassoulet was distinctive for having red beans and for including a fat slice of boudin noir. My first course at Ithurria was superb brandade stuffed piquillo. My caveat here is that this meal was eaten quite some time ago, too long ago for me to be certain the recommendation holds, though on my last trip through the area (the one referred to in this thread above) I did not eat as well and was sorry we didn't try Ithurria again although Ainhoa was a bit out of the way for us.

Here's a description of that meal in September of 1996. By late September, tourism was almost nil in the Basque Pyrenees. I see in the 2004 Michelin guide that the hotel restaurant Ithurria closes for the season on November 1, and even more disappointingly, no longer has a star. Perhaps it's as well that I didn't return.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Another place in the area without a star, but worth checking out if it's convenient may be Auberge Iparla in Bidarray. If I'm not mistaken, this is where Christian Parra has settled after retiring from his Auberge de la Galupe in Urt. That was an exceptional place. We managed one fine lunch there, eating as much as we could, before it closed and from that meal, I would assume he retired in his prime. It was our own vserna who posted that Parra makes the world's best boudin noir and we made sure not to miss it even though I wouldn't have thought to order it in a two star restaurant. In Paris, at Aux Lyonnais last month, we had boudin noir whose provenance was listed as "Iparla." Again it was superb. My understanding is that Parra is making his blood pudding and canning it in Bidarray under that label. If is worth ordering if you see it--assuming, of course, that one likes blood sausage.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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We have just come back from the Basque Pyrenees and your itinerary sounds fantastic. It's a great area for hiking and should be almost completely tourist free in October.

We stayed at Hotel Arce in St Etienne de Baigorry about a year ago which was excellent - the location is particularly attractive and the food was good too. We also had lunch at the Hotel des Pyrenees in St Jean Pied de Port and although the meal there was probably better than Hotel Arce, it doesn't really stand out one year on so I wouldn't worry about skipping it.

The gorges are east of Larrau so it would be better to fit them in on the 17th. We went to the Gorge of Kakoueta. You pay 4 euros for entry but it is well worth it as the gorge is stunning. You have a 2km walk on paths and walkways along the side of the gorge to the waterfall and cave, but it feels like longer since you are clambering over rocks at various points. They have a system of alarms and emergency radios in case of floods or accidents.

Etchemaïté was one of the options we considered this year but we ended up staying in Hotel Chilo in Barcus instead and it might be worth considering it for the 18th . We had the 60 euro 6 course tasting menu which was really more food than we could eat, so I would recommend going for the Carte or one of the shorter menus - the fish courses and desserts were the highlights for us.

Hope you have a great time!

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Thanks for all the input-- Hotel Chilo looks wonderful-- I wish they had their hours posted on their site, though. Lots of places seem to be closed on Mondays since it's not tourist season. I'll give them a call when we're there next week.

And thanks for giving me the info on Ithurria. Sounds like we'll skip that one, which is OK-- We'll have beans in Tolosa, and I didn't like the idea of skipping a meal in St.-Jean-de-Luz-- ttoro for lunch that day.

One other place that I've found restaurant (and market, bakery, and other) suggestions is in the back of Gerald Hirogyen's cookbook, The Basque Kitchen. Although he's French Basque, he does have recommendations on both sides of the border.

Just occured to me that Hirogyen (hope that's spelled right - I didn't look it up) might not be well known outside the Bay Area-- he's a chef with a couple of restaurants in San Franciso - Fringale and Piperade.

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Thanks for all the input-- Hotel Chilo looks wonderful-- I wish they had their hours posted on their site, though. Lots of places seem to be closed on Mondays since it's not tourist season. I'll give them a call when we're there next week.

We were there last week. They were closed on Sunday but served us a fixed menu of pork and foie gras terrine, sole, and raspberry tart since we were staying in the hotel. They were open on the Monday night and the full menu was available.

I would definitely call ahead though - there were only 12 people in the restaurant on Monday so I could easily see them closing if they didn't have any bookings.

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We stayed at the Hotel Ithurria and loved the food and wine there. The staff couldn't be nicer and the location wonderful.

In St Jean-De -Luz we ate in Ciboure at a fisherman's shack, "Arrantzaleak."And dinner at the lovely "Le Parc Victoria."

