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.

sakonamenu.jpg

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

Things to do in June : San Sebastián

zurriola beach san sebastian

We're kicking off June with cold and wet here in San Sebastián, though you wouldn't be able to tell by the photo.  That's thanks to San Sebastián's meteorological affinity for packing four seasons into one day. The Basque hardiness means that the cultural agenda is packed despite any diluvial rain, freezing wind, or a sun that beats down mercilessly.  Here's to June:

  • june 1-5 ::: WORLD PUPPET FESTIVAL ::: From human puppets pedaling in the sky to more traditional puppetry, the World Puppet Festival takes over San Sebastián. (Everywhere, various, FREE)
  • june 2 ::: PINTXOS & BLOGS ::: A roundtable and dinner in the basement of local gourmet shop Pantori to talk about tourism and the future of our dearly beloved yet quickly changing city. (Pantori, 20.00, €25)
  • june 3 ::: HOWDY ::: Some Anglo-Saxon friends play a free concert of their rocking rowdy folk music. (Picachilla, 21.00, FREE)
  • june 8 ::: JOSHUA ABRAMS/NATURAL INFORMATION SOCIETY ::: Hipster beard, hipster instruments, and what will surely be a not-to-miss concert at hip local venue Dabadaba. (Dabadaba, 20.30, €5)
  • june 10 ::: MEET THE MAESTROS ::: A tasting with local craft brewers Basqueland Brewing Project at San Sebastián Food Cooking School. (San Sebastian Food, 18.30, €18)
  • june 10 ::: TERRAZA OPENING ::: A summer classic kicks off: the Terraza of Bataplan. See, how to enjoy Bataplan slash La Concha nightlife for Grownups. (Bataplan, 22.00, FREE)
  • june 11 ::: TALLER HORNKONPON ::: A workshop on how to use recycled tools and appliances to create something new. (DSS2016 headquarters, 10.00-14.00, FREE)
  • june 17 ::: JOHN BERKHOUT ::: One of the few local bands that everyone loves returns to the stage. (Victoria Eugenia, 20.00, €7.20-14.90)
  • june 22 ::: CHRISTINA ROSENVINGE ::: This classic artist of pretty lady Spanish grunge singer songwriting puts on the concert she was scheduled to perform in April. (Teatro Principal, 20.00, €18)
  • june 23 ::: SAN JUAN ::: The annual bonfire on the Zurriola beach to celebrate San Juan and summer—witches dancing and romerías and all that sort of thing. (Zurriola, 20.30, FREE)

That's all folks!

If I missed something, leave a comment...

Things to Do in April : San Sebastián

rain san sebastián

Kicking off April's edition of things to do in San Sebastián....basically a list of everything yours truly would if I had the time. Enjoy...after all, you're in the Capital of Culture!

  • april 12-16 ::: FUSION RED ::: A series of workshops culminating in a dinner, all in one of San Sebastián's most luxe concept stores (Noventa Grados, 17.00, 5€)
  • april 15-22 ::: FESTIVAL DE CINE Y DERECHOS HUMANOS::: The 14th edition of this film festival features 33 movies, 23 shorts, and 5 exhibits. (Victoria Eugenia, among others, VARIES)
  • april 16::: STICK DANCE QUARTET:: Music in family, part theater, part workshop, part concert. (Victoria Eugenia, 14.45, €6)
  • april 16::: LOS PELOTARIS:: A documentary about that peculiar Basque sport, pelota. (Victoria Eugenia Antzokia, 22.30, €4)
  • april 21 ::: VERMUTEKE ::: A Fería de Abril themed celebration of vermouth by the International Society for the Preservation and Enjoyment of Vermut. (Sirimiri, 19.30, FREE)
  • april 23::: LES VOIX BASQUES::: Two singers from the north Basque country visit San Sebastián to sing both traditional and original songs (Victoria Eugenia, 20.00, 15-19€)

If there's something I missed, please leave a comment or shoot me an email for future editions.

