This past Christmas we decided to celebrate with my parents who live in St. Jean de Luz in the Basque region of France. It's beautfiul there, with the edges of the Pyrenees in the background and the Atlantic coast in the foreground. And it was great to kick back and spend some quality time with them as well.
However, one of the biggest draws is the prospect of hopping across the border to San Sebastian. Everytime we're in that part of the world we make to sure to spend at least an afternoon there trawling the pintxo bars in the Old Town.
This time we decided to give ourselves maximum opportunity to indulge and booked into a hotel so that we could have lunch, a nap, and do it all over again for dinner and wouldn't have to worry about dragging ourselves back to France on the EuskoTren. And we decided that for lunch we'd concentrate on working our way through as much of the menu at our favourite pintxo bar, La Cuchara de San Telmo instead of wandering around.
There was a bit of panic when we got to Calle 31 de Agosto. We were momentarily convinced that they had replaced La Cuchara with public toilets. But a further wander down the street revealed our destination. We claimed a corner of the crowded bar and started ordering dishes in pairs.
First up, 2 beers to quench our thirst, accompanied by Magret and Scallop. These were followed in close succession by Pigs Ear and Bacalao; which were followed by Beef Cheeks and Goats Cheese, which culminated in Octopus and ???. I can't remember! It's a blur of perfect maillard technique, great flavour combinations and an experience that left both of us reeling.
After leaving La Cuchara we poked our heads into Gandarias and had a pintxo of gulas, and then over to a new place called A Fuega Negro. They have a fantastic cookbook done comic book stylee which I now wish i had bought.
We had to revive ourselves with some sunshine and a brisk walk along the beach followed by visceral snooze. Finally made it back to the hotel for what was meant to be a couple hour siesta. But we couldn't muster the energy or (gasp!) appetite for another round. I'm ashamed to say that the planned evening of gastronomic excess turned out to be nothing more than drinking copious amounts of Vichy Catalan and pale attempts to venture out.
Never fear, the next day after checking out of the hotel we noticed groups of Basque looking people making their way to the town centre. Lots of traditional costumes, and as we got nearer to the crowds the unmistakable smell of grilled chistorras.
There was stall after stall selling artisanal products, from cheese, to pacharan, to charcuterie. Interspersed between the small stalls were larger ones that had an assembly line of women and men making Talo which is a kind of corn crepe. These were served stuffed with grilled chistorra and were a delight to eat.
We had to drag ourselves back to the EuskoTren, leaving the revellers behind until our next visit.