Saturday, February 21, 2009

Europe: San Sebastian, Spain

NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of articles concerning my Europe trip. See below for links to the previous articles:



More Barcelona

Zaragoza: Part 1

Zaragoza: Part 2 (Tapas!)

Zaragoza: Videos

We stayed in San Sebastian for 2 hours. However, in those two hours I had one of the most amazing meals of my life. So follow my narrative as I spin the story of mi almuerzo de pinxtos ("My Pinxtos lunch")


Here we are, arriving in San Sebastian. For those of you who do not know much about San Sebastian, let me enlighten you.

San Sebastian is just south of the French border, and it on the seaside. They are renowned, among other things, for their pinxtos bars. Pinxtos are the western Spanish equivalent of tapas.


While San Sebastian is Spanish, we would actually be driving to the Pays Basque region of France later that day; it was only 20 minutes over the border (from the house at which we were staying in France, one can see Spain). Above, you can see Sylvie, our extremely kind French hostess, who met us at the train station in San Sebastian. I will talk about her more later, but allow me just to say here that she was the exemplar of generosity and kindness to us, and I do not think anyone could have made us feel more welcomed than she did.


As you can see from the above pasteleria, San Sebastian, like the rest of Spain, is a magical place for a gourmet like myself. However, I hadn't seen anything until Sylvie guided us to our lunch spot.


I nearly cried when I went inside. The colors, the atmosphere, the food; it was all nearly too much for poor me. You can see the bartendress above pouring sidra, the traditional Basque apple cider into the glass. I grabbed it, and then I was off!


The pinxtos all come with toothpicks. At the end, the bartender counts all the toothpicks and then charges you the appropriate amount. Essentially, I took this to mean that I could eat as much as I wanted and answer for it later. Above, you can see pinxtos of morcilla sausage, manchego cheese, and at the front, alcachofa: deep fried artichoke heart wrapped in ham.


Above is a closer shot of the alcachofa, once I had bitten into it.


Some of their delicious jamon serrano, ruby red, on a fantastic baguette. You can't see it in this shot, but from the ceiling hung entire legs of ham, ready to sliced to order and plopped on top of a piece of bread.


Another plate of more stuff: I don't really know what any of this was. The black sausage in the foreground LOOKED like morcilla, but was extremely soft, not hard. It had great flavor though.


Same plate. The front thing in the pastry crust was something like an eel salad in pastry sherll. Pretty good. In the background right is brie cheese with sardine on bread. Very nummy.

All that follows are just gratuitous food porn shots. I ate a lot more than what I showed above, but honestly, it looked similar.


Tortilla espanol, waiting to be picked up and eaten.


More pinxtos in the pastry crust.

After this delightful feast, we piled into Sylvie's car and bade farewell to Spain. In hindsight, it treated us extremely well. I enjoyed the laid back Spanish culture immensely, from the coastal attitude of the Barcelonians, to the hectic and frenetic lives of the Zaragozans. I was sorry to leave, but I knew my trip was just getting started.

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