Tag Archives: san sebastián

San Sebastián Gastronomika: What 2012 Brings

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One of the world’s most recognized culinary conferences is just around the corner: San Sebastián Gastronomika. We’ll have coverage here on EITB, but until then, there are a few things you should know!

*This year, France is the focus of the conference. This means there will be French chefs imparting their classic (and not-so-classic) wisdom to the masses.

* This year, Gastronomika is celebrated in the good weather half of fall: October 7-10.

* At the last minute, some great sections have been added: “The method of London Nº 1”, a theater piece by Carlos Moreno, Juan Echanove, Loquillo and ChristianEscribà; “Cocinando con” and more.

*A tasting of cachaças by Rodrigo Oliveira (restaurante Mocotó, Sao Paulo, Brasil)

*A tasting of foie gras Rougié and Txakoli from Getaria

*an event that promises to be interesting: a pairing of two cheeses, Idiazabal y Ossau Iraty, tasting included.

*the ending of the conference will be celebrated by a cake-for-all surprise, an homage created by Christian Escribà  and Patricia Schmidt.

Would you miss this? We won’t!

Why Not Raw?

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Last week, I stopped into one of Donosti’s most cosmopolitan eateries, La Madame.  And what awaited me but something that I had been craving for months: raw tuna. As I was devouring Kevin Patricio’s creation of espresso aioli, diced raw tuna, nori and radishes, I felt a wave of confusion.

In this country, with its love of tuna, why is it not served raw more often?  You find it conserved, mostly, and sometimes in soups. Rare is the opportunity to eat a hunk of grilled tuna, the more common way of consuming it in the States.

The eating population here has a complex with raw fish, due to the prevalence of anisakis, but I’m not sure that it affects tuna, which at this point has to be fished pretty far away. Either way, this is a dish for the books.

La Madame San Sebastián ·San Bartolomé 35, San Sebastián · +34 943 444 269

Dan Lepard in The Loaf

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I’m not very political minded.

But I have to admit I’ve always been more or less in favor of independence for the Basque Country. Why? Because I’m pretty sure I could get the job of ambassador! I mean, I speak a bit of Euskera, I’m spending the summer in Ataun, the Basquest of Basque villages, and I have to be the number one foreign fan of this place (okay, I can think of about four others who are possibly equally deserving). I say this all joking, and really just to introduce an Englishman who, if I were ambassador of Euskadi, would fill in for me on summer vacation: Dan Lepard.

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He’s the baking mastermind at The Loaf, Donosti’s favorite new place to wait in line.

And besides making marvelous bread at San Sebastián’s first pop-up bakery, he also is writing about Basque baked goods in The Guardian this month.  Check out some of his recipes below if you want to try your hand at some:

San Sebastián Gastronomika Program announced

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San Sebastián Gastronomika, one of the world’s premiere culinary conferences, announced this week the programming for this year’s event, October 7-10.

This year’s conference will feature the greats from the father of modern cuisine: cuisine française. The most famous of its chefs will be in attendance: Alain Senderens, Jacques Maximin, Pierre Gagnaire, Michel Bras, Michel Troisgros and Anne-Sophie Pic.  And, perhaps most importantly, its famous wines, cheeses, and the products that make French cuisine what it is.

Attendees can also look forward to a tasting competition between Spanish and French cheeses. And, of course, the list of local chefs that is really, really impressive: Arbelaitz, Arzak, Berasategui, Aduriz y Subijana, Joan Roca, Quique Dacosta, Carme Ruscalleda, Dani García. You can visit San Sebastian Gastronomika for more information.

The other exciting change? Moving it to the beginning of October, for better weather. Love this place.

Keler Pintxo Week

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This weekend marked the beginning of another initiative that hungry residents and visitors to San Sebastián might find interesting: Keler Pintxo Week.

From last Saturday to June 17, several bars across town will be offering four pintxos and two beers for ten euros. It’s like a perma-pote.  Glancing over the press dossier, the offerings stand out especially at Pincel, Bokado, and Kota.31.

