The Faces of Culture : Alex López

It's Friday, and that means another face from San Sebastián.  In 2016, San Sebastián is one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture, which is why once a week you will hear from a different figure from the cultural scene around these parts. 

Presenting this week:   

alex lopez dabadaba

Álex López Allende is a familiar face to anyone who follows the Donosti music scene.  A jack-of-all-musical-trades, he plays drums with local garage pop group Kokoshca. But then he also moonlights organizing concerts with Ayo Silver, a concert promoting company he founded. This enthusiasm for the music industry culminated in the opening of Dabadaba, with partners Sebastián Salaberry and Jon Ander Soto, in mid-2014. Dabadaba has since become San Sebastián’s most important alternative music venue.

*Current gig:  Promoter at Dabadaba
*Instagram/Twitter: @Marlon_brandy
*Website: www.dabadabass.com
*I’m reading: Energy Flash: A Journey through rave music and dance culture” by Simon Reynolds
*I’m listening to: To Where The Wild Things Are by Death & Vanilla

Where are you from?
 Ibiza.

How long have you lived in San Sebastián?
I was raised in Pasajes since I was four, and I moved to Donostia eight years ago. 

San Sebastián in one word:  cómoda-acomodada (comfortable-well to do). And too wealthy.

What is your favorite way to experience the culture of San Sebastián?
A concert in Le Bukowski, and now in Dabadaba, of course. 

What is the café/bar/restaurant you find yourself in most often?
Bar Narrika!

What’s your perfect Saturday plan in San Sebastián? 
A sandwich at Narrika [what he doesn't mention is what he is going to do now that they're closing!], a beer in Aker and Eiger, and finishing off in Bukowski, Dabadaba, and Cactus.

What is your favorite pintxo?
Patatas bravas in Narrika!

The best spot for a selfie in San Sebastián? 
The bathrooms of Cactus. Or in the Náutico. 

What changes do you see happening here in the next 10 years?
The next five years will be marked by success in tourism and opulence, with a youth that can’t pay stable rents because all the apartments are occupied by foreign tourists. Followed by the popping of the bubble, an unsustainable elderly population and cultural and economic decadence. And a ton of public gyms, of course, because we would never want to go without plenty of gyms.

What is the thing you hope never changes?
That so many people are restless to do something, whether in food or culture.

It’s January 20th, the day of San Sebastián. What are you doing? 
Hopefully sleeping.

In your opinion, what makes San Sebastián stand out, what makes it different?
A key geographic location, with an appreciable European influence, a European way of life mixed with a certain taste for Mediterranean living.  The mixture is quite unique, really. As well as a culture of hard work..

What is the moment you have felt most proud to be donostiarra? 
Once, travelling in the United States, I saw a commercial on a cooking channel about a show featuring Donostia.  And a few weeks ago, I was able to see three concerts in one day, there were people in all of them, and I thought ‘whoever does things well and with a bit of coordination and effort can really take advantage of this place.’ I like that thought.

If San Sebastián were your best friend, what advice would you give her?
That she shouldn't spend so much time primping, ugly things can be pretty, too. 

If you were a foreigner, what would the ‘insider’ tip that you would like to know about San Sebastián? 
Bar Narrika and Egia (Cristina Enea, Bukowski, Daba, Km. 0, Garraxi, Zanpanzar, Sustrai, Cactus, Beti Boga,...). 

The most overrated thing about San Sebastián:
The beach.  

A typical day for you: 
It’s not very interesting. I go from Gros to Egia and Egia to Gros.

Come back every Friday for a new Face of Culture from San Sebastián.  If you missed last week's, with Mitxel Ezquiaga, click here.  And you can read up on Fernando Álvarez of DSS2016, too.

The Faces of Culture : Mitxel Ezquiaga

Last week I kicked off a special weekly section on the blog, a new look at this city that I've called home for six years. In The Faces of Culture, I will be interviewing the key cultural players in San Sebastián. In 2016, San Sebastián is one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture. And once a week you will hear from a different figure who figures into the music, art, food, sports, and language that make San Sebastián THE BEST PLACE EVER. 

