San Sebastián Gastronomika 2017 (Part Two)

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Gastronomika has come to an end, another year for the culinary conference that has 18 others under its belt.  The format of cooking demo and chat is the standard, filling the huge theater of the Kursaal with those who are fascinated by the movements of the worldwide culinary scene. While the format itself is antiquated and rendered questionably close to obsolete by the internet, there is still something very cool about being so close to these chefs.  Seeing their mannerisms, their movements, listening to what happens between scripted lines.

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This year I found myself reporting for ETB radio one afternoon from the fair.  The fería is one of the best loved parts of San Sebastián Gastronomika. There are those who bash it, but in truth it is one of the only gatherings of its size and heft in Spain.  Stands with everything from (typical) jamón ibérico to (atypical) micro greens line the halls of the Kursaal Congress Center.  It's a place to mingle and rub elbows with everyone from famous chefs to wannabe culinary students.

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There's Nacho Manzano on the Kursaal main theater stage, a great example of the Spanish chef representing his region (Asturias) with passion and armed with years of knowledge. He touted the excellence of the river products of the region, fish, shellfish, etc before making a triple threat dish with tuna belly, sardine skin and anchovy cream. 

Gastronomika by the numbers:

  • 1,567 attendees
  • Countries represented: 37
  • Stands: 160
  • 410 people working
  • Feria visitors: 13m252
  • Accredited journalists: 412
  • Schools and interns present: 600

San Sebastián Gastronomika 2017

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It's that time again...time for the yearly global food conference that is San Sebastián Gastronomika. 

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This conference gathers all the local talent, both from Basque Country and from across the Iberian peninsula.  However, it also reunites chefs from further afield.  This year's spotlight country is India, and the names are big and varied.

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From the respected Indian chef, Manjit S. Gill, to the chefs J.P. Singh (Bukhara),  Praveen Anand (Dakshin), Gulam Qureshi (Dum Pukht) and Varun Mohan (Royal Vega), the Indian chefs that were on today showed the classic Spaniards what is what in the world of spice, curry and masala. “ Just the words transport you to a far away place, where everything is brighter and more intense.  Those were, in fact, the words of Gill: “Indian cuisine isn't spicy, but intense. A plate can change totally if you use a ground space or a whole one, if you use it to prepare or add it to the finished dish. You have to know how to use them." 

All this plus a special spotlight on Julian Marmol, from Yugo the Bunker in Madrid, who was called up on stage by Martín Berasategui and cited as a young chef whose talent is wowing him.

And of course, the familiar faces are always representing...

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A Basque Country Book Deal / What I've Been Dying To Tell You

I’ve been promising to explain my absence around these parts for a while now, and so here goes.

I got a book deal!

In Spring 2018, my book about Basque cuisine, one of the very few to be published ever in English, will hit every type of bookstore shelf near you (Barnes & Noble and Little Professor here I come)!

Yet to be named, my Book is a collection of the truly essential Basque recipes, with a list of 100 that any Basque would recognize as the most classic, important dishes. These dishes come with, of course, a heavy helping of culture and history that give context to the unique cuisine in this part of the world. I. Did. A. Lot. Of. Research.

It will be published under Artisan Books (Workman Publishing), an amazing house that focuses on “illustrated” books, or books heavy with a visual component. My cookbook will be in the company of those by Thomas Keller, my own mentor Frank Stitt, Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Creams, Sean Brock, Back in the Day Bakery, Hartwood, Grace Bonney of Design Sponge, and really, countless others.  

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This year has been a nonstop mad one, and in no small part due to the work I’ve been doing on the book. It’s no easy task to research 100 dishes, do full justice to their histories, while at the same time figuring out the most classic, best way to prepare them and translating that for an American audience.  Seriously, no easy task.  And then came the photo shoots (with the extremely kind and talented and patient Simon Bajada, who took the above shot of me, as well as my stellar team of stylists Susana and Sonia), what amounted to a monthlong  quest to capture the landscape and the people as well as the 100 recipes, plated. And finally, the revisions (which I’m still slaving away on).  If the workload wasn’t enough, it was accompanied by the inexplicable fear that comes with a job of this size. Why me? I’m not good enough to do this. How will I ever finish it? What if nobody likes it?  All those kinds of inner dialogues that only serve to slow you down.  And of course, this dream came to pass the same year that various nightmares did, as well. (Coming in some future memoir…)

It was all worth it, though, to be able to get the specialness of this corner of the world in one place, in one massive oeuvre. And, who am I kidding, I have squealed several times with joy…this is a lifelong dream of mine since I was “self-publishing” elementary-age-appropriate melodramas with my friend Rosie in New Orleans, Louisiana. A real book! 

