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Chime Technologies integrates ChatGPT into platform

Adding Bots to an Amazon Chime Chat Room Amazon Chime Help Center

chime chatbot

Girgente was part of an interdisciplinary research team that posed questions about three climate change-related hazards—tropical storms, floods, and droughts—in 191 countries to both free and paid versions of ChatGPT. Developed by OpenAI Inc., ChatGPT is a large-language model designed to understand questions and generate text responses based on requests from users. Chime attributes the success of its chatbot to the “consistent coaching and humanizing of the chatbot” and four years of strategic product development, according to a statement from the company. Chime claims its chatbot saves time and expedites workflow by sending notifications to agents when clients engage with them.

  • Create, organize, and maintain articles that address common questions.
  • Through these features, Chime aims to help increase agent productivity and boost conversion rates while integrating the chatbot into its sales acceleration platform.
  • Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click “Reset Password”.
  • Once you have the three required pieces of information (direct line secret, display name, Microsoft app Id) you are ready to integrate the bot within chime.

“Overall, we found more agreement than not,” said Carmen Atkins, lead author and second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Geosciences. “The AI-generated outputs were accurate more than half the time, but there was more accuracy with tropical https://chat.openai.com/ storms and less with droughts.” Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click “Reset Password”. Chime claims AI Assistant saves time and fits workflows by sending notifications to clients when a lead engages.

Recent News

In the past year, the chatbot has increased daily messages by 322 percent and daily lead responses by over 108 percent, according to the news release. Twenty twenty-two also saw chatbot adoption among customers increase by 46 percent. The company attributes the success to “consistent coaching and humanizing of the chatbot,” which in the past year increased daily messages Chat PG by 322 percent and daily lead responses by over 108 percent. Chime has been using Google’s machine learning algorithm to power its intuitive chatbot AI Assistant for the past five years. With the addition of ChatGPT, Chime aims to boost efficiency and productivity for real estate agents by automating content generation, idea generation, and content editing processes.

They simply need to navigate to the chatbot service, write their question and they will either be given information for their question, or be directed to the section of the application where their problem can be resolved. They can, if they wish to ask to communicate with a live agent for more complicated issues. Chime attributed the success of its chatbot to “consistent coaching and humanizing of the chatbot,” in a statement released on Feb. 20. Phoenix-based sales accelerator Chime Technologies announced this week that its chatbot AI Assistant has a 93 percent conversational accuracy rate, following four years of product development. Some AI Assistant packages also include a Facebook Messenger integration, which allows the chatbot to communicate with leads through the social media platform. Once you have your Azure bot created and hosted in Azure follow the steps below to integrate your bot alongside a chime queue.

The FinTech Insights Spotlight series will be turning the light on to banks and fintechs from all over the world, examining what makes them stand out from their competitors in their digital banking. Can chatbots provide accurate information about the dangers of climate change? Well, that depends on a variety of factors including the specific topic, location being considered, and how much the chatbot is paid, according to a group of Virginia Tech chime chatbot researchers. Chatbot adoption among customers also increased by 46% in 2022, according to Chime. They found less consistency in answers about the same topic when asked about certain regions, especially many countries in Africa and the Middle East, that are considered low income or developing countries. And they found the paid version of the platform, currently ChatGPT-4, was more accurate than the free version, which at the time was ChatGPT-3.5.

Give users the option for self service before routing

The key features of the new ChatGPT functionality include auto-generated content for individual and mass communications via email and text, as well as for marketing communications such as blogs and social media posts. The platform also offers a library of templated, popular prompts, and the flexibility to create bespoke prompts based on specific customer needs. Chime Technologies, a real estate tech innovator based in Phoenix, Arizona, has recently integrated ChatGPT functionality into its platform to streamline content creation for real estate marketing and communications.