Presenting this week:   

Mitxel Ezquiaga is a prominent local journalist and television personality in San Sebastián. After studying at the UPV, he moved on to work at the Diario Vasco, making it all the way up to Editor in Chief. Now he spends most of his time writing, and has published several books, from the Teoría Incompleta de Donostia, 101 Vascos y Medio, and Museo Chillida Leku. His show, Keridos Monstruos, airs every TUESDAY night on Teledonosti and perfectly captures the ‘donostiarra’ spirit. 

*Current gig:  Journalist, specializing in culture and food in the Diario Vasco, and presenter of Keridos Monstruos on Teledonosti.
*Instagram/Twitter: @mitxelezquiaga
*Website: n/a
*I’m reading: I change books each week for work, but Los Diarios de Iñaki Uriarte is always in the bedside table.
*I’m listening to: Thanks to my daughter, Xoel López and Tulsa are stuck in my head. Thanks to my son, always Springsteen. For sadder reasons, I’m going back through Bowie.

Where are you from?
 I’m from San Sebastián, but since they accuse me of being ñoñostiarra sometimes I say I’m from Tolosa, my father’s village, to even things out.

How long have you lived in San Sebastián?
Forever. 

San Sebastián in one word:  An older woman with a playful spirit. Moderately sexy.

What is your favorite way to experience the culture of San Sebastián?
My work obligates me to live culture deeply.  I enjoy it through the art exhibits and concerts, but my favorite thing to do is go to Trueba movie theater on a weeknight.. 

What is the café/bar/restaurant you find yourself in most often?
Rekondo is my paradise.  The warehouse of Bar xxx (CENSORED BY ME BECAUSE THIS PLACE IS TOO GOOD TO MENTION HERE) is the place they take me to conspire. San Telmo is where I go for a snack with my family. And El Frontón de Tolosa is my second home.

What’s your perfect Saturday plan in San Sebastián? 
A good morning walk on Igeldo, bookstores in the afternoon and some pintxos in the evening. If the opportunity arises, a Dry Martini in the Maria Cristina.

What is your favorite pintxo?
In my memory, forever, the fish pudding in the old Astelena, later Hika Mika.

The best spot for a selfie in San Sebastián? 
The shoreline of the Zurriola, at night, with the Kursaal illuminated in the background. (What the humble Mitxel doesn’t mention here is he has 365 days of selfies behind him). 

What changes do you see happening here in the next 10 years?
The city has been opened. There is already a broad base of cultural activity that isn’t always valued.  And there is a tourist invasion, most noticeably the French tourists with their go-to-Zara-and-have-a-pintxo plan.

What is the thing you hope never changes?
Her human side.  We have things from a big city (the festivals, for example) but a medium size. To get from your house to Woody Allen’s clarinetis only 20 minutes walking.

It’s January 20th, the day of San Sebastián. What are you doing? 
For many years, I was working in Teledonosti.  This time, I’ll be playing the drum in the Union Artesana and watching tamborradas on the street.

In your opinion, what makes San Sebastián stand out, what makes it different?
It unites the advantages of a small city and, sometimes, the positive aspects of a big city.

What is the moment you have felt most proud to be donostiarra? 
Any summer sunset—when the sun hides behind Igeldo, it makes you want to applaud, as if it were the finale of an opera.

If San Sebastián were your best friend, what advice would you give her?
Preserve your mature beauty…don’t even think about plastic surgery!  But wear a mini-skirt more often. 

If you were a foreigner, what would the ‘insider’ tip that you would like to know about San Sebastián? 
Knowing at what times there are less people in different places. 

The most overrated thing about San Sebastián:
We know that cuisine is our great trump card in the world, but we’re not only pintxos...  

A typical day for you: 
A morning walk along the bay, heading to work at the newspaper.  A light, work-related lunch and more work at the newspaper. A relaxed dinner.

Come back every Friday for a new Face of Culture from San Sebastián.  If you missed last week's, with Fernando Álvarez of DSS2016, click here.