Shibui : Eating in Bilbao

I have all these posts backed up about spots to eat in allll of Basque Country.  In an effort to get to churning them out, I've decided to start with perhaps what is one of the least 'typical'.  Shibui in Bilbao is located in the Abando neighborhood of Bilbao. Its façade is deceiving; empty, small, perhaps resembling an avant-garde clothing store more than what it is—a fusion sushi restaurant that swooped in from Barcelona and made a big bet on design.

shibui bilbao monkfish

The menu runs the gamut from sushi to hot noodle dishes to urimaki to gindara nanban amazu an kake (black cod coated with nanban-zu dressing).  Or the monkfish liver, above, which I have no idea why we ordered, though it was good enough.

shibui bilbao

The interior design, by Susana Ocaña, combines avant garde contemporary with a Japanese sensibility, consciously giving the food a run for its money in a fight for your attention.  Iron, wood, and ropes are the main elements of design, taking their cue from the Spanish pavillion in the Expo at Shanghai, the work of architect Benedetta Tagliabue.

So, does the food live up to the decoration?  I am so far from an expert on oriental cuisines....in fact, it is probably my weakest point. However, the star dishes are solid, among which include tuna belly tartar with caviar, spicy prawns (Ebichiri), eggplant with red miso noodles and minced turkey (Nasu no torimiso dengaku) and Hotate Kushiyaki, the scallop skewers.  The sushi, served along a custom made, chunky wooden bar, is also solid...if perhaps not quite exciting enough to drown out the outspoken decor.

shibui bilbao sushi bar

Shibui Bilbao
Gardoki Kardenalaren Kalea, 6
48008 Bilbao

 

 

Donosti Dining Update, Vol IV

New spots are opening in San Sebastián faster than I can keep up with them. Especially as things get busier and busier. My desire to explore them is somewhat dampened by the fact that very few of them are truly outstanding.  Why? A confluence of factors, an important one of which being that San Sebastián is opening up to the world. Foreign concepts are the trend, but they are so often low-fi copies instead of the product of true dedication and research and innovation. That said, some of them are nice neighborhood spots.  So anyway, my apologies!

For those of you curious as to how this works, you should know I head off to new places with the idea of slotting them here. However, if a place pleasantly surprises me, instead of appearing in the Donosti Dining Update, it will get its own post. You should also know I pay for my meals and don’t mention my intentions when I head off to dine.  For a key to the slightly unconventional rating system, scroll down to the bottom of the post.  The first edition was here, the second here, the third, Gros-centric edition here, and here goes number four:   

drinka san sebasti�n bois et fer

DRINKA

Jan, edan eta gozatu (drink, eat & enjoy) is the motto of this new spot, lighting up the Antiguo from its posh, vaguely Nordic digs (by Bois et Fer) on Calle Matia.  The owners of the miniature Zurriola favorite, La Consentida, have opened a spot with a more grown-up aspect: Drinka.

calamari drinka san sebasti�n

The menu is still a loveable, picky-eater-friendly mixture of fried stuff, cool dips, and hamburgers.  But now, like these fried calamari, they come in design-y dishes that are Instagram-ready. The place is often packed with diners since its October 2015 opening.

nachos drinka san sebasti�n restaurant

 You, dear reader, can judge from the above foto, but I recommend sticking with the more local specialties, like the made-from-scratch croquetas or the famous hamburgers, which include one made from tuna.

The best thing we tried at Drinka was the goat cheese salad, with caramelized goat cheese, bacon, corn nuts and spinach.   It's food for the people, food for enjoying, food not for thinking too hard but just to serve as a pretty background for a pleasant experience.

Is it worth going to Antiguo for? No. But definitely worth a peek if you are in the neighborhood.

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

Drinka
Calle Matia, 50 (ANTIGUO)

BELGRADO

Some of the city's most charmed proprietors tackle what is one of the most difficult real estate slots, gigantic, cast off to the side of Gros and exposed to intense winds (which sounds like a chorrada but is a major factor in choosing where to go on a cold, rainy, Donosti night).

belgrado san sebasti�n bar

I'm happy to report that they do it not by repeating the same mistakes with a different Pinterest palette, but by testing what, for San Sebastián, is a new model of business.  They take the casual, homey vibe of their ever popular Centro café, Koh Tao, and transport it to Gros. On the way, they pick up a couple extra businesses to a)help with the rent and b) make the spot a one-stop-cool-shop. 

koh tao belgrado san sebastian

You can find standard drinks, cocktails, hummus, guac and hamburgers, as well as vermouth, coffee and snacks. Everything is outsourced, except for the menu of snack food and the drinks.  Pastry is by Meyvi, wine shop is by ardoteka Goñi, clothes by Letitare and Viva la vida, and eclectic gifts byFranck FischerKoloreka, and the jabonería de la Almendra.

letitare belgrado

To sum it up, it's a nice, sunny anchor on the east side of this little town that likes to think it's a big city. Bustling, with wifi, everything looks happier at Belgrado; even the occasionally dismalservice becomes something to smile about.