Last November, the company launched a lead-generation geo-farming feature. The tech combines local market intelligence with AI-powered marketing automation, helping agents narrow down high-potential areas for marketing investments. “We will continue to prioritize humanizing our AI to deliver high quality interactions for the benefit of agents and consumers alike,” Carter said. As competition increases and market conditions evolve, agents are under intense pressure to attract, nurture, and convert leads more efficiently.

“We’re the first to look at this in a systematic way, as far as we’re aware, and beyond that, it’s really a call to action for more people to look into this issue,” Atkins said. “I think what we found is that it’s OK to use artificial intelligence, you just have to be careful and you can’t take it word-for-word,” said Gina Girgente, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geography last spring. Please include what you were doing when this page came up and the Cloudflare Ray ID found at the bottom of this page. This website is using a security service to protect itself from online attacks. There are several actions that could trigger this block including submitting a certain word or phrase, a SQL command or malformed data. This guide assumes you have already set up an AWS account and have the latest version of the AWS CLI installed.

AI Assistant, launched in 2019, is powered by machine learning and natural language processing technologies. A team at Chime also regularly trains it to “deliver the operational intelligence agents need to close deals,” according to the statement. Chime V5 offers managers powerful reporting capabilities, allowing them to gain valuable insights.

As can be seen in the above chart,  the Chime app is positioned in the Specialists quadrant, a place which is awarded due to the lower number of features offered but the overall high UX-scored journeys. Most US banks are positioned closely next to Chime (Acorns, Betterment, Aspiration ) with some of them heading further right into the middle (Bank of America) and to the Super-Apps quadrant, currently occupied only by Revolut. It is well above the Niche quadrant where a few banks like Axos bank, Ally and Chase are positioned. Every month a new bank or fintech will put financial institutions around the globe under the FinTech Insights Spotlight examining their iOS digital banking channels.

Now that your bot is integrated into the Chime Admin settings it’s time to navigate to the “Queue Settings” page to integrate your bot within each queue. Once you have the three required pieces of information (direct line secret, display name, Microsoft app Id) you are ready to integrate the bot within chime. Real-time, high-level data visualization to monitor performance, track key metrics. Match user queries with relevant information from your knowledge base. Built-in language translation to help agents to effortlessly communicate with users across different languages.

chime chatbot

This ensures that employees have the autonomy for self-service while still having access to the human expertise when needed. Create a custom web client using the drag-and-drop interface for Microsoft Adaptive Cards, while having the flexibility to enhance your design with advanced CSS and JavaScript capabilities. Simplify support by leveraging Chime’s features without ever leaving the familiar Microsoft Teams client.

Let us help your team improve your Microsoft Teams service desk.

Increasingly, agents understand the role of technology and specifically AI, to help them do so. In fact, according to a 2022 Technology Survey from the National Association of REALTORS®, more than 15% of agents believe that artificial intelligence tools will be very impactful in their business within the next 24 months. Gain insights into agent performance, ratings, and aggregate data to optimize your support processes. The Challenger has managed to amass over 12 millions customers since its launch back in 2014 becoming the number 1 Challenger in the country based on users.

Chime’s chatbot capabilities cover every aspect of the homebuying and selling process, according to the company. It can help schedule appointments for showings with clients, convert cold leads into hot leads with a six-month campaign and respond to listing ad questions in real time, the announcement notes. Some AI assistant packages also include Facebook Messenger integration, which allows the bot to chat with users on the social media platform.

These commands are used to tell the Chime queue to perform certain actions. The commands can do things like end a chat or assign a skill tag to a specific chat. All conversation logs are stored, providing valuable insights and data for analysis.

chime chatbot

This integration marks a significant step towards enhancing the platform’s generative AI capabilities. Through these features, Chime aims to help increase agent productivity and boost conversion rates while integrating the chatbot into its sales acceleration platform. This is quite a helpful feature, which has been examined in detail in Battle of the Challengers US episode 2 and represents one innovative offering that few banks in the USA include in their arsenal. You can foun additiona information about ai customer service and artificial intelligence and NLP. Specifically, customers who have for whatever reason (theft, fraud, lost) decided to cancel their debit card, they can immediately order a new one and in the meantime issue a temporary virtual card through their Chime app. With the temporary virtual they can add it into their Apple Wallet and pay online or in store till their debit card arrives.

