Top 5 Breakfast Spots in San Sebastián

San Sebastián. Culinary capital, yes. Breakfast capital, most definitively a big, fat, NO. 

Where to eat breakfast when in San Sebastián? This post has been a long time coming, and interestingly enough should I have published it two or three years ago it would have been strikingly different. Many of these breakfast spots have popped up relatively recently, a testament to how little Basque and Spanish people care about this particular meal.

So from my point of view as an American and a baker/cook, I present to you the Top 5 Breakfast Spots in San Sebastián. This list intentionally features a wide variety of breakfast priorities, even featuring the best continental breakfast, i.e., croissant, espresso, and OJ. Instead of putting them in order, I've attempted to help guide you according to what type of breakfast eater you are. Enjoy!

FOR PASTRY LOVERS

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There's a lot of competition when it comes to the basic European pastry shop in San Sebastián. My favorite (for both objective and totally subjective reasons) is Paries.

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This French bakery, based in nearby Saint Jean de Luz, opened up a branch this year in San Sebastián (after a failed attempt across town a few years back).  They first won my heart with their almond croissant, one of the only places in town to reuse their old croissants to make one of my favorite sweets.  After eating my fill, I began to sample the rest of their goods, many of which are also almondy (love!).

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They have one of the best gateau Basque around, as well as financiers, Jesuitas (another almond pastry) and some very good croissants. A classy French bakery with more than 100 years in the same family, these people know what they are doing—you are in good breakfast hands here.

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Maison Pariés
Plaza De Euskadi, 1
 20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa
http://www.paries.fr

FOR COFFEE CONNOISSEURS & SAVORY BREAKFAST LOVERS

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Sakona is the poster child for good coffee in San Sebastián. I worked with owner Javier at The Loaf when this potent roaster was just a sparkle in his britches, and now it is a full blown, beautiful location right on the river Urumea.  The roasting premises are about twenty minutes outside of town, so the coffee (whether its espresso, filtered, pour over or Chemex) is as fresh as can be.

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Sakona has also embraced the toast trend, and it's one of the only spots where you can get a savory breakfast.  They have a selection of greatest toast hits: benedict, avocado, sous-vide eggs, and salmon.

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They also have some decent baked goods as well as chia pudding with local yogurt—a little something for everyone. Expect major crowds in summer, especially on weekends.

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Sakona Coffee Roasters
Bajo, Ramón María Lili Pasealekua, 2
20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa
http://sakonacoffee.com

FOR HEALTHY TYPES

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For the most part, San Sebastián has resisted the whole healthy living movement, insisting on retaining its traditional (and probably actually healthier than any amount of juice detoxes and chia seeds)  lifestyle habits.  However, every now and then a freaky juice and an icy açai bowl really hits the spot. And for those times, there's Alabama cafe. 

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They have dozens of different juice combinations, as well as smoothies, açai, and a few other nods to current health trends, like tapioca crepes and poke bowls.  One of the only spots in town where you can satisfy your craving for health trending topics.

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Alabama Café
San Frantzisko Kalea, 45
 20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa
https://www.facebook.com/CafeAlabama/

FOR PURISTS & CONTINENTAL TYPES

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The Loaf is a bakery well-known throughout the city and among visitors. They brought the old-school, sourdough bread with long fermentations back to San Sebastián.  What concerns us today ,however, is their croissant, which is the best in the city. Made with French butter daily, it's been long studied and perfected.  You can take it with a well-made coffee (roasted by Sakona, above) and with a fresh-squeezed orange juice: the perfect European breakfast.

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The Loaf
Zurríola Hiribidea, 18
20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa
https://www.theloaf.es

FOR AMERICANS & THOSE TIMES YOU JUST NEED A MUFFIN

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Honestly, it pains me to recommend this place.  It has always been one of the strangest cafes in San Sebastián, since its opening a year or two ago. It went for a long time without a name, and then a tentative one was scrawled on the window, seemingly meant to make it impossible for tourists to remember: Gogoko Goxuak. 