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

Belgrado
De Navarra Hiribidea, 2 (GROS)

 

pizza papparazzi

PIZZA PAPPARAZI

Tucked away up on a hill in Egia, this pizza joint has been called the best in Donosti by American pizza eaters I know.

calzone san sebastian italian

I'm not sure if it's the best, but it's definitely the most similar to the American-style pizzas, due in part to the crust style (thicker, not overly crispy) and the abundance of ingredients (lotsa cheese).  It's pizza...nothing revolutionary, but a good ace to have in your pocket when nothing but an old-fashioned pie will do.

pizza san sebasti�n

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

Pizza Papparazzi
Virgen del Carmen Kalea, 4 (EGIA)

Things to Do In March : San Sebastián

Things to do in San Sebastian

Things to do in San Sebastian

Kicking off March's edition of things to do in San Sebastián....basically a list of everything yours truly would if I had the time. Enjoy...after all, you're in the Capital of Culture!

  • march 9 ::: THE CALEDONIAN ::: This neighborhood bar has had its highs and lows, with a spotted past only befitting a bar that stays open very, very late.  They re-open and promise "an exclusive design". Uh-oh. (The Caledonian, 20:00, FREE)
  • march 9 :::  AMAMA ::: The Basque smash cinema hit of the year screens for those who missed it at the film festival. (C.C. Intxaurrondo, 17.00, FREE)
  • march 11 ::: CONVERSACIONES (IM)POSIBLES ::: In this series, surprising pairs of people are grouped together to have taboo conversations. This round features Martxelo Otamendi y Gorka Landaburu, two journalists who lived through Euskadi's cruelest years. (Garoa, 17.00, FREE)
  • march 12 ::: MUSIKAGELA WEEKEND ::: Several winning local groups, one of which is composed of a fellow Southerner, gather for a free concert. (C.C. Intxaurrondo, 21:00, FREE)
  • march 12 ::: TALLER DE CREACION DE FUEGO ::: Kids playing with fire. 'Nuff said. (San Telmo, 17.00, 5€)
  • march 17 ::: NOLA JAZZ ::: Gumbo Lightning Lee, straight from the 6th ward, shows these Basques how NOLA music is done. (Dabadaba, 22.00, FREE)
  • march 20 ::: MARATÓN DE SWING ::: Five hours of dancing swing and, I think, even a little bit of vermouth. (Mercado del Antiguo, 12:00, FREE)
  • march 31::: ZAHARA::: Indie rock darling from Spain makes a stop in Basque Country (Dabadaba, 21.00, 15-19€)

If there's something I missed, please leave a comment or shoot me an email for future editions.

The Faces of Culture : Ane Rodríguez

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:  

ane rodriguez tabakalera

Ane Rodríguez Armendariz is the Cultural Director of the new Tabakalera, also known as the Centro Internacional de Cultura Contemporánea. She has lived and breathed culture management, leaving her job as content coordinator in Matadero Madrid to take on the challenging space of the Tabakalera. She has also worked in the Madrid Contemporary Art Fair, the Contemporary Art Museum of Castilla y León, controlling everything from adquisitions and budgets. She studied Communication at the Universidad de Navarra and holds masters and diplomas in art from London and Barcelona.

*Current gig:  en Tabakalera
*Twitter: @anerodriguez_a
*Website: www.tabakalera.eu
*I’m reading: Album: Cinematheque de Tanger. Ed. Yto Barrada and Omar Berreda
*I’m listening to: At the moment, it's random.

Where are you from?
 Hernani.

How long have you lived in San Sebastián?
Three and a half years.

San Sebastián in one word:  Comfortable.

What is your favorite way to experience the culture of San Sebastián?
Maybe this is bad, but the Tabakalera.  It brings together different cultural plans that I find interesting—of course, it's not the only place that does that. For exhibits, I like Koldo Mitxelena and Museo San Telmo; for movies, Trueba; for music, Dabadaba, Bukowski or GazteEszena.

What is the café/bar/restaurant you find yourself in most often?
Km 0, Bodega Donostiarra, Ciaboga, El Vallés, Botanika.