Tech Xplore

The example directory includes a Swagger file, CloudFormation template with Serverless Application Model (SAM), and helper scripts to help you set up and manage your application. Sign up for a free GitHub account to open an issue and contact its maintainers and the community. Crate template messages and dynamic variables for personalized and efficient response that adapt to user needs. Leverage the reporting API to integrate with Power BI, enabling access to advanced data visualization.

The group then compared the chatbots’ answers against hazard risk indices they generated using data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body tasked with assessing science related to climate change. As of late, Chime has focused on broader, large-scale implementations of new technologies rather than smaller, agent-focused tweaks. It recently rolled out a brokerage recruiting tool, invested heavily in its customer support staff and developed a social media marketing offering. The company intends to integrate the AI chatbot into its sales acceleration program to help increase agent productivity.

Chime Technologies integrates ChatGPT into platform – HousingWire

Chime Technologies integrates ChatGPT into platform.

Posted: Tue, 01 Aug 2023 07:00:00 GMT [source]

Easily integrate Chime V5 web chat client into your website and modify its look using JavaScript and CSS to match your brand theme. Our web client is designed to render Adaptive Cards, enabling you to display dynamic and interactive content. With Instant Chime for Teams®, you can integrate your external Microsoft Bot Framework bots to help deflect incoming chats by using your existing knowledge base. Create, organize, and maintain articles that address common questions.

Fannie Mae adds web-based income calculator for mortgage originators

Build a custom chat workflow designed specifically for your organization’s requirements, featuring seamless integration with ServiceNow, Jira ticketing systems and more. Chime V5 creates an AI powered service desk enabling companies to deliver outstanding support. Kim said he felt the results would be especially important to share with students who might put too much faith in the chatbots and that they had also impacted his own use of the software.

chime chatbot

Improve response time and resolution time with self-service chatbot powered by AI. This concludes our first FinTech Insights Spotlight for Challenger Chime. As the Challenger with the largest customer base it stands to say that they have done a fine job in trying to understand what customers need and cater them. That is clearly evident from their position in the market as Specialists and from providing a series of  very useful features with great UX.

In 2022, Chime reported a more than 46% increase in chatbot adoption among customers. According to long time Chime customer Adam Frank of eXp Realty, ““[Chime’s AI Assistant] is an unprecedented tool. There are other chatbots, but nothing else runs and works like AI Assistant does.” In the past year, AI Assistant increased daily messages by more than 322% and daily lead responses by more than 108%. This significant momentum was driven by Chime’s consistent coaching and humanizing of the chatbot. Phoenix-based real estate sales acceleration platform Chime Technologies announced on Monday that its chatbot AI Assistant has a 93% conversational accuracy. In the past year, it has increased daily messages by more than 322% and daily lead responses by more than 108%, according to the company.

Amazon Chime SDK now supports Amazon Lex chatbots – AWS Blog

Amazon Chime SDK now supports Amazon Lex chatbots.

Posted: Mon, 27 Mar 2023 07:00:00 GMT [source]

Managers can create customized reports based on chat history to evaluate agent performance and understand end-user engagement. Reduce the need for time-consuming support requests, allowing employees to find answers independently. With Chime V5, empower your employees to quickly and efficiently address their own issues or route to a service desk agent, in real-time. Customers of Chime are able to swiftly receive answers to their questions and be provided help on a problem through the chatbot service.

chime chatbot

“It opened up this whole idea of the different things we could look at with ChatGPT,” Atkins said. “And for me, personally, climate change and specifically climate change literacy, which is critical to combating misinformation, made me want to see if ChatGPT could be helpful or harmful with that issue.” According to the publication, the researchers selected the ChatGPT service because of its popularity, particularly among users aged 18–34, and its rate of use in developing nations. BotId from Response is used in the next step to put events configuration

bot email is used to invite bot to chat room. Provide employees with the option to connect with a live agent for urgent matters or specialized assistance.