I have to say a thanks to all of those who supported this endeavor, from the yearlong process of crafting a proposal to pitching it via email and telephone (without an agent) to recipe testing to visits to chefs and artisans that I peppered with nonstop questions. So many people to thank, and that will come in the book’s own pages. And I just feel so lucky…seven years in San Sebastián, the stars aligning, and all the blessings I never imagined possible raining down.

If you’d like to be kept abreast of the book’s release date and how to get your hands on it, just sign up here.  And follow me over at Instagram or Twitter.

In the coming months, I will be sharing more and more of the book. The best thing about this blog is that it has put me in touch with so many of you people, excited about Basque food and San Sebastián and Spain in general. I feel so happy to be able to get some of that down on actual paper and share much more of how special this region is. So—thank you so much for reading and writing.  Txin txin to much more to come.

Love you all. xo

Marti

Donosti Dining Update, vol VI

In the months that I haven’t been able to write much here (explanation coming soon), a LOT of new places have opened in San Sebastián.  Everything from pizza joints to normal pintxo bars to little spots with lots of love behind them. I’ve seen them open, I’ve tried (most) of them, and I just haven’t had time to keep you in the know.   So I am happy to be back with a Donosti Dining Update, where I run down three of those new spots.  This time around they aren’t quite brand new because I have quite the delicious backlog, but....enjoy!

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PRONTXIO : CASA DE COMIDAS

PRONTXIO 2  © Marti Buckley

Prontxio is a spot that opened late last year.  A labor of love at the hands of Loren, a chef who has passed through some of the smaller independent restaurants of the city, it features a short, changing prix-fixe menu that caters to the locals and the businessmen in the area.  

The entrance is an unassuming bar, with a small selection of pintxos, one slightly different than the small selection you might find at a bar around the corner—the tortilla is above average and the rest of the pintxo menu is a carefully selected and high quality combination of charcuterie, conserves, and classics like ensaladilla rusa.

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The downstairs holds a small, bright dining room where Loren serves up the menu and a plato del día.  At €7, ordering a daily plate for lunch is something affordable enough for more than once a week, although it's not going to leave you bursting at the seams.  When I stopped in, I chose the attractive option of ordering two half plates for €8.  This day, that meant tomato and feta salad with guindillas, as well as a dish of young white beans dotted with chorizo. The idea is food from here, with a slightly updated air, plated and served in a way that makes you give the dish more importance. 

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$€$€ :  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Vibeyness : ★  ★ ★ ★ ★
Gobackability : ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
WIFI: 👍
Martimeter :  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Prontxio : Casa de Comidas
San Martzial Kalea, 6 (CENTRO)

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GURE TXOKO

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Gure Txoko is another example of a neighborhood bar doing it right.

Its space is small (although there is a dining area downstairs), consisting of a bar, a few stools along a perch on the wall, and a handful of tables in the back area.  Its decor is questionable, distressed wood and graffiti inspired logo, but hey, somebody seems to be expressing something and that is worth more than any soulless professionalism.

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We're here to talk about the food, however. Gure Txoko riffs on the various classic modes of pintxos, including a version of each in its arsenal: hot pintxos, cold pintxos on the bar (very classic, shrimp with mayo and hard boiled eggs, etc), a couple cazuelas in the corner (usually for more "daring" options like tripe and other offal), and a selection of cured fish and meats made to top freshly toasted bread (a la Antonio, see below picture).

