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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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.