Inspiration to write (Somewhere over New Mexico, 2019)

Upon boarding my Friday afternoon flight, I had the option to continue working, read articles on my iPad, or listen to music while zoning out.

I was tempted to just get work done as quickly as possible. There was an unchecked box on my professional to-do list and I’m a leave-no-box-unchecked, deranged person.

Knowing that I needed the mental break and realizing that there was no urgency to completing the task till Monday, I popped on the AirPods and chilled out for 10 minutes to Fur Elise and Suite No. 1 in G major. I flashed back to a day in grad school when Yo-Yo Ma came to campus to speak about how automation and art had a harmonious future.

I bought none of it that day; I think our President just paid Mr. Ma a lot of money to make a celebrity appearance. He spent 10 minutes talking non-sense about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and nothing about music. Right about the moment I began thinking Yo-yo Ma is a fraud, he lifted his cello and start playing Prelude No. 1. It was as if he knew he was losing the technologist crowd with his attempt at speaking our language1 and then suddenly reversed to say “Alright, I’ll just do what I’m good at and why you’re all listening to me in the first place.”  

As I often do about people I admire, I mentally photoshopped my face onto Yo-yo’s stiff but firm body, flowing but controlled arms, and embarked on a 3 minute day dream of playing the cello. Papa and Mama Chao would’ve been proud.

Like Eminem raps in “Lose Yourself” though, Snap back to reality.

My mind was rested enough and I also had a backlog of articles to read within my iPad so I started a Zach Lowe article on the newly minted NBA champions, Toronto’s Raptors. He’s a talented writer, and I enjoy the facetious arrogance, deep knowledge, and social commentary all packed into his weekly 5 minute articles analyzing the NBA.

Then it occurred to me that I wanted to write. Perhaps, reading and good writing inspires more pen to paper,finger to keyboard.  I had a lot to think about recently, so this was an opportune moment. This week was an avalanche of to-do’s overwhelming my notebook; I also let my unread inbox pile up to triple digit numbers. This never happens.

I didn’t take moments to catch my breath, let alone read anything of value. WSJ accounts of crude prices or Facebook’s new cryptocurrency don’t count.

Maybe the solution is to force myself to read; make it a nightly task. Or find a moment on a flight in the cramped seat3 of 14C to read and then type with T-rex arms.

Whatever it is, I need to develop a habit, stat.

“He’s known as the globetrotter
Lonely roads, God only knows, he’s grown farther from home, he’s no father
He goes home and barely knows his own daughter
But hold your nose ’cause here goes the cold water
His hoes don’t want him no mo, he’s cold product
They moved on to the next schmo who flows, he nose dove and sold nada
So the soap opera is told and unfolds, I suppose it’s old partna,

But the beat goes on”

===

1 I don’t proclaim to be a technologist but the crowd clearly was. By transitive property, I was therefore a technologist that day.

2 Pete Wells of NYTimes restaurant reviews is also another personal favorite.

3 I normally wouldn’t complain about being in an economy, aisle-row seat. It’s a privilege to be able to fly at all, but I just wanted peace and quiet today. 14A really wanted to share all eight seasons of Game of Thrones while 14B reciprocated with his love for the Marvel universe. I have never gotten closer to buying noise cancelling head phones.