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But the real gem, what makes Gure Txoko an absolute must-stop on any Gros pintxo tour, are the croquetas. When the bar opened, they had eight different types of croquettes on the menu. Eight. Neither of which was your typical classic.  They amplified the croqueta selection: spinach and goat cheese, stew,  spicy chorizo with camembert, shrimp and monkfish, pheasant and black truffle, cured pork loin and torta del casar cheese, ostrich and mango, and Jabugo ham.

And now, they have added 12 additional croquetas, an incredible, unprecedented selection that blows boring Basque menus out of the water.  It's one of those things where you are like DUH, finally someone took the blank canvas that is bechamel and added some delicious stuff to it!  Go with friends so you can try them all.

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For the most part, the execution is good. The toasts with vinegar-cured fish need a touch more mimo (toast me that bread a little more! Up the quality of that olive oil! Give me a contrasting texture or flavor on top!), and on the menu of hot pintxos you have to know what to order (try the confit duck burger and the oxtail), but, honestly, this bar has my heart just for the croquetas. Seriously.

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$€$€ :  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Vibeyness : ★  ★ ★ ★☆
Gobackability : ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
WIFI: 👍
Martimeter :  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Gure Txoko
Usandizaga Kalea, 5 (GROS)

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EGUZKI

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I LOVE Eguzki.

This bar, with a fresh yet not aggressively modern look, hides in the back corner of Gros. It feels like stumbling on to the gold at the end of the rainbow.  While I am the first to be skeptical in the face of a bar trying to do something "different", the difference with Eguzki is the fact that they also adhere to tradition and fulfill their role as a bar de barrio.

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You will find the traditional favorites, like olives and calamari, but with an updated presentation and a modern touch. Olives are served in a jar, marinated with vermouth and a splash of Tabasco; Calamari are top quality and come in a basket with a bit of squid-ink-tinted alioli.   The list of vermouths is also mega-extensive, and when the bartenders serve up a marianito they do it with a few extra drops of bitters and gin along with some dehydrated citrus fruits. In other words, with love.

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The bar is lined with pintxos in the same tradition, all neatly and impeccably presented.  On the menu, there are about a dozen hot pintxos and small plates, like a buttery fish carpaccio and a smoky cut of steak with big chunks of potatoes.  It's a real neighborhood treasure. So don't go ;)

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$€$€ :  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Vibeyness : ★  ★ ★ ★ ★
Gobackability : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
WIFI: 👎
Martimeter :  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Eguzki
Secundino Esnaola Kalea, 44 (GROS)

Things to Do in July | San Sebastián

Back just in time for summer! If you are heading to San Sebastián in July, enjoy this edition of things to do in San Sebastián....basically a list of everything yours truly would if I had the time, from art to music to eat.

 

  • july 2 ::: MERCADABADILLO ::: Like every first Sunday of the month, Dabadaba puts a hold on their too-cool-for-escuela concert schedule and hosts a little market in a nice ambience. (Dabadaba, 12:00-2:00, FREE)
  • july 2 ::: FIESTAS DE IGELDO ::: The last day of the San Pedro celebration in Igeldo is a strong lineup: Tortilla de Patata championship, a group aurresko, and a small romería (Igeldo, 12pm onwards, FREE)
  • july 14 ::: VIVE LE VIN ::: Celebrate Bastille Day at Club Mimo, with their monthly meeting of wine lovers.  They'll be tasting their way across France and mixing it with paired dishes at their cooking school. (Mimo San Sebastián, 8:30pm, 35€)
  • july 15 ::: GYOTAKU WORKSHOP ::: So you come to San Sebastian to eat a lot of fish... why not learn the art of stamping with them?. (Undermount, 10am and 3pm, 40€)
  • july 15-16 ::: XVII REGATA DE VELA ::: This international race has two routes, one that goes the 32 miles from Hendaye to San Sebastián and one that happens just in the bay. Grab a sandwich and a seat on the beach, port or Urgull to watch from afar. (Bahia de La Concha, FREE)
  • july 19 ::: EUSKAL HERRIKO GAZTE ORKESTRA ::: The youth orchestra of Basque Country performs symphonic versions of West Side Story in one of the city's best venues. (Victoria Eugenia Theater, 8pm, 10€)
  • july 20-25 ::: HEINEKEN JAZZALDIA::: Everyone's favorite festival.  These are beautiful days, often smattered with rain (but hey, that's Donostiarra life), of concerts on the beach and in bars across town. Everyone from jazz greats to up-and-comers to people who aren't really jazz players but are big names fun to watch as the sun goes down behind Urgull. I'll see you Friday at The Pretenders. (FREE)
  • july 23 ::: ROXYFITNESS ::: A triathlon of sorts for the modern-day female sort-of-athlete. A short race, a yoga session on the beach, and then a stand up paddle experience.  Pick and choose which you'd like to participate in. (Ondarreta, 9am, 8-10€)
  • all july ::: HELENE DARROZE POP-UP ::: The French chef returns to the Hotel Maria Cristina for her pop-up restaurant, your chance to experience an extra few Michelin stars in the city's constellation  (Hotel Maria Cristina, June-October, starting at 100€)

