San Sebastian's food scene is a lively display of artful, gastronomic hedonism. The main characters in this scene are pintxos; small bites of delicious food prepared in mouthwatering variations.
When I walked into my first pintxos bar, I was a bit intimidated. On the bar, there were dozens of plates filled with amazing finger foods and the choice was hard. The bartender handed me a plate and I chose mussels with a pico de gallo on top with a glass of Rioja. I watched as people made their choices and sipped on beer or wine and then left. When I was finished, I went up to pay and was shocked that my bill was only €3!
The next place was very similar but their specialty was anchovies. I chose an anchovy skewer with pickles and a green olive. The briny taste of the pickles mellowed the saltiness of the anchovy and the green olive was the perfect finish, like an olive in a really good martini. I ordered white wine with this bite and knew I had fell in lust with a new way of eating.
Then, I found the pintxos bar that would become the favorite of my trip. Zeruko is a small unassuming place with mind blowing food. Part of their charm is that they incorporate molecular gastronomy for those who really want to geek out on their food. What kept me returning were the sea urchins topped with roe and olive oil and their gold dipped artichokes stuffed with scallops. I could.not.get.enough!! I also learned about a local wine called Txakoli which is poured with a dramatic raise of the arm into the glass below; this is to let the small bubbles settle. The wine is a light, refreshing white with the perfect amout of acidity to pair with some of the more heavy seafood bites. The staff was kind and knowledgeable and never tired of my many questions.
The charm of San Sebastián was solidified by the pintxos experience. It is such a lively and social way to spend an evening. Perfect strangers or friends meet around a bar filled with food, choose their bites and sip their drinks while chatting. Each night, I met lovely people and learned about the various parts of the world they had travelled from. Travel never ceases to amaze me when it comes to the people I meet, especially when I am alone. Everyone's story is fascinating in their own right and the pintxos experience was like a large moving dinner table.
Every time I travel, I try to find a place or dish that commemorates the taste and feel of the region I am visiting. The Basque proved to be geniuses when it comes to capturing the feel of their region. Everything I ate tasted fresh from the sea and the wine paired perfectly with the abundant flavors. From my time in San Sebastián, I will always refer to pintxos and Txakoli as the most unforgettable tastes.