Rumination – Just want to sit outside (All of 2019)

Increasingly, my one request for the weekend is to be able to sit outside. Whether its in Mexico City, where I can sit in the courtyard of an old church-turned-restaurant or at a wooden bench along any river in any city, I derive whole hearted enjoyment from just being outside, enjoying the breeze, and people watching. Often, my mind isn’t wandering the way I imagined Thoreau’s mind wandered, nor is it fixated on problem solving, the way Turing may have been. Instead, it alternates between planning what to do in the future, deliberate enjoyment of the birds chirping, flowers blooming, or just straight up blank nothing.

I think this new found, albeit stagnant, hobby is a result of being holed up in a conference room all day, debating ideas with my colleagues in tight enough quarters where I get inadvertently spit on twice a week. In my bschool and San Francisco life, I had ample time to go for walk outside along the Charles or Embarcadero. These days, I’d be lucky if I can walk a lap or two around a parking lot once a week. (For a workout, I did run laps in a Best Buy parking lot in rural Louisiana for about 3 months. About 8 laps was a mile, and I would do at least 3 miles. The security guy in the golf cart loved me.)

This sitting al fresco seem inherently at odds with my restless, active nature. However, the pause is much needed in the middle of all this hyperactivity – flights, calls, to do lists, trip planning, people seeing, book reading, inbox zero-ing. Its in this pause, the red wooden benches, and the perching rocks by the river, in which I place a lot of faith.

Faith that one day, I will figure out all this madness. Or at least figure out where to run besides Best Buy parking lots.

Location: Within James Turrell’s Knight Rise. Scottsdale, AZ 2019

My Modus Operandi: Straight-up Hater, Die-Hard Lover

As my time in Boston comes to a close, I’ve been appreciating moments as if they were my last. The final pristine, snow-blanketed morning walk to school. The last time I would take a nap under MIT’s dome. The final jog along the Charles River Esplanade in my winter tights and running gloves. Albeit dramatic, its also an opportune moment to reflect upon my two years here.

My thoughts eventually drift toward an underlying sobering reality – I’ll be moving to Texas this upcoming fall. I won’t lie – I chose Texas for a career opportunity1. I will struggle with the new environment and I’ll definitely sit in a park alone and wonder what am I doing with life.

I rationalize the choice by understanding how I have always operated. I despise my new environments when I move. Berkeley felt like a place that vehemently opposed everything I stood for as an 18 year old coming out of Southern California suburbia. I gave Boston so much hate my first year here that I unintentionally and inadvertently persuaded friends not to visit. Shame on me.

Fast forward a year after I moved to each city, I fell in love with them. I embraced the social consciousness Berkeley embodies, waxing poetic to this day about how you can find professors, students, homeless, and Tibetan monks all sharing pizzas at the Cheeseboard cooperative. The walkability of Boston cast a spell on me, and the city flirts with me each time I eye the brownstones of the South End on my weekly walks through the city.

Knowing that my M.O. is starting as a straight-up hater but ending up as a die-hard lover, I’m installing tools to help me adjust. A friend from school as a roommate is a blessing. I’m also purchasing a Houston Rockets jersey (I haven’t decided which one though. Harden seems reverential and of the moment but Yao Ming would be classic and embrace my heritage). I’m not one to purchase or act symbolically but hey, we all evolve right? Lastly, I renewing my focus on enjoying foods and restaurants that allow me to understand a community. I had difficulty in Boston due to my schedule and the lack of a food culture I found tasty. Having Houston as an underrated but top 5 food city in the US is certainly going to help the transition.

Nothing grows in a comfortable place, Jeff. You’ve grown and learned so much from the communities you’ve been lucky enough to live in. Berkeley opened your eyes to learning about the world. Boston taught you how you can make your mark on this society. Houston and what’s next will be no different; Texas will bring unimaginable gifts.

Bro, let’s go.

===

1 Although my moves to Berkeley, San Francisco, and Boston have always been for the purpose of a furthering my career, I never struggled with these moves because I always lived as if I was returning home one day. Back to Southern California after the Bay Area. Back to California after Boston. Neither of these ever happened and its daunting to realize that I am not living with the comfort of pretending to know what’s next.

