San Sebastian (or in Basque Donosti) is the food capital of the Basque Country. In this city you can find a lot a restaurants with Michelin stars and the best pintxos. But if you are a tourist you have no idea where to find the best pintxos. There is a solution. San Sebastian Food is a company to guide tourist around food in the Basque Country. They offer guide pintxos tours, Basque cooking classes and wine tastings so tourist can find the real flavour of the Basque country.
In a small kitchen in restaurant Ziaboga in Pasaia, chef Alex Barcenilla is cooking a typical Basque meal: black beans called alubia. Because Basques don’t eat only one dish, he is also cooking pork, sausages, cabbage, pork chops and more sausages.
He is cooking with his cousin Christina Ibañez because to tourist group of today canceled because of the bad weather. But that doesn’t keep him from giving the report and photographers a cooking lesson. He chopping peppers and cutting sausages telling about Basque food. His answers are translated by the owner of San Sebastian Food Jon Warren who plays the translator at the cooking classes. “You have to treat the food with love”, says Barcenilla when is picking up a big pan full of bowling water and the alubia’s and spins is carefully. “You shouldn’t stir the beans with a spoon because then you will hurt them. Treat them with all the love you have.”
The cooking class tourist can attend with San Sebastian Food will teach them how to cook typical Basque meals. “Almost ninety percent of the time we will cook fish”, explains Warren with an apron on. “Because this restaurant is close to the sea we work with a lot of sea products. It’s very normal for Basque to cook with the seasons but also with local products.”
Apart from attending cooking classes you can also experience the Basque food culture in an easier way. Warren started his business with guided pintxo tours across San Sebastian. “The tours aren’t the same every time”, Warren says when is walking true the city. “We have to explore new spots and the opening hours of bars. So it is a bit different every time. Before a group comes we already have six places in mind that we will visit. I can change because somebody has allergies but usually we go to traditional and modern bars to taste the pintxos and wine.”
You pay the tours upfront (85 Euro per person) and the crew will handle all the finances. “The good thing about our tours is that we know what is good at witch bar”, explains Elin Jonsson, guide of San Sebastian Food, in an traditional pintxo bar. “If you don’t know what pintxo the best one is, you probable won’t order it so that is were we come in. I do it myself to. If I go to Bilbao I don’t know witch bar is the best so I ask my friends from over there.”
One of the places that the pintxo tours attends (not every time but often) is the bar Zeruko. It’s a modern and cool bar where the most amazing pintxo are displayed on the bar. “The cooking over here is very modern and molecular”, says Jonsson, pointing at the pintxos at the bar. “The cook invents his own pintxos. And what is also very special about this place is the owner. The woman is helping with serving the food but still looks stylish and representative doing it.”
In the white, clean and crowded bar you can order pintxos that are displayed on the bar but also order them from the kitchen. “They have very spectacular pintxos with smoke or flames”, according to Warren. And that is true. The hole bar is looking when somebody orders a smoking pintxos because the smoke is quite noticeable. The pintxo is a small grill with little coals under it. A small piece of fresh fish is grilling and a small mountain of vegetables and sauce on a piece of bread is just next to it. The bartender points at the pintxo and says you have to eat it in one bite. And according to the taster is delicious.
“The food looks magnificent but not all the food is really tasty”, guide Jonsson says. “But you have to try these pintxos just to see how different pintxos can be.”