The Faces of Culture : Fernando Álvarez Busca, DSS2016

2016: a new year, a new series on the blog.  In the past I’ve explored tapas on Tuesdays and my favorite spots on Mondays, but this year is a special one. In 2016, San Sebastián is one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture. What does that mean? More on that later, but at its most basic, a recognition for a distinctive cultural offering and a whole lot of EU-funded activities.  

To celebrate this special year, I will be interviewing the most important faces of culture in San Sebastián,  Once a week you will hear from a different figure who figures into the music, art, food, sports, and language that make San Sebastián THE BEST PLACE EVER. 

And, fittingly, the year of ‘The Faces of Culture Fridays’ kicks off with one of the key players of DSS2016, Fernando Alvarez Busca.  Hope you enjoy this new series…leave comments below!

Fernando Alvarez Busca is the director of communication of the Capital of Culture 2016 program.  A journalist by trade, this thirty-something has lived across the world, everywhere from Hong Kong to Rome. He participated in the drafting of the document that helped San Sebastián win the title, and now he is at the helm of it, organizing activities over 365 days that range from plein aire dinners to puppetry festivals to public academic dialogues. It’s complicated…but he still managed to take some time out to kick off this year’s series “San Sebastián : Faces of Culture”.

*Current gig:  Director of Donosti Capital of Culture 2016
*Instagram/Twitter: @fabusca in both.
*Website: not yet.
*I’m reading: I’ve had “En la orilla”, by Rafael Chirbes, for months waiting to be opened
*I’m listening to: El cumbion de los Andes, by Chancha Via Circuito

Where are you from
I was born in Pamplona, but I’ve been donostiarra (the local term for a resident of San Sebastián), since I was three.

How long have you lived in San Sebastián?
Since I returned from my travels as a journalist, five years. 

San Sebastián in one word: Demure (modosita)

What is your favorite way to experience the culture of San Sebastián?
It has always been the Trueba [the local theater that shows artsy and esoteric films in their original version]. Now, many more ways—the Victoria Eugenia, for example. 

What is the café/bar/restaurant you find yourself in most often?
Bar Zabaleta.

What’s your perfect Saturday plan in San Sebastián? 
Pack up and surf with friends in nearby Bidart. Then, at night, drinks in Dabadaba. 

What is your favorite pintxo?
The tortilla at Zabaleta. Also, the gilda at Casa Valles, nigiri de toro in Kenji, the ham croquette at Buenavista, hummus in Drinka, the ‘falcón’ at Falcón…

The best spot for a selfie in San Sebastián? 
I’m not a selfie person, but I guess the beach wall at Sagües. 

What changes do you see happening here in the next 10 years?
People will dance more in the bars. 

What is the thing you hope never changes?
I hope to never need a car. 

It’s January 20th, the day of San Sebastián. What are you doing? 
I usually am beating the drum in the Old Town…but this year I have to work. [DSS2016 kicks off formally two days after the Tamborrada}

In your opinion, what makes San Sebastián stand out, what makes it different?
The fact that all of us donostiarras believe very intensely that it is.

What is the moment you have felt most proud to be donostiarra? 
I don’t think it’s pride, but playing the Marcha on the day of San Sebastián at noon in the Plaza of the Constitution is usually quite exciting

If San Sebastián were your best friend, what advice would you give her?
I would try to get her to leave her idiot of a boyfriend for me. 

If you were a foreigner, what would the ‘insider’ tip that you would like to know about San Sebastián? 
I actually would also like for someone to tell me the answer to this question. 

The most overrated thing about San Sebastián:
Surfing in La Zurriola. For real, it’s so overrated.  It is not worth it. Please, don’t come surf here. 

A typical day for you: 
Lately, I’ve been spending all day in Bomberos [the former firehouse that is now the headquarters of the 2016 Capital of Culture]. I eat breakfast at Udaberri at 9 a.m.  Tachycardia by 11 a.m.  At 2:30 p.m., I eat a bowl of rice and yakitori in Nikkei, and then it’s another attack of tachycardia at 5:00 p.m.. Post-heart attack laughs around 8 p.m. A few beers with a friend until dinnertime. 