Vacation: checking kicks out since 3rd grade (Montevideo, Uruguay 2017)

I awoke to a sliver of sunlight singeing my upper thighs. The sounds of Montevideo lazily waking up poured through my open windows as I checked for itchy spots on my body – signs of surviving the night without any more mosquito bites. Realizing I went unscathed, I reconfigured my body to avoid the slice of mid morning sunlight.

Sure, I was trivially irritated from my clothes sticking on my body due to the lack  of air conditioning and from having a single half-functioning toilet for an apartment of eight friends. However, I was more amused that I had woken in a situation far away from my Boston life, physically and especially, mentally.

The previous 16 months had been a hustle. Not your Forbes definition of hustle but rather my own mid-20’s definition of the word. I didn’t save lives nor set out as an entrepreneur. Instead, I relentlessly explored career opportunities and threw myself into business school activities in the hopes I’ll learn something from it all. I became a markedly different person – more urgent, less forgiving, and a whole lot more tired.

But something was different that morning in Uruguay. Everything slowed and I felt refreshed.

Having walked a couple blocks to a bookstore turned coffee shop, I was seated in a shaded courtyard enjoying a simple medialuna, a croissant brushed with sugar and baked so that the ham and cheese melted within the pastry. It was satisfying and I felt fully present ..

.. listening to the Spanish spoken around me .. how is my Spanish so poor despite eating in Mexican taquerias my entire childhood? ..

.. reading about the weakening fishing industry in Cambodia .. its been too long since I’ve felt my heart throb during a fishing strike and it’s a shame how little I exercise my fish conservation college minor knowledge ..

.. and observing the shoes on everyone’s feet ..  How are New Balances so popular here? Am I really that vain? I’ve been checking out everyone’s kicks since 3rd grade ..

My mind wandered, connecting the past and present in a way that my scheduled and structured school life never allowed it to.

2017 is the first time I uttered the words “I need a vacation.’

Fortunate enough to be able to travel, I’ve always jetted with the intent of exploring a restaurant, seeing loved ones, or immersing myself in an unknown culture. Never has a trip meant to be relaxing – all inclusive resorts in the Maldives never sounded appealing and still don’t.

However, if a trip allows my mind to enter a reflective state, to connect the dots of my life, and to appreciate it all, then sign me up – I’m all about vacations too.

I’m about to embark on an adventure where I’m doubling down on my career. It’s a deliberate decision to give up some time for my hobbies in the hopes I find a fulfillment in a professional career. Maybe I find it. Maybe I don’t.

More importantly though, I hope to never forget the taco trucks ubiquitous in my home state California, the trout filled rivers of the Sierra Nevada, or my lifelong disdain for New Balance running shoes. Cause these shaped who I am and where I hope to go.

And if a plane ticket abroad is what’s required to weave all this back into my everyday, then you’ll find me thinking away in a foreign café, observing people’s shoes.

On vacation.

==

Escaramuza
Dr. Pablo de María 1185
11200 Montevideo, Uruguay

Reliving the Past – Asador Extebarri (Basque Country, Spain 2017)

I didn’t think through it clearly. Why would I return to the restaurant that presented me one of the best dining experience of my life? Anything less than perfection would have offered disappointment. One simply does not muddle with such memories.

None of this crossed my mind until I walked down the cobblestone path to the entrance of Asador Extebarri, the restaurant in northern Spain that shaped how I have cooked and dined since my first and only visit in 2014.

I paused footsteps from the entrance, sharing with my friend that I was going to take photos of the entrance. Truthfully, I lingered to clear the emerging doubt in my mind.