What’s your Saturday plan in San Sebastián?
I usually work a little bit in the morning (or in the afternoon, though I also take time out to go shopping at the market and put on a load of laundry. I have a pre-lunch aperitif in Ciabogo, have a relaxing lunch at home, a 15-minute nap, then movies or a concert in the afternoon/evening and a mini-completo at Bodega Donostiarra, for example.  Sometimes I have to go meet guests from the Tabakalera, and I show them around these spots.

What is your favorite pintxo?
The completo at Bodega Donostiarra.

The best spot for a selfie in San Sebastián?
Ulia.

What changes do you see happening here in the next 10 years?
A rise in tourism and the effect this has on the city. It has its positive aspects (a more open city) but also its negatives (the affect on pricing and the danger that this will turn into a cookie-cutter place in certain ways, like partying and bachelor/bachelorette parties, etc).

What is the thing you hope never changes?
I think change is always good, but in small doses.

It’s January 20th, the day of San Sebastián. What are you doing?
This year, I took advantage to make a whirlwind work-related trip. 

In your opinion, what makes San Sebastián stand out, what makes it different?
The size, the sea, the mountain, the food culture and the good living.

What is the moment you have felt most proud to be donostiarra?
As my mother would say, I'm Hernaniarra, ha. But I love living in Donosti and I've always pretended to be from here. I think you feel proud everytime you leave and you see or hear a reference to the city. It always makes you smile and feel a bit of pride, like, yeah, I'm from there. 

If San Sebastián were your best friend, what advice would you give her?
That she should let loose and have a bit of fun.

If you were a foreigner, what would the ‘insider’ tip that you would like to know about San Sebastián?
I think Ulía is an under-appreciated spot.  It's wonderful, for hiking and eating, for example in the Albergue with unique views of the city. But I would also like to know about the surroundings.

The most overrated thing about San Sebastián:
The railing of the Concha bay. 

A typical day for you::
During the week, I arrive at the office around 8:30, and at 9:30 I start a series of meetings that last until lunchtime. Depending on the day, I eat a delicious tupperware of homemade food, or I go over to Km0 if I have made plans to lunch with someone. In the afternoon, although I try not to have meetings to be able to work, I often have to go back on the front with more meetings. Work at the office ends around 7 or 7:30 pm, but at home I go through emails I have pending, look over dossiers, or take the chance to write some reports. However, lately I'm trying to get a little bit of my personal life back and watch a TV series with my partner. And so far, it's worked. Some days I have to be at Tabakalera at night, if we have a guest or a special session. That's about it.

 

Thanks to Ane for agreeing to appear! Come back every Friday for a new Face of Culture from San Sebastián.  If you missed last week's, with Alex López, click here.  Read the rest of the features from so far in 2016 here.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Shortcakes

Lately, I've been experimenting a bit more with whole grain baking. It's a punishing exercise, adapting recipes that once bowed to your touch with cumbersome, heavy whole grains and figuring out how to reconfigure the pastry puzzle so that they retain the light, airy characteristics desirable in a cake/scone/etc.

Below you'll find the fruits of my labor with the humble shortcake. Essentially what would happen if a scone and a biscuit got married and had a baby, the shortcake is emblematic of mid-20th-century America, when everything felt shiny and full of promise. Maybe that's why I love it. Or maybe I love it because it's so delicious.

Strawberries are in season, so I took them and gave them a bit of a girly, grown-up twist by macerating them with some merlot rose wine that I had laying around.  A nice twist from my usual addition of Grand Marnier.

Shortcakes remain one of my favorite desserts, ever. Whether prim & proper or fat, juicy and messy, they are pastry's version of the social butterfly, at home at a backyard picnic or on a white tablecloth.

strawberry shortcakes

  • 2(16-oz.) containers fresh strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup merlot rose wine
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed & frozen
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey

Combine strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar, and merlot rose wine. Cover berry mixture, and let stand at least 1 hour. Whip cream. When it starts to gain body, add 2 TBSP of sugar, gradually.  Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 400º. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut butter into flour mixture until crumbly (using either a food processor). Whisk together eggs, milk, and honey until blended; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Drop about 1/3 cup worth of dough in balls on baking sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until light brown. Remove to wire racks to cool slightly.Once cooled, split shortcakes in half horizontally. Spoon someberry mixture onto each shortcake bottom; top each with a dollop of whipped cream, add a few more strawberries and cover with tops.

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!