That's it! Come back every Friday for a new Face of Culture from San Sebastián!

Almond Croissants | RECIPE

Today, everyone in Spain is snacking on the roscón de reyes, the original king cake.  It's most similar to a hamburger bun, although typically a bit drier. Many are filled with whipped cream, often the kind that leaves an aftertaste and a yucky film on the roof of your mouth, while others have pastry cream or no filling at all. With the lightest of glazes on top and some candied fruit pieces that lay discarded on the side of the box when all is said and done, it's safe to say the roscón is an... interesting tradition.

how-to-make-almond-croissants_after.jpg

This morning at my house, however, we have forgone the hamburger bun cake thing for one of God's Blessings to The World: almond croissants, or how do you say, croissants aux amandes. My first introduction to this amazing pastry was in Birmingham, Ala.'s premiere bakery, Continental Bakery, making fresh sourdough wayyyy before it was cool. It was billed as an 'almond croissant', and I alternated eating it with the cherry scones, never giving much thought as to how exactly it was made.

almond-recipe-croissants_mix.jpg

Fortunately for you, I consider it my Epiphany day duty to share the recipe for these beauties.  Literally, this may be my favorite morning pastry ever—at least right up there with a perfect scone.

This pastry came about as a clever way to reuse old croissants, instead of tossing them.  I take particular satisfaction from this recipe knowing that this time it was the French who decided to take something elegant and traditional and stuff it with butter and sugar, instead of us Americans.

Day-old croissants are coated in a syrup that allows them to bake again without burning, giving the almond cream inside the chance to set. They are quite simple to make when you use store-bought croissants as a base; just make sure you buy top-quality, butter croissants.  The moist filling soaks through the layers of croissant and results in what is pretty much the best baked good almost ever.  If you've never had these, you will die when you bite into the moist, flaky, almond-y layers. If you have had them, you will rejoice at how easily this recipe comes together. Oh my, you need to make this now.

french-almond-croissants_before.jpg

Croissants aux amandes are so forgiving and kind, that you can assemble and bake beforehand and give them a light toast before serving (or not). Basically, they may be the perfect food. read on for tips and recipe.

Keys to the perfect croissant aux amandes

  • quality ingredients: As with many baked goods in this day and age, your sugar, butter, flour, almond meal, etc is going to make something good without necessarily having to be expensive, organic, or top of the line. However, as this recipe is a derivation from an already-baked good, you can guess what we really want to splash out on here—the croissant. Get the best you can find.
  • be generous: because this isn't diet food. Slather on that almond cream...you won't regret it later.
  • leave it in the oven: Don't remove the croissants too soon...the crispy top and edges are most desirable!
  • experiment: once you've satiated your appetite for "plain" almond croissants, move on by adding chocolate, or orange zest to the filling and Grand Marnier to the syrup...have fun!
almond-croissant.jpg

croissants aux amandes

  • 90 mL water 
  • 65 g sugar
  • 50 g almond flour
  • pinch salt
  • 50 g butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 3 croissants

Bring the water and 15g of sugar to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and pour into a shallow bowl. Cool.

Preheat the oven to 375ºC.

Mix the remaining sugar, almond flour, and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and mix until well blended. Add the egg and mix until creamy.

Take your croissants and slice them in half along the equator (horizontally, like for a sandwich). Spread the bottom half with 2-3 Tbsp of the almond filling.  Dip the top half in the cooled sugar mixture, allowing to coat until very moist. Place the top on the bottom, and spread a bit more almond filling on the top. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Repeat with remaining croissants.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack and dust with powdered sugar.

Lunes Lekuak (My Monday Spot)

This spot is the bomb. Free. Empty. Wifi. Views. A sofa, screaming your name, meant for you. One of the most relaxing places to start your day....sometimes I take a thermos of coffee and head there to relax and get a bit of work done before my real day starts.  Funny how the best part of the Tabakalera is an unfinished afterthought.