If there's something I missed, or if you go to one of the events and particularly enjoyed it or have a funny story to tell, please leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Europa : Pamplona, Navarra

Hi!

You may have noticed that I have been gone for, like, six months. In case you were wondering, it's not because I have grown tired of blogging. After 10 years (I missed my 10-year anniversary!), I still do it 'cuz I love it and won't be stopping anytime soon.  And it's not for lack of content...I have a backlog that is pretty intimidating, not to mention a list of new Basque Country spots to cover for y'all.  I have a good reason, I swear (more on that in the next post)!

I wanted to get back into the swing of things with a post about one of the better places I have eaten this past year: Europa in Pamplona. 

Europa is one of Pamplona's institutions. It's had a Michelin star since you were in diapers, and it's been at the hand of the Idoate family since the 1970s, when Francisco Idoate bought what was not much more than a pit stop inn and passed it down to his children.  The four of them spearheaded a rise to the top of Navarra's culinary scene—Pilar as the chef (female, as is so typical in Navarra); Juan Mari as the business type and networker; and Mari Carmen and the beloved María Eugena (now deceased) at the helm of the front of the house. They make quite a team, heading up one of the Michelin-stitutions of the region.

A meal at Europa can take on various forms—the most obvious being the big, splashy tasting menu. However, they also have a menu for locals, and keep off-the-menu items that are favorites of regulars for those who know to ask. Within the regular menu, one finds incongruous styles, the majority leaning towards modern nueva cocina, with some, however, planting themselves directly in the center of good, simple, local cooking.  

On this note, the buñuelo de bacalao is one of the amuse bouches. In an of itself, it's a classic. Creamy bacalao shrouded in tempura. The presentation, however, from the plating to the powder, is another story.  Delicious, however you look at it.  The olive grissini are, too.

The next plate is much more traditional, but doesn't stop it from being one of the best. Roasted pancetta with confit piquillo peppers.

Back to the regularly scheduled Michelin programming at Pilar's hand—a lovely square crab-avocado salad with some ginger ice cream. Cold but satisfying.

This was Buckley's first Michelin experience, and she stepped up to the plate for a home run. Ravioli with spinach and celeriac. She loved it.

Creamy risotto with duck and shrimp, and a tall crunchy thing. Yes, we are deep in comfortable Spanish Michelin territory now. This is where Pilar, one of the only starred women around, is most comfortable. And her right-hand man, Arkaitz Muguruza, came on not too long ago to help keep the kitchen exploring uncharted waters.

They slipped me a bit of bacalao ajoarriero with some pil-pil plops. Some of the whitest oil-fish emulsion I have ever seen, with a pronounced yet lovely taste of salt cod.

And then, end with a dish that is hard to argue with: braised beef in a perfect, shiny jus. 

A refreshing "mojito" and...

This lovely pistachio rectangle broke to ooze chocolate everywhere.

Bottom line is, Europa is one of Pamplona's highlights. It doesn't get as much press as San Sebastián's Michelins, but I absolutely love the fact that Pilar runs the show, and no one can deny that Navarra's raw vegetable resources are greater than any other region's. And you can't help but feel you are witnessing a true dynasty, real history, when you watch the personalities of the Idoates float around the dining room.  Here's hoping that Pilar stays in the kitchen for a lot longer.