Participating restaurants and bars include: Astelena, Atari, Bergara, Bernardo Etxea, Bodega Donostiarra, Bokado – San Telmo, Café de la Concha, Casa Alcalde, Dardara, Iombi, Iturrioz, Kata 4, Kota 31, Mesón Martín, Pagadi, Pincel, Rojo & Negro, Sport, Txalupa y Txuleta.

City wide pintxo fun for everyone! Chime in if you’ve had the chance to try it.


#ssrestweek: La Fábrica + Patxi Aizpuru

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Time for another San Sebastián Restaurant Week face-off.

Among my eating travails this week are two Old Part stalwarts, La Fábrica and Patxi Aizpuru.  La Fábrica is ranked number two on Trip Advisor (!) for San Sebastián.

Patxi Aizpuru: Selection of Seasonal Vegetables

This dish was a complete surprise. It’s not as easy as one would think to find all the typical vegetables of the season in one place, much less on one plate. And that’s what Patxi does at his Old Part restaurant.  You get asparagus, artichokes, spring onion and whatever other veggies are in season (he informed us we had just missed the favas).

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La Fábrica: Porcini and wild mushroom ravioli.

There aren’t too many ways to lose when you’re mixing two delicious mushrooms and stuffing them in pasta dough, to be coated with a thick, rich sauce.

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And the winner is: Patxi Aizpuru.  The dish at La Fábrica was absolutely delicious, but in a way that was much more predictable than Patxi’s plate. Plus, he gets extra points for his passion, coming out and explaining to us exactly which mountain his veggies were grown on, and all about the “majo chaval” that grows them. What American can resist that talk?

Round two over! Stay tuned.


#ssrestweek: La Cepa + La Muralla

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Well, we are in the thick of San Sebastián’s first-ever restaurant week, and I have the fortune of being able to visit each restaurant to see what is occurring seasonally across a fairly broad spectrum of restaurants. Sixteen restaurants are participating, and they range from the almost-famous Narru to lesser-known restaurants deep in the interior of Gipuzkoa.

The goal is to display seasonality, provide value, and give customers a chance to visit new restaurants and old favorites at a bargain price of just 25 euros, which includes 3-5 courses, wine, and often coffee.

Today I am talking about two restaurants, both classics of the old part: La Muralla and La Cepa, and putting their best two plates in a faceoff.

La Cepa: Hake ‘a la koskera’, or in a sauce of peas, asparagus and clams.

This is a super dish; soft, tender hake served in a rich sauce that looks like spring.

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La Muralla: Lamb au jus with a light potato puree.

Tender lamb with a glaze that just begs to photographed, served over lighter than air potatoes and with a salad.

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And the winner is: La Muralla.  I liked the concept of the plate at La Cepa, but with the glory that is the peas right now in Basque Country I would have liked to see them a bit fresher. Asparagus, too. Meanwhile, the meat, oh the meat at La Muralla….so so tender, but not in a carrillera way. Perfectly balanced dish. Beautiful plating.

Round one over! Stay tuned.

Basques in The World’s 50 Best

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Yesterday the announcement for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants was made, and Basque Country chefs continue to have a very outsized presence on this list.

Coming in at NUMBER THREE is a personal favorite of mine, located ten minutes outside of San Sebastián,  Mugaritz. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and his team is truly deserving of that spot.  Arzak also holds strong, at number 8, with Elena Arzak winning an additional accolade of Best Female Chef.

For me, what is truly special about the Basque presence in the top 50 is not only the outsized presence Basque chefs hold (for a region that isn’t much bigger than an American state) but also how loyal they are to their culinary traditions.  Eating at one of these restaurants is NOT a cosmopolitan, global experience. It’s quite the opposite-the meals tend to be strongly tied to their location and traditions (like the Wind Comb dessert, from Arzak, above). It’s a strength.

Etxebarri, in leaps and bounds that can be attributed to word of mouth as well as alignment with current gastronomic trends such as using amazing product and  leaving well enough alone, comes in this year at number 31.  Martín Berasategui, on the other hand, drops to 67.

Gora Euskadi! On egin!

Pintxo Pic : Kota 31

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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.

Gastro-Tourism: San Sebastián Food

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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.

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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.

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A must visit for tourists with a taste for luxury and no time for research.