Gorka Rico and Javier Rivero They have desire, talent and knowledge of the cause. Three virtues that associated with haute cuisine, give sitting proof that their names will sound gastronomically a lot in the coming years.
To those wickers, tanned in Elkano’s kitchen, legendary Basque grill in Getaria, where they met, adds his devotion to the product and the producer. Logically, under this premise, Tolosa has welcomed them with open arms, aware that this pair of chefs are ‘their own’.
Ama Taberna opens a door to a more gastronomic restaurant in a city to which the txuleta and the black bean give national fame. They have their feet on the ground, they cook the environment – marvelously – and they put inland Guipúzcoa on the map, sometimes invisible due to the dazzling lights that come from the coast and Donosti.
With its own light and a good sea, Loves Tavern (opened in 2018) successfully navigates between your pintxos proposal (chosen the Best Gastro Talent Pintxos Bar in 2019) and the more formal alternative, which gives menu option and tasting menu.
Cooking the environment going out of script
The hollow in which Tolosa rests, encased by valleys and cradled by the Oria river, gives meaning of a city that was a fundamental crossing point for centuries. Thus, the majesty of the town is understood as well as its gastronomic power.
The Mercado del Tinglado, which is held every Saturday, is one of the most famous in the Basque Country. There they go home and local producers with vegetables, mushrooms, cheeses, sausages and meats, moment in which the people of Toulouse take to the streets to eat the city.
That same environment, marked by meadows and farmhouses, is what Rico and Rivero forged in their kitchen. Ama bonds as a honest proposal in which proximity is patent. This is the reason why the Basque garden and corral give their breast in their kitchen.
It is a place to see the wonders that can be done with sheep (and not only the lamb) and with the dignity that, they comment, of “the great Basque vegetable, which is the leek”, they sing almost in chorus.
The mountain, the orchard and the corral
One after another, the Ama Taberna tasting passes speak of origin, supplier – they try to report the name, surname and origin of the producer – and gastronomic options that never undress us from the product.
“We started with a farmhouse menu with a tribute to the cow“Rivero explains.” It is a way of honoring those who have been and I hope that they continue to be a source of food for the region and those who have given Tolosa gastronomic fame, “he is sincere.
Cheek croquettes, sirloin tartare with talus and a beef chorizo they form that meaty trinity to cling to when in doubt. It could be thought that way that Ama’s speech is all ‘chicha’, but there are winks to the sea and the marine with knowledge of the facts.
“We have a lobster with beetroot, but even if it is not a local product, we interpret it from where we are“, he comments. For this reason, the beet is local and the dish is accompanied by sorrel shoots and” other stream elements such as river seaweed or trout roe “.
In this enhancement, Rivero speaks wonders of the leek, which he considers “the element that we are most passionate about and that best represents us because it is the vegetable that is in all the houses and sauces “. Reason why it praises it since” everybody knows it but nobody puts it as the protagonist and it has a lot of potential as a vegetable “.
This time, cooked at a low temperature with a meunier of its toasted leaves and with a crudité of the leek itself to recover the spiciness. A silverware that dignifies a vegetable that we have always ‘condemned’ to funds and stir-fries.
A proposal for each season
Ama Taberna dishes come and go, with that fidelity to the season who want to promote in this promising place. For this reason, perhaps autumn and winter are a magnificent time for the good diner to discover Toulouse.
“We realized that the forest was never mentioned in Basque cuisine“, he laments. For this reason, he took part of the witness of chef Edorta Lamo (formerly from Fuego Negro, in Donosti, and now in Arrea -in Kanpezu, in Montaña Alavesa-) and let” the surroundings of the village speak. “
It is time for chestnuts, acorns, walnuts and mushrooms to come to light, giving room for some Mushroom txapelas with roasted and reduced aubergine water. Another dish to remember.
In that same fluctuation, almost literally, Rivero and Rico – both he rides, he rides so much – also give a field to the sea. “It is about interpreting it from the farmhouse and understand where Tolosa is “, Rivero comments.
Therefore, they make a breaded hake that they cook with trotters, ear and snouts that speaks of the coastal influences -the ones that mark them as chefs- and of their own roots. In that rooting, the fidelity to the terroir is finished with a constant homage to the sheep.
“It is the animal that best represents us and unfortunately the habit of consuming sheep meat was lost “, she is sincere. For that reason, they look for producers with whom they claim the meat of the adult animal and leave the lamb.
“Are animals that are not more than five or six years old; some that have given birth, others that have not given much … but it is a flavor of here that the market has ended up leaving aside “, he explains. This is why they have several recovery proposals, although they are aware of that is not easy.
In the example, they serve it after cooking it at a low temperature and crumble it, forming a small roll that they accompany with celeriac puree. Aesthetics similar to another mountain plate, the Goierri rabbit, which are finely chopped and wrapped in a zucchini flower leaf.
‘Drinkable’ farmhouses and desserts with fidelity
In the same way that the plate marks the passage of its surroundings, the glass does the same. Local ciders, Some natural wines from the area, txakoli and some nod to Iparralde, the French Basque Country, with wines from the Irouleguy area, give rise to maintaining that ‘oenological’ discourse.
“We believe there ciders that can compete with wine, having barrels, aging and that it has many possibilities in gastronomy “, they explain while serving a display of apparently simple desserts, with careful technique and also a notable local soul.
On the one hand, sheep curd – it was logical – with a fig leaf oil, and on the other a refreshing dish based on apple, orange and lemon with a pollen cake. “It is the pollen of a friend who has now become a beekeeper,” they explain. To top it off, a cheese cake -idiazábal- that deserves to be bought whole.
A delight of the local with a lot of youth that shows that there is life beyond the coast and that Tolosa, which makes us fall in love with txuletas and beans, has much more to offer.
Images | Ama Taberna / Tob Strategy
Directly to the Palate | What to see and eat in 48 hours in Tolosa and El Goierri, the heart of inland Guipúzcoa