Restaurante Europa

www.hreuropa.com
Calle Espoz y Mina, 11, 31002
Pamplona, Navarra
+34 948 22 18 00

{RECIPE} Pear-Ginger Cake

I've been busy with a whole other type of recipe lately (more on that another day), but I'm only human. American human. Which means I am prone to cravings for tender, fresh-out-of-the-oven baked goods. Here in Spain that is like craving water in the desert (no offense, Spain, I'm honestly only trying to spur you on to greater baked heights!).

Fortunately, it's kind of my specialty. So the past weekend I whipped up a cake with the fruit-flavor combo I had laying around: pears and ginger. After quite a few requests on Instagram I decided it could be a nice change of pace to post a real life recipe here. And I promise that one of these days I'll share even more.

Until then, enjoy.

Pear-Ginger Cake

For topping:

1/3 cup (30g) almond slivers
1/3 cup (30g) oats
¼ cup (45g) light brown sugar
¼ cup (30g)  flour
3 tablespoons (40g) unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pear

For coffee cake:

1 pear, diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 (190g) flour
1/2 cup (60g) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (115g) butter, softened
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Mix together almonds, oats, brown sugar, flour, butter, baking soda and salt. Dice the pear and add it to the crumb mixture. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Heat the pear and the sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat. Purée with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Return to heat and cook for one more minute. Reserve.

Mix the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Mix in the grated ginger.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add half of the pear purée and mix. Add the remaining flour mixture and stir until combined. Finally add the rest of the pear purée and mix until the batter is smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Grease a 9-inch round spring-form pan. Pour the cake batter into the pan. Spread the prepared crumb topping evenly over the cake batter. Bake for 45 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

La Rosa Vermutería : Palma de Mallorca, Spain

I love vermouth, so much so I made this little International Society devoted to it. So it stands to reason that, in every city I visit, I turn on the vermut radar to see out spots to try new and old favorites.

So on a recent trip to Palma de Mallorca, of course we ended up at La Rosa Vermutería.  Palma de Mallorca is a strange town.  Invaded several generations ago by Germans, much of local tradition has been pushed to the outskirts or even denied completely, by locals themselves.  This has left room for global trends, for trends imported from the mainland peninsula, and for resurgence of things from the forgotten past.  However, it is still very much a city re-discovering itself—and its appetite.

La Rosa Vermutería is a lovely spot that couldn't possibly be more on-trend.  Part of a breed of new-old bodegas where vermouth is the star drink, this place is a Disneyland for the vermouth lover.  Over 20 vermouths dot the bar, with the most expensive ones coming in around €5.50, vermouths imported from France and Italy. Truly, though, there is no need to splurge on these imported versions of vermouth, when Spain's artisan scene is EXPLODING.  Order a vermut Montaner instead, keeping your drinking roots closer to home.

In the tradition of Barcelona's Casa Mariol, there are nods to comida viejuna, like an extensive list of conserved seafood ranging from mackerel (above) to sardines to octopus.  This Spanish version of "fast food" has a long history, its raison d'etre being to make perishable food readily available all year round. And to pair magically with vermouth.

Like another Barcelona favorite, Bodega 1900, there are also aspirations to modern cuisine glory, like the above dish of anchovies, mahonés cream, and pepper "crystals". It was tasty, but a bit clumsy, and in the end kept me wishing for more old-fashioned canned fish.

Vermutería La Rosa is hot....you can catch Palma's young in-crowd gathering at night and on the weekends, and a table can be hard to find.  And the decor is equally "on-trend", that perfect combo of vintage and modern, of carefully curated yet somehow happenstance aesthetic. 

God bless it, Vermutería La Rosa has something that just makes me happy.  A must visit on the island.

Coffee In San Sebastián : Sakona Coffee Roasters

Your first relaxing cafe con leche in Madrid or Barcelona is unforgettable. However, in Spain, coffee is something that, upon closer inspection, sucks. Just yucky flavors, burnt coffee with boxed milk, albeit a satisfying proportion of milk and espresso.