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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Michelin says the Chilo, in Barcus, is closed on Sundays and Mondays from October til June. The tourist season is over by the end of September there. The Auberge Iparla in Bidarray seems to be open on Mondays. It closes on Wednesdays, at least according to Michelin. I'm trying to recall how reliable they've been on that score.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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  • 2 months later...

My sisters and I are taking our mother to Biarritz for a long weekend in January, and was wondering if anyone could offer any advice for restaurant recommendations?

Am looking for all kinds of places - from fine dining to more homely bistro food since although we all love food, our budget will preclude us from splashing out every night. Am also interested in good shops to buy food that we can take home ...

Would also be useful to hear of places that we should definitely avoid ... am conscious that we will be going on a weekend when there is a big rugby match on ... so many places will be very busy.

We're staying somewhere central, and will not have our own transport, so ideally the places can be reached by a very short walk (mother is quite elderly) or by taxi.

With thanks in anticipation

Yin

(whoops - EDIT to say that the topic was meant to say MID-January. Apologies)

Edited by YKL (log)
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You'll need a taxi for both of these places - they both came on the recommendation of my golf teacher (Michael Magher - a settled in ex-pat who runs the Biarritz's American Golf School http://www.americangolfschool.com/ - great guy, great teacher and he knows his food).

La Cucaracha

Rue de l'Ouhabia

64210 Bidart

Tel : 05.59.54.92.89

Simple unpretentious Basque cooking - great fresh fish and good wine wine list, friendly lively athmosphere.

Campagne et Gourmandise

52 Ave Alan-Seegar

Tel 05.59.41.10.11

Maybe 15 minutes by taxi into the countryside - an elegant villa with views of the mountains. I seem to think they had a Michelin star a couple of years ago but not in the current guide.

Booking advisable for both - especially if there is rugby in town. It would be nice to hear how you get on.

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There's a good outdoor market in Bayonne on Saturday, but I don't know how easy it might be to get there by public transportation or how expensive a ride it is by taxi. Neither do I know what's in season if anything at this time of year. Earlier in the fall there would have been tables overflowing with cèpes of all sizes. Traipsing around an open market, may not be your mother's idea of joy in January either.

Bayonne has a one star restaurant, Biattitz has two. In Bayonne, it's the Auberge du Cheval Blanc. In Biarritz, there is the restaurant in the Hotel Palais -- the Villa Eugénie -- and Les Plantanes. The latter is not centrally located, but it is much closer to the center of Biarritz, than is Bayonne. Les Plantanes is also owned by by the chef who is the son of André Daguin, who used to have a renowned multi-starred restaurant in Auch. Père Daguin is the one credited with introducing magret de canard, or duck breast cooked rare, as a steak, to diners in his restaurant. It was an idea that's become universal in the world of western cuisine. A daughter is one of the foremost purveyors of foie gras, duck products and charcuterie in the US. Another, I believe, is married to a patissier in Provence.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Les Plantanes is also owned by the chef who is the son of André Daguin, who used to have a renowned multi-starred restaurant in Auch.

I have eaten Arnaud's food at the mothership - the Hotel de France in Auch - when he was cooking under the guidance of his father Andre, who is now head of the French Restaurateur's syndicat. It was glorious. He trained in both France and Washington DC. I second Bux's idea.

We also ate at a place Gault and Millau rated relatively low (12-13) which had an impenetrably un-understandable Basque name but I can't put my finger on it yet. It had very good local fare.

Edited by John Talbott for clarity.

John Talbott

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I haven't eaten at Les Plantanes, but an interest in quality food runs deep in the family. I have had an excellent bistro meal in Biarritz, but I don't see the restaurant listed in Michelin now and I believe the owner cooks in Paris these days.

Biarritz and Bayonne have excellent chocolate shops. I think it's Henriot in Biarritz who is also a purveyor of excellent gateau basques. I definitely favor the black cherry filling and it's the more traditional one.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Thanks for all the contributions so far - will print off to discuss with my sisters over Christmas. And would welcome any further suggestions.

Re: Bux's suggestion of a market in Bayonne ... will see how feasible it is to get there because actually Mum (and the rest of us) really enjoy that sort of thing.

also thanks to John Talbott for amending the topic title - much appreciated.