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Now it appears to have perhaps changed names, to Zabala Kafetak. Either way, it has probably the worst, slowest service of anywhere in San Sebastián. That said, they have the most correct muffins in the whole city, and I particularly love their whole-wheat muffins, which come in chocolate, plain and raisin-walnut.  They are just the right size, moist, and not too sweet.

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Gogoko Goxuak / Zabala Kafetak
Gipuzkoa Plaza, 2
20004 Donostia, Gipuzkoa

Did I miss something? I kinda sorta doubt it but do leave me a comment if you think so!

Note: For all you English out there, try Belgrado for your English breakfast (available all day, every day).  I have also heard a rumor that Bar Next Bi in Gros offers it as well, but I have not verified said rumor, so if you have please comment below!

Pintxo Astearteak (Tapa Tuesday)

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Another classic today, this time from the center of San Sebastián. A lovely plateful of conserves, slid over without pretensions: bonito tuna, cured anchovies, and pickled guindilla peppers, with loads of olive oil. Thanks to an incorrect article in the local newspaper, this bar, Casa Valles, is often cited as the place where the first pintxo was served and/or the gilda was invented. No. But this little plate is quite delicious.

Casa Valles
Reyes Catolicos Kalea, 10
20006 Donostia
Open Daily
+34 943 45 22 10
www.barvalles.com

Pintxo Astearteak (Tapa Tuesdays)

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There are a lot of mini burgers in pintxo land, but this one is special.  It's called hamburguesa chicha, and it's made with fresh ground spiced pork meat, basically a chorizo burger. Perched on its artisan brioche. it is super juicy and brings to mind freshly packed pork sausage. 

Casa Urola
Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 20 (La Parte Vieja)
Closed Tuesdays
http://www.casaurolajatetxea.es
+34 943 44 13 71

Pintxo Astearteak (Tapa Tuesdays)

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Sirimiri is a solid spot in the old town, right in the heart of the action.  That's why for this Tapa Tuesday they are appearing with one of their classics, a bao with ropa vieja (stewed meat) of duck, a rich stew lightened with pickled onions and cucumbers.  The folks behind the Sirimiri/Atari phenomenon have made an empire off of hip reliability and good product, whether pintxos or cocktails.

Sirimiri Gastroleku
Calle Mayor, 18 (La Parte Vieja)
Open daily for dinner, weekends for lunch
www.sirimirigastroleku.com
+34 943 44 03 14

Pintxo Astearteak (Tapa Tuesdays)

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Happy Tuesday...Tapa Tuesday, that is! What better way to usher in the first day of spring than a pintxo that is HAPPENING NOW.  At Casa Urola you can have your own mini calçotada thanks to the seasonal pintxo currently in rotation.  It consists of three delightful little grilled calçots, sprinkled with flaky salt and served aside a smear of romesco sauce and alioli.  Just perfect. 

calçots con romesco : casa urola, calle fermín calbeton, 20

Tips on how to make your own at home, here.

Pintxo Astearteak (Tapa Tuesdays)

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For today's Tapa Tuesday I am taking us to Bilbao, to the old town and its array of vintage and modern pintxo bars.

Xukela is a classic on the Bilbao pintxo route. Founded in 1982, it has that family-owned feel, with nary an empty wall space to rest your gaze. It’s worth noting, this may be your only chance ever to try rooster comb, and it’s definitely your best—Xukela’s famous cresta pintxo pairs the comb with an oyster mushroom, skewered onto a piece of baguette. The rest of the food offering leans toward the classic.  The bartenders pride themselves on their “prepared” vermouth, so give them a chance to shake up your beverage order a bit.

xukela ::: cresta de gallo (rooster comb with mushroom)

C/del Perro 2
Bilbao, Spain, 48005

PINTXO ASTEARTEAK (TAPA TUESDAYS) IS BACK!

