Not long ago, on my blog, I offered a sneak peek into the newest bar in San Sebastián, Kota.31.
A pintxo bar that’s a modern take on Donostian small plate staples like foie and croquetas (which were particularly delicious), it’s located in the heart of the old town on 31st of August Street in the locale that used to be home to Bide Bide.
Here’s a sneak pintxo peek, a contrast of textures: grilled scallop + popcorn | vieira + palomitas.
This week I attended the official inauguration of San Sebastián Food‘s new offices on Calle Aldamar, in the old part of San Sebastián. San Sebastian Food, run by Jon Warren, is a non-stop shop for the food-oriented tourist in San Sebastián. Out of their new offices they offer everything from pintxo tours, to days in La Rioja, to jewelry inspired by local products, to the occasional in-office wine tasting.
These guys know their stuff…they’ve got a knowledgeable wine guide and a super-friendly local pintxo tour guide. During the summer, they host an incredible event called Discover the Basque Country, led by author Paddy Woodworth.
If you’re intimidated by the pintxo process, take the guided tour. It’s perfect if you have just a night in town, didn’t do your research on my blog, and don’t want to risk pintxo blunders: 5 drinks, 5 pintxos, 5 bars and good conversation.
A must visit for tourists with a taste for luxury and no time for research.
E is for…Espelette! This tiny town in Iparralade, the north (also known as French) part of Basque Country, is renowned for its special red pepper. Although the town is mostly empty now, and largely run for tourists, the pepper continues to be harvested and hung to dry on the picturesque walls of the traditional Basque villas.
Once dried, this pepper is often ground and used as a spice, much as you would use cayenne or black pepper. It packs a bit of heat. It is an essential ingredient in local dishes like axoa, a stew of veal and braised peppers. As Spanish and Basque cuisine has caught on in anglophone cultures, you can often find it on menus in England and America (piment d’espelette aioli, for example).
There’s even a party held in the village every year (this year it falls on October 27 and 28), which includes a blessing of the peppers, pelota, and feasting. It’s another unique and useful tool in the Basque culinary toolbox.
Another installment of the Basque food ABC’s. Today we talk about the letter…D!
For those of you who are confused, thinking about the last entry published (babarrunak, which clearly starts with B), you should know that the Basque alphabet has no letter ‘c’.
So, D is for….Danborrada! In Spanish it’s the Tamborrada, and in English a simple Day of San Sebastián will suffice. It’s quite possibly the biggest celebration in the city, and definitely one of the biggest in Basque Country. But what is it?
Beginning at midnight on January 20, citizens crowd into the Plaza de la Constitución to kick off this twenty-four-hour party. And everyone is dressed as….chefs! Banging drums, pots, and whatever they can get their hands on, Donostiarras parade in their krewes through the city, stopping at various bars and taking a long pause for a lengthy lunch, often including the specialty angulas (see the A entry in the ABC’s).
Legend has it that, once upon a time, when Napoleonic troops invaded the city, the cooks of the city chased them away by banging kitchen utensils threateningly. That’s where the custom of dressing up in cook’s garb comes from. Really, it’s another raucous festival, only slightly less food-focused than the average Basque jaiak. It’s everyone’s favorite. Don’t miss it!