San Sebastian spends time in Hell’s Kitchen
Destination: Hell’s Kitchen, NYC
Mode of Transport: Pintxos/Tapas
Jacob K. Javits served as a United States Senator from the mid 50’s to the early 80’s. Most New Yorkers don’t know much about the politician or claim to know anything at all about the guy.
One thing we all know is that there is this massive structure standing six city blocks wide and one city avenue deep, on the west side of Midtown Manhattan named after him. We have embraced this structure as our Civic Center. Just about every single convention or trade show is held in this forum.
This place isn’t foreign to either Brenda or me. We both spent many hours under this roof, as ambassador of fashion brands, either selling or buying goods. This week, it held the Annual New York Times Travel Show. It was the first time Brenda and I entered the hall under a new capacity as travel and food industry people.
At the Annual New York Times Travel Show
Brenda and I went to every seminar and panel discussion we can muster to fit into the day. We passed through every booth exchanging cards and ideas. We made connections and bumped into fellow bloggers.
We were determined to make a name for ourselves. Nothing changed much from our fashion days; it was basically the same schtick, selling a piece of ourselves. Except this time we were serving as ambassadors to our own brand.
It was a three day convention, and we brought Bailey along for two of those days. She had a blast collecting all sorts of pamphlets and give-aways; but most importantly, it set the tone for us as truly being a family business.
New York’s Hell’s Kitchen
One of the rituals we had during the event was to have an after work business dinner, just the three of us. Fortunately, we were just a few blocks from the Gotham West Market. This structure, built in the heart of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, holds under its’ roof some of the best eateries in New York, with the setting being communal.
It’s not unlike Eataly (New York and anywhere in Italy), or La Boqueria in Barcelona, or the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. It’s an eater’s paradise. One second you can transport yourself to the American South with the taste of Fried Chicken at Genuine Roadside operated by my friends at the AvroKo design group; or in Tokyo having Ramen, in this case from Ivan Slurp Shop. But for me, the piece de resistance are the pintxos that transported me to the Basque country, from El Colmado.
Hell’s Kitchen didn’t get it’s name because there are great restaurants; this came much later. In Hell’s Kitchen’s heyday, if you will, the only reason one would be in these neck of the woods were either you needed to pay off your Irish bookie for the bad bets you made, or try to score some cocaine or meet up with your favorite prostitute.
All this with the Port Authority as it’s backdrop. Very few of New Yorkers miss those days. Today, there are eateries everywhere and apartment buildings that are very fashionable and not easy to afford.
The City of Bilbao in the Basque Region of Spain, like the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, has also had it’s own torrid past. It has an industrial setting and a history of civil unrest. Which made the place unfavorable to many. This is considered long past now, with the city getting more and more popular every year.
At San Sebastian in the Basque Region in 2003
Back in ‘03, Brenda and I, along with a couple of friends stopped over at Bilbao, on our way to San Sebastian, to visit, at the time fairly new, Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. It was an architectural triumph; just amazing. As we left the museum, it was around the time of day that the people of Bilbao enjoyed doing their tapas run or in Basque, pintxos.
This would be the first time we would have it in this region. We have had great tapas in Madrid and Barcelona in the past, but it paled in comparison to the Basque equivalent. Their offerings were a bit more sophisticated and recondite.
Lady Brett Ashley in the Sun Also Rises
We continued onto San Sebastian, and booked ourselves into the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, right on the famous La Concha Beach. We were perfectly situated for a lost fortnight of eating and drinking in the sun. Which we did plenty of. Lady Brett Ashley and the rest of the gang in Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises (who also spent time in San Sebastian) would have had nothing on us.
Some of the more memorable dishes we had in the region were chanquetes, which were crispy little whiting served with alioli (whipped garlic); padron peppers and the arroz negro (rice with cuttlefish ink). There were many others, but these three always made our standard order.
Here we were years later, reminiscent of San Sebastian, the three of us at the counter at El Colmado enjoying those same three dishes. The crispy little fried whiting was done perfectly. Imagine string french fries that had a fishy kick. I guess it’s like having both fish and chips in micro portions.
The Padron Peppers
The padron peppers are flash fried just as they were in Spain, but these read a bit spicier than I recall them to be, but I didn’t complain as it went perfectly with my wine. Lastly, when the arroz negro arrived at the counter, all three of us gasped for just a second, knowing already how good it was going to taste just from the aroma wafting through the air and how authentic it looked.
This one came with an added surprise – a dollop of sea urchin on top (Brenda’s all time favorite delicacy). It not only brought Brenda and I back to San Sebastian, but made us appreciate the here and now with our daughter; being able to have these delights that were once hard to find, in a one time unsavory neighborhood.
The Basque Region is considered the capital of gastronomy
Things are peaceful now in the Basque Region and considered the capital of gastronomy, with more Michelin star restaurants than any region in the world; and Hell’s Kitchen is also on the food lover’s map, thanks to places like the Gotham West Market.
By the way, Senator Jacob Javits, was known for being a Liberal Republican, and I believe that open minds like his, diverse in his thinking, can create beautiful environments. It’s nice to know that towns and neighborhoods all over the world are getting safer for our children to enjoy. Because we all know that there are few things more wonderful than the business of family.
Click here for Brenda’s quick guide to San Sebastian in the Basque Country.
Have you been in Hell’s Kitchen lately? Did you visit the Gotham West Market while you where there? Tell us!
Local NYC Travel Tip: During the months prior to leaving it all behind to travel full-time, we stayed with Brenda’s mother for 6 months in Fort Lee, NJ however, there were a few nights that we stayed over at her sister’s house in Manhattan but also there were nights we treated ourselves to staying at a hotel or 2. We liked staying in the 2 chain hotels in midtown, Hilton and The Grand Hyatt because they always had good value sales. We like The Grand Hyatt more but the Hilton was closer to the West Side.