Yin

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Please check that I'm right about the market being on Saturday and check to see if the outdoor market runs all winter. The Moulin de Bassilour, if I remember the name correctly, used to have a stall in the indoor market where they sold what are perhaps the very best Gateaux Basques, but it's been gone now for sometime. The ones we found in a pastisserie across the street from the open market were good, but not nearly as good as the ones from the Moulin de Bassilour or Henriot, I thought. There's a fromagerie stall in the covered market that I liked. It had its back to the river and was at the opposite end from the covered market. We bought an excellent tomme de brebis from the Pyrenees there. In fact, when we asked about the Moulin de Bassilour and its gateaux, they told us they had vacated the market and when we asked for the best gateaux in town, they suggested the place across the street, but warned it was not the equal. Of course shops change hands, and it might not be there as well.

Before I forget, if you want a snack, there is a place called Tarte Julie on the rue Thiers almost across from the Grand Hotel. It's not much more than a fast food place that serves excellent quiches and fruit tartes -- basically savory and sweet tartes, and salads. It's been reliable over the course of two very separate visits. It's much like a similar place in Paris with the same name near the Tour Montparnasse with but one distinction. The tartes are wonderful in Bayonne and terrible in Paris, at least in our limited experience.

We've spent but three afternoons in Bayonne, and don't know it very well, not that it's much of a city, but you can see that it left a good impression on me.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Please check that I'm right about the market being on Saturday and check to see if the outdoor market runs all winter.

I'm away from my Patricia Well's "Food Lovers Guide to France" which lists days and seasons for markets but one of the Bayonne websites list four markets: in the center, Saint Esprit, Hauts de Sainte Croix and Polo Beyris with times and days.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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This should be the one to which I referred: "au carreau des halles (centre ville): mardi, jeudi et samedi de 7h à 13h, marché tous produits, vêtements et producteurs de fruits et légumes au bord de la Nive." The halles being the central covered market. I'd be a little wary of the market being most clothing and gadgets, as outdoor markets can be, in the dead of winter.

That's a useful site for Bayonne. Markets are under "Practique" and and ham and chocolate are under "Culture & Tradition." This reminds me that the hams of Bayonne are justly famous and some of the best in France, although perhaps the disappearance of tariffs and trade restriction in the EU may subject them to the competition with Spanish ham.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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It's about 90 minutes away, but Tony Bourdain has strong family connections in Arcachon and goes there often. Check out his book "A Cook's Tour" for some terrific reading and some advice about the Arcachon area...

Edited by menton1 (log)
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  • 1 year later...

I am planning a trip to Biarritz and the surrounding region with my girlfriend at the end of the summer (Late August/early September 2006).

My initial searches show that there have been a lot of discussion on the restaurants of the region which I haven't had time to read but I will.

One item I am looking for is any place (France or in neighboring spain) that would offer a cooking class or have daily cooking classes, hopefully in english.

Thanks,

Jeff

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I've never been to Biarritz but the Tourist Bureau Website is quite beautiful.  Anyone else been?  :rolleyes:

Well I've been a couple of times but too long ago to give recommendations. However, as I've noted in the Digest, Arnaud and Veronique Daguin (son of Andre of Auch, brother of Ariane of NYC) has just renovated a hotel-restaurant called Hegia that sounds fantastic. I do know his cooking from the Hotel de France and Jean-Louis Pallidan and it's very good.

John Talbott

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I've never been to Biarritz but the Tourist Bureau Website is quite beautiful.  Anyone else been?   :rolleyes:

Well I've been a couple of times but too long ago to give recommendations. However, as I've noted in the Digest, Arnaud and Veronique Daguin (son of Andre of Auch, brother of Ariane of NYC) has just renovated a hotel-restaurant called Hegia that sounds fantastic. I do know his cooking from the Hotel de France and Jean-Louis Pallidan and it's very good.

What an incredible website! What an incredible place! What interesting looking food!

Having chanced across this posting during a short coffee break at the desk, I'm playing the Hegia link over and over. Really now - time to stop and get back to work but with a nice day dream for another time.

(Pity about the prices though - they bring you back to earth quickly enough - but perhaps for some special occasion in the future, who knows?)

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I am planning a trip to Biarritz and the surrounding region with my girlfriend at the end of the summer (Late August/early September 2006). 

Yesterday, Gilles Pudlowski in Le Point gave a recipe for a gateau basque from the tongue-twisting Maison du Gâteau Basque - Etchebaster in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, which sounds like it's a must-go-to-place.

John Talbott

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