Friday, June 20, 2014

Eating BIG in Spain: Top Ten Pinxtos in San Sebastián

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- For the love of Pinxtos 

In case you haven't been following along this month, it's all Spain, all the time thru June. I spent 18 days in there recently on what was mostly a pleasure based trip. This meant lots of food and drink thus San Sebastián was a must. We'd spend five days in the beautiful seaside town and ate as good as I ever have without stopping in at any of the Michelin spots. I got nothing against the Fat French Tireman and even had reservations for two places but we canceled them for the love of pinxtos. Feel free to check my complete San Sebastián report with almost everything we ate and please enjoy this listage that I'm sharing here today. No doubt about it San Sebastian was the highlight as far as food goes from the four stops we made traveling thru Spain (Madrid, Seville, San Sebastián, Barcelona). So without further ado my top ten pinxtos I ate while in San Sebastián.


10) Battered Prawns from Tamboril

In a word: Satisfying

Notes: I munched on these while we bar hopped during the Real Madrid vs Athletico Champions League Final. They're fried to order and come with three prawns inside the airy almost dessert like dough. They were the perfect snack paired with a beer and are one of the favorites of the locals.

9) Arroz Del Dia from Atari

In a word: Comforting

Notes: This hopping spot by the church in Olde Towne was packed on each of our visits. They have pinxtos on the bar as well as hot ones made to order. You can also get half and full portion plates and they make a handful of different gin and tonics and have a nice patio with outdoor seating along one side. The rice of the day can be ordered as a pinxto or full serving and whichever one you choose it will comfort. On this day they had a deep chicken broth with crisped up jamon and roasted cherry tomatoes on top. Due to the fact it was raining and 50 degrees out this really hit the spot.

8) Txangurro (Rock Crab) from Ganbara

In a word: Savory

Notes: On our first night in town we had a pinxtos tour of the Olde Towne area booked and this was one of a few stops from it with an item that made my list. Our tour guide Eli (pronounced Elly) was fantastic and brought us here for their signature pinxto which is basically a Basque version of a crab cake. We found ourselves stopping in for one, amongst hordes of other people, on more than one occasion. I'd encourage everyone visiting to take the tour with San Sebastian Food as there's so many stops in town that they switch it up often and you eat and drink the price of the ticket while getting a locals scoop of what to order, not just at the places you visit but also the spots you pass. Not to mention the different people from around the globe you'll meet on the tour.

7) Stuffed Asparagus from Bar Iturrioz

In a word: Delectable

Notes: The specialty of the house at this bar located amongst the shopping center is this pinxto made with white asparagus wrapped in jamon and cheese thats then coated in batter and fried to order. I tried not to eat too many of the same things knowing I could always come back but I had three of these in one sitting and talked myself out of getting a fourth. It's been hard going back to normal stuff like onion rings.

6) Sirloin Steak (Solomillo) from Gandarias

In a word: Juicy

Notes: Another stop from the food tour where they did special things with beef and mushrooms. Nothing fancy here just sirloin steak grilled to a perfect rare that gets topped with a roasted pimento pepper and some chunky sea salt on top a piece of bread. You need to eat this one fast because the bread can only hold up to so much of the juice seeping out of the meat. There would be multiple stops for this.

5) La Hoguera (The Bonfire) at Zeruko

In a word: Fun 

Notes: This gastronomic pinxto bar took my breath away. The selection process was insanely overwhelming. They had literally 100's of selections that extended from one end of the bar to the other. This is another example of why you need to get on the food tour and not only enjoy the selections they serve you but also ask them what else is good at each of the spots you visit. In the case of Bar Zeruko it's all good. However one must get is this magnificent setup called 'the Bonfire'. It comes served on a small casserole topped with a metallic grid. Below is a piece of charcoal with some rosemary atop it. You grill the piece of half smoked cod to your liking and put it on the bread that comes with a tasty creamy onion and parsley sauce. To finish you shoot the asparagus juice in the test tube. A delicious and also very engaging pinxto.

4) Prawn with Bacon Skewer at Goiz Argi

In a word: Addicting

Notes: Yet another one of the spots Eli and the San Sebastian Food tour brought us too this was actually our first stop of the trip and ended up being our most visited bar by far. The prawn skewer with bacon topped with an amazing hot (in temp) salsa like concoction was literally lick your fingers good. We must of been in here for one or two on at least six occasions.

3) Duck Confit Ravioli from La Cuchara De San Telmo

In a word: Marvelous

Notes: Truth be told any of the things I ate at this place could of made this list but I chose to only include one pinxto from each spot. This was my favorite place to eat and I went thru most of the menu on my three visits. Check da ole blog to see all of it but the major highlight was probably this duck confit ravioli that was just brilliant. Everything is made to order here and most of the pinxtos which come listed on a chalkboard are around $4/5 Euros. I thought it was a steal, hell the whole town is as far as these pinxto bars go. The ladies in the kitchen need a Michelin sign on their wall. I'll be back here on day one of my return to town.

2) Urola from Casa Urola

In a word: Refreshing

Notes: This place was a close second as far as my favorite places to eat goes. It doubles as a sit-down restaurant and we were tempted to go upstairs but the items on offer downstairs were just to damn good to pass up. They have a selection of ready to eat options as well as some hot ones and specials for the day on a chalkboard. I actually ordered this accidentally when thinking their scallop pinxto (Vieira) was the 'Urola' which is the first one listed. As good as the scallop in cream option is I was glad to be wrong. Described as "cuchara de salpicón de bogavante fresco" on the menu this was the best damn lobster salad you'll ever take a bite of.

1) Foie Gras ala Plancha from Bar Alex

In a word: Grand

Notes: Located the opposite way of the main shopping and bar hopping district (San Sebastian is pretty small) was this locally loved bar. All of these places were great but the service here was top notch and came with a laughing smile each time I returned for this plate. The foie gras ala plancha with a salsa de cebolla y naranja and pecans was something that made me want to stop in each morning before doing anything else after my first time trying it. If I could eat this everyday I'd die a young and happy man.

Note: I'm choosing not to include addresses because they're easy enough to find online. However if you're headed this way, feel free to email me and I'll forward my list of all the spots I deemed worthy of a stop, many of which I never made it too. That said Spain as a whole was worthy of a second visit so I'll have another crack at them someday soon. See ya next time @chibbqking.

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