The dining room hadn’t changed. The menu had a similar progression with a few familiar dishes. In fact, I sat at the same table three years ago. However, one thing about this experience would be different; I opted for the wine pairing. Within the last year, alcoholic beverages have found itself deeper embedded as part of my day-to-day. I left a job that often conducted breathalyzer checks to join a community where a drink a day was not out of the norm. During the entire meal, I felt like a sixth grade pre-algebra pupil sitting in an engineering graduate level course, eyes wide opened at the possibilities of wine but without a foundation for what any of it truly means.

But my visit was really about the food.

Within the first few courses, I remembered why I was here. Hints of charcoal from multiple dishes teased me; a subtle smokiness of the grill hid within the chanterelles mushroom cracker while the aromas of burning wood blanketed every bite of the grilled Palmamos prawns. The wafts and depths of the grill from each of the first seven dishes refocused me1. Regardless of the aforementioned doubt, I was ready for what was and remains the greatest single piece of steak food I have ever tasted, the Extebarri beef chop.

I chose to have the first bite whole, to capture the charred flavors of the grilled crust along with the muskiness of the interior, cooked rare. I had a clear palate, a full mouth, I couldn’t lose. Then, it all came back.

First, the best steaks from the last three years. Gwen in LA, VACA in Orange County, Els Casals outside of Barcelona, Peter Lugers in Brooklyn, the Weber grill in my yard. Every single one fell far short2 of Extebarri, my true and only benchmark of beef. Damn, I am fortunate to have visited all these places.

Next, the friends with whom I shared meals with and the defying conversations into the night that ensued. My college buddies who joined me 3 years ago for the first visit to this Basque country restaurant. The friend that day who was crazy enough to fly to Spain for 36 hours to join me in eating here. And all the friends, new and old, whom seen me not only grow into a world-class food snob but also an individual who cannot hit pause on this game of life.

Lastly, it was all that I’ve become, learned, and failed in the three years between visits to this fine dining temple.

I’ve shed some of my ridiculousness the last few years. Air-guitar shower solos less frequent. Midnight bike rides to the beach non-existent. I can’t even recall the last time I traveled solely to visit a restaurant, the hallmark of my post-college years.

Career progression, moving cross-country, and everything in between seemed to do that to me, but dining at Asador Extebarri this fall day rekindled something in me. If anything, it brought me back to 2014; a simplicity, a purity, and a naïveté that I too often long for today.

I placed the fork down as a droplet of a tear formed, ready to run its course.

And for a moment, all was right in this world.

Asador Extebarri
San Juan Plaza, 1
48291 Atxondo, Bizkaia, Spain

===

Note 1: I really shouldn’t discount the rest of the meal. The grilled gambas and the grilled porcini and aubergine dish really were spectacular, enough to fall within the top 10 bites of the year. However, when you buy tickets to see Kobe’s last game, no one cares if Gordon Hayward drops 20-5-5.

Note 2: The only experience that ever came close was on a flight from LAX to Calgary. I was eating leftover 60-day dry aged rib steak from VACA in Costa Mesa. I didn’t recognize the funk and greatness of the steak the previous night at the restaurant but upon eating the meat cold, it had a wonderful flavor that came halfway to Extebarri’s perfection. Do dry aged steaks taste better cold? I have yet to figure this out.

Asador Extebarri (Basque Country, Spain 2014)

It’s not every restaurant, especially a fine dining one, where I am greeted at the door by a chef reading a newspaper. However, this was Asador Extebbari, and the fancy norms of Michelin restaurants didn’t seem to apply in this Spanish foothill town of Atxondo.  Turning around and checking his watch, he casually put on his apron, smiled, and gestured us toward the dining room.

What proceeded that unexpected country side welcoming was a fifteen course lunch that brought an unadulterated excitement that I had only associated with my blissfully ignorant youth. Forget knowing which farm your strawberries came from or what temperature this egg was cooked at. The grilled food at Asador Extebarri was simply fantastic.

A few years back, I saw a post about the ribeye at Asador Extebarri in the Basque region of Spain. It looked gorgeous with its crisp edges and velvet interior – a quintessential iconic dish from a restaurant in the Spanish country side. Flying to Spain seemed ludicrous at the time, so I just buried it on my restaurants to try list.

