We ate slowly after that, relishing the meal and the moment. Darkness slipped over the mountains to the west and settled over the port. The lights of iron lampposts along the promenade flared up one by one, like candles at a Catholic mass. The wine had vanished—so quickly I suspected one of the staff had been tippling from our bottle while we were swooning at the table. We asked for another.
The next offering was a simple grilled tuna steak—"caught this morning," our waitress announced. Of that there was no dispute. Over the years as a restaurant critic, I have consumed enough tuna steak to fill a Chevy Suburban. While many of the more refined renditions were prepared with flair and technical skill, none was as flapping fresh as this. A trickle of parsley and lemon vinaigrette was all the seasoning it needed.
A short time after sunset, we spotted the fading lights of the fishing boats as they dipped over the ink-black horizon. We ordered espresso and flan—a fitting punctuation to a meal that, still today, I yearn to rewind and taste again. Our waitress, sensing that something special was transpiring at our table, set out two glasses of sherry. I toasted Anne, my culinary coconspirator and future wife.
Afterward, we strolled the beachside esplanade, charting our three-day search for the best Basque meal in the region—not yet aware, on our first day together in Europe, that we'd just had it.
We Hear You!