Monday, 4 January 2010

A Pilgrimage to La Cuchara + Santo Tomas Feria

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.

st jean de luz boats

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.


The London Foodie said...

Hi Mel and Kelsie,

Happy New Year to both! Wow, I must book my ticket to San Sebastian as soon as possible if only to try those amazing dishes, I am stunned by the photography, the food and pictures look sensational.

I am afraid I have been quite slow with my correspondence but I got Mel's mail this week, and am completely fine with everything, we will of course wait for you until Feb 10.

Hope all is well.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Su-Lin said...

Oh how fabulous! San Sebastien has been on my hotlist for a while - the pintxos look amazing! And Vichy Catalan! I didn't realise that's popular in the rest of Spain too!

Tiki Chris said...

That talo with the grilled chistorra looks delicious! I've gotta get back to San Sebastian. Great city!

Katrina said...

I adore the photo of a little boy in black and white.

What was the theme of the festival?!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

That food looks seriously good. I have a friend from San Sebastian who lives in London but is talking about going back. I can't wait because then I'll have a local to show me round all these fabulous tapas bars!!! Happy New Year to you.

kelsie and mel said...

hey luiz. we are fine and dandy. sorry that we will miss the january cooking club get together. love to you both.