French part of Basque country, dining report
After eating in Paris, here:
This place in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port had a good write-up on Le Fooding but has either gone seriously downhill or we caught it on a bad day.
We stayed at Hegia for two nights and were the only guests. It's an amazing place. The chef has a compelling, purist philosophy that strays away from butter and dairy in general without tasting plain. The dining is very much inflected by the total experience of staying there and I won't bother rating it against our other meals. Highlights were poached foie gras with green beans and mushrooms; john dory with an oatmilk "beurre blanc", carrots and green beans; and a veritable (vegan!) chocolate bomb, made of chocolate discs layered with a cocoa, soy milk and agave mousse -- this dessert made me think of articles in the New Yorker and The Art of Eating recently about contemporary desserts and of how rare it is for one to taste AND look as good as this. A nice touch was the way that many of the same ingredients appeared from the one dinner to the next in different preparations. Breakfast was also immensely tasty, featuring an awesome Bayonne ham that cropped up in meals throughout our stay.
Staying here is a bit like staying with your ideal, surrogate grandma (charming and a little creaky). Thanks for the recommendation Parigi! The eating is very good for the price, the ambiance truly as if in someone's big old house. I wouldn't really stay on a Monday when the restaurant is closed and the same-family-owned Arraya in Sare open but blah. We actually specifically stayed and ate at Olhabidea instead of l'Auberge Basque because the latter gave us an offputtingly hard sell on its most expensive rooms with a view. We don't regret the decision! We were surprised, however, at the many fields of corn around Sare. According to the chef at Olhabidea, the corn is low grade stuff that grows well there, only fit for feeding to cattle that are raised on a corn diet, just like in the USA. Gross.