Travel: Pinxtos in Hondarribia, Spain

We just got back from 5 days in Hondarribia (Fuenterrabia),  Spain.  Hondarribia is a small town outside of San Sebastian* in the northeast of Basque Country, on the border of France.  We were there for the wedding of one of my very best friends (congrats Jenna and Chris!).  While everyone was admiring the architecture and landscape, I was admiring the food, especially the pintxos ("peent-chos").  Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas - small plates, slightly larger than traditional tapas, served at most bars starting after siesta and continuing on through closing.  Some friends were couch surfing for the wedding, and their hosts (local Hondarribian 20-somethings), took us to their favorite pintxos place.  Details and pics after the jump...

Bacalao - Fried cod on baguette - freshly caught; some of the best fried fish I've ever had; unfortunately Atlantic cod is overfished and not a sustainable choice

Albondigas - meatballs - these were so delicious that I made the waiter ask the cook how they're made (1/2 beef, 1/2 pork...expect to see the recipe on the blog sometime soon).

Champinones - mushrooms - marinated and sauteed in garlic and butter; so tasty; they give you bread to soak up the sauce

Cafe cortado - Not a pinxto, but a perfect accompaniment - delicious espresso with a touch of milk ("cut" with milk).  Amazing how you have to struggle to find a decent cup of coffee anywhere in America, even NYC, but can walk into any random bar in Spain and get a perfect espresso.

Bocadillo de jamon Iberico y queso - Ham and cheese sandwich - Also not a pinxto, but it can be made into one.  We had these for lunch almost every day. Jamon Iberico is a delicacy; it's made from pigs raised in Spain eating only acorns, and until very recently, was not available in the US.  It has a silky texture and a perfect level of saltiness - it's the more delicious and sophisticated cousin of prosciutto.  The cheese is idiazabal, a Basque sheep's-milk cheese, the production of which is subject to strict regulations (that is, if you want name it "idiazabal").  The bread was always perfectly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle (maybe it was the proximity to France, but all of the baked goods were delicious).  If i could eat this sandwich every day of my life, I would, and it still wouldn't be enough.

*many of the Spanish words in this post should have accents, but due to limitations of Blogger, do not.

Congratulations to the happy couple!


Anonymous said...

The proximity to France ensures the wonderful quality of bread in Basqueland.When we were in southern Spain we had to resort to buying Hovis bread (a step up from Wonderbread) in Gibraltar..surreal. Though I'm sure if we had been more persistent we would have found good bread.I'm working my way through The Basque History Of The World, a book I had wanted to give you before you left. You will both enjoy it, it not only covers the history of the Basques but features classic recipes also.I know cod is now sadly depleted, however there is no other place on earth to taste it and I'm glad you did. Some historians believe the Basques beat the Vikings to Newfoundland in search of cod and whale.I also happened to come across an article in the Financial Times,in the Food and Drink section that states that San Sebastian is the town for the best tapas in Spain and names such places as Ganbara Jatetxea,Fuego Negro,La Cuchara De San Telmo,Casa Vergara,Izapzi and La Cepa. And yes what great memories we have of the coffee,I told you, you would find it magical

elizabeth said...

If you're looking for a pintxo fix in NYC, GO TO DESPANA. I loved shopping there for chorizo and the like already, but we had some snacks there today (a pintxo for me, a tortilla with jamon serrano for the husband) and they were fantastic. I actually like Despana a little better than Eataly, because I feel it's better-curated with so many samples--but maybe that's the difference between Spanish and Italian food, as the former does have a much stronger culture of preserving and canning foods compared to the latter.

Regardless, go there. You will LOVE it.

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