However, I was in Scandinavia soon after, for noma.  Then, in the Pacific Northwest for Willows Inn on Lummi Island. A layover in Tokyo solely for Ryugin.  Again to Scandinavia, but this time to Jämtland for Fäviken. Another few days to the San Juan Islands in Washington, still for Willows Inn.

And in the summer of 2014, I finally visited Asador Extebarri.

Slices of chorizo, as a welcoming snack, jolted my senses awake as the flavors and spices fought for center stage.  Another snack, salted anchovies on bread so perfectly toasted that the crunch and chew countered all of the fish’s brine. A tomato with buffalo mozzarella course masterfully balanced the hearty, comforting cheese with the tomato at the peak of its seasonality and therefore, flavour.  Then, grilled prawns were served with no utensils. The sucking of the shrimp head juices was even better than the perfectly cooked slightly raw tail.  A slice of tuna belly followed. Lightly grilled on the edges, tataki style, I no longer credit nigiri sushi as the best toro preparation.

Finally, the ribeye arrived.

Upon eating a piece, the crunch of the crisp edges lingered longer than any steak I’ve had. Maybe it was my mind holding onto the perfect charred texture or maybe it was just grilled that flawlessly. Then an unfiltered musk followed. A tinge of sweet. Hints of smoke. Cheese? The flavors were so complex and satisfying, it gave me pause.

It was undoubtedly and in every essence of the word, perfect.

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See photos from the rest of the meal here.

Willows Inn on Lummi Island (Pacific Northwest 2014)

To visit a destination restaurant without understanding their terroir is a waste. I’ve gone to many exceptional restaurants without any due diligence and left rather confused and frustrated, knowing  I squandered an opportunity to understand the experience.1

A second visit to Willows Inn on Lummi Island, paired with an extended trip in Washington state, allowed me to more fully embrace the experience of this special restaurant. Half a year ago, I visited and was excited d by the sorrel picked by the side of the road, the grilled escarole, and the exclusivity of trying to reach the place. I was intrigued but it wasn’t enough time. I was in and out of the area within 24 hours.

This trip, I parked myself in Washington for a week. I explored coastal tide pools. I hiked mushroom and berry filled trails. I wandered in farmers markets. And at Willows Inn, everything I discovered was highlighted in a meal – the salmon berries, the parade of local “snacks”, or even the progression of the meal fittingly following the trajectory of the sun, ending as the sun set.Together, they represented the Pacific Northwest experience.

Since my last visit, the meal has added a few more small bites to start. The snacks, all locally sourced, range from smoked shellfish and salmon to kale chips with black truffles. They set the stage for you to understand where you are at that moment.

Grilled mustard green with shaved herring roe.

Weathervane scallops and horseradish

Spot prawns poached with its roe.

Porcini mushrooms in sweet woodruff.

Grass fed lamb and grasses.

Salmon berries with wild roses. Chef Blaine explained that the two ingredients here overlap only 2 weeks of the year.

Given the opportunity to spend a week in the San Juans and the surrounding areas, I got to give context to my unique meal at Willows Inn. It’s hard to understand a sense of time and place without actually spending some time in that place. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to spend more time than just the day of the meal when it comes to visiting destination restaurants. But for a restaurant like Willows Inn, the trip surrounding the restaurant is worth it.

It is the restaurant to understand time and place. Perhaps that’s what Michelin meant when they describe a restaurant as worth a journey itself.

See photos from the rest of the meal here.

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1 L’Arpege, Pierre Gagnaire, Sushi Mizutani come to mind where salvaging the uninformed  experience on the spot was out of the question due to language barriers.

2  I recommend visiting in the summer. The three hour meal ends as the sun sets. A meal that doesn’t take advantage of its surroundings more than that.