Fortunately for coffee, as with many things, Spain is globalizing.  The meticulous and careful barista has popped up over the last couple of years in San Sebastián, in various forms: Caffe Terzi in Antiguo, an appearance by Javier Garcia in The Loaf, followed by a spattering of pop-ups in the local markets and the Tabakalera.

There's a new coffee shop in town. Sakona is not just a shop; they are roasters, based about 10 miles outside of San Sebastián.  Javier Garcia left his spot behind the espresso machine of The Loaf to break out and make his own coffee, and Sakona is the result: a coffee shop for the new century, as on trend as on trend can be, and also the best spot to grab a coffee in town.

sakona chemex


Yes, a chemex! Welcome to the 21st century, San Sebastián! 

So I have sat down with Javier Garcia, founder and jefe of Sakona Coffee Roasters. Javier has been the Barista Champion of Spain FIVE times, dominating from 2008-2011 and then again in 2014. He was also fourth in the World Barista Championship 2011, celebrated in the cafe mecca of Bogotá.  It doesn't stop him from patiently explaining coffee to even the most clueless, sourpuss citizens, totally turning the stereotypical hipster barista prototype on its head.

 This is a small introduction so that when you have the chance to pop into their beautiful, light-filled space on the river in San Sebastián, you'll already feel part of the Cool Coffee Kids Klub.

Javi! I knew you were expert at pouring espresso and gently explaining why people shouldn't put sugar in their lattes. But where did you learn how to roast coffee?

In my case, roasting is a challenge. I have had the opportunity to be with a good number of roasters in my life that have shared roasting techniques and tastings, but I had never had the chance to roast and roast batches and batches, capturing the best of every bean.

The exciting thing about roasting is that it goes hand in hand with tasting and the appreciation of flavors. Tasting and recognizing qualities of each roast turns roasting into a constant learning process. We have access to a lot of theory nowadays, and there are great books to recommend, but the experience of roasting many different cafes and tasting the results is what is truly teaches you and helps you form your own identity.

And what distinguishes your coffee?

Our coffees were conceived always thinking of the quality of their flavor. Coffee is a seasonal fruit and we should respect freshness. Generally, they are coffees that are obtained from specific farms, where we have a ton of information on how the coffee has been treated at all times. The price of this coffee is higher, and it's not part of the commodity markets.  The quality of the coffee allows us to roast it in a way that allows us to capture the lovely flavors while avoiding the bitterness and burnt flavors. Our bags have the date of the roast on them and we always sell them as a perishable product.

How did you come up with Sakona as a name?

We didn't look for a name based on meaning. The goal was for our work to give meaning tot he name. Our objective is that, with time, when people hear 'sakona', they identify the name with the quality of what we do. It's easy to pronounce for nearly all the inhabitants of our planet.

sakona cafe con leche

You roast in Irun but the cafe is in Donosti. Explain!

I am originally from Irún, and the idea of having a roaster in my hometown has always been a dream of mine. For a shop, Donostia is without a doubt the best spot, a city open to the world.  It's a new time for specialty coffee, and being the one to help bring it to a city as known for food and drink as San Sebastián is a seductive proposition.

Will you sell your coffee in other places?
The goal is to sell coffee wholesale, and to support and participate in the new specialty coffee market that is awakening in this country.

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We've known each other for a few years now. What does it mean that I still love French Press more than any other preparation of coffee?

You got me! That's a question I have had for years.  You probably like it because the way it filters coffee is with a metal web, which in most cases allows the smallest particles of ground coffee to pass through. Because of that, in the cup you can feel a slightly sandy texture and the flavor in general is a lot stronger. Let's say you like French press because you like to chew on coffee.

sakona french press

What is the perfect cup of coffee for you?

It doesn't exist. Coffee, like fruit, has a diversity of characteristics and flavors that allows us to experience and enjoy very different, wonderful coffees.

sakona gros

Sakona Coffee Roasters

Bajo, Ramón María Lili Pasealekua, 2

20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa

http://www.sakonacoffee.com