22 September 2011

What to eat: Basque Country

We went to the Basque region in (large) part to eat, and we weren't disappointed.

We didn't have a single meal in France - the formal dining style didn't suit our needs on this particular trip - but in Spain we had no problem finding really good food with Jasper in tow. We mostly enjoyed casual tapas, or pintxos, but even sit-down restaurants were tolerant of babies in strollers. Unlike dining stateside, kids are neither scorned nor embraced in restaurants and bars. There are no kid's seats, toys or crayons, but there aren't harsh looks when a stroller-pusher walks through the door either. Obviously we didn't bring Jasper to super-fancy restaurants, but other than that we were pretty unrestricted.

It took us a while to figure out the rhythm of a typical day, but I now understand it to be something like this:

Breakfast is small, usually a coffee accompanied by a pastry or yogurt, and it is almost always taken sitting down. Despite a slow infiltration of portable paper cups into pastry shops, to-go coffee is still a rarity.

Lunch is the big meal, and seems to take place somewhere between 1-4 pm. Our hosts in San Sebastien explained that this is the meal they most often cook at home, and it's rarely a small affair. I'd recommend starting out with some Pintxos at a bar - early while they're still fresh - and then eating a sit-down lunch after you're nice and warmed up. Oh and feel free to imbibe, since you'll be indulging in a siesta afterward. It's like tailgating EVERY DAY!

Dinner is late, I assume since people have to pack in extra hours at work to compensate for all that lunching and napping. From what I gather, it usually consists of pintxos or a light meal, and is eaten after 9.

Don't leave without trying the guindilla (little green peppers that aren't usually spicy, but can be), bacalao (salted cod), anchovies/sardines (we're still not sure which are which), Basque cider (unpasteurized, farmy and delicious), and ham. So yeah - try not to be vegetarian.

Here are some highlights. Not pictured but also not to be missed are shots of Getaria, where restaurants lining the harbor grill fresh seafood.

Bacalao from our one fancy date, guindilla, tuna grilled at a tuna festival. San Sebastien.

Pintxos in Hondarribia (first four) and Bilbao
(last two)

The rest of our photos can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. From the Times: "An avant-garde dish called Juego de Verdura claims to be just that. On a small plate there are two short glasses, one spewing cloudlike vapor and the other containing layers of egg, mushroom, vegetable soup and spinach-tinged foam. Strangely delicious, it also makes sense: Envision jogging upward past hens (there’s the egg), then mushrooms and small vegetable gardens (that’s the green soup and foam), and, upon reaching the summit, being surrounded by early morning mist (that’s the bartender’s cue to pour hot broth over dry ice, unleashing a swirl of fog over the table)." It looks like we got the lunch version in figure #4.