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Well, I am super happy to announce that this year, 2018, marks the return of Pintxo Astearteak. For all you non-Basque speakers, that's Tapa Tuesdays to you. And each week, I share a snapshot on Tuesday of what I'm eating these days.  

In honor of the first Pintxo Monday, I'm heading to what is really one of the best bars in San Sebastián : Bar Antonio.

Bar Antonio has these amazing trays of cured seafood and meat, alongside more amazing trays of vegetables in different states of rawness, all dripping with olive oil.  They slice up a little baguette round, toast it to order, and top it with salt-cured anchovy and green pepper (above and below), or cecina with parmesan, or boquerón with tomato, or.....

bar antonio ::: tosta de anchoa (cured anchovy toast)

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Amelia : San Sebastián, Basque Country

Amelia restaurant opened back in the spring in the center of San Sebastián,  the culinary dream-come-true of Paulo Airaudo, an Argentine chef who previously worked and fell in love with the city and has now returned.  The restaurant plants itself decidedly in the global camp...never has a restaurant opened with such an enormous investment, a level of interior design, and an efficiently organized digital advertising campaign in the history of the city.

It turns out that all this effort bore fruit. This month Amelia was awarded its first Michelin star, no small feat in a city that the Guide is loathe to give another star. The one earned by Amelia makes 17 in this city (and surroundings) of about 180,000 inhabitants.  

Fortunately, the food coming out of the kitchen delivers on the hype.  It's not Basque, it doesn't particularly taste of local cuisine, but it's a treasure for the residents of San Sebastián. Amelia is the best way in town to get a glimpse of what's happening in pricier, starrier, harder to get reservations across the globe. 

So instead of giving you a rundown of my meals at the hand of Paulo, I'm giving you a top 10 of the best plates I've tasted there over a couple different visits.  It feels more truthful to the experience, which frames each plate like a piece of art to be contemplated in solitude. Enjoy this countdown to my favorite dish from the city's latest Michelin spot.

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Dish #10 : Black garlic-glazed onion with its pickles.

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Dish #9 : Tuna belly with powdered onion, roasted onion, onion puree and chervil.

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Dish #8 : Honeycomb ice-cream with Taleggio cheese.

Desserts were probably one of my favorite parts of Amelia. Yes, I am a sweets person. And I am also a sweets person that is just so friggin tired of the same offering made by the same amazing chefs that profess a total lack of love for dessert and disdain the magic that happens when butter meets the oven or fresh fruit freezes into sorbet in favor of a sparkling, fresh, gigantic fish or bloody steak. 

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Dish #7 : Crispy with chimichurri.

The staff invites the diners down to the kitchen at some point during the meal. It's a nice opportunity to make some small talk and *bonus* snacks.

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Dish #6 : Artisan bread served with butter, solidified olive oil, and chicken liver pate.  

I am, at my heart, a country girl, so needless to say this combination won me over. 

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Dish #5 : Chicken wings with celeriac. 

For whatever reason, the wings at Amelia are always one of the best dishes.

Dish #4 : Baby leeks with pork belly and plums.

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Dish #3 : Pannacotta horseradish, eel, and and salmon eggs, with parsley oil.

Gorgeous.

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Dish #2 : Caviar, avocado, and creme fraiche ice cream. 

This one was served with a freezing cold shot of vodka table side.  It was absolutely a lovely perfect plate...I'm aware that it's not the first restaurant to dream up this combination, but I'm happy to have experienced it.

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Dish #1 : Caramelized topinambur puree, walnut granola & white chocolate ice-cream.  

Sorry not sorry.

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And then, as an addendum, this really freaky "extra" served to us without revealing its main ingredient. Since I'm not much for spoilers, I'll refrain from telling you what it was. Guess in the comments...if you dare!

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Reservations are a must.

Amelia Restaurant
Prim Kalea, 34
Donostia, Gipuzkoa 20006
+34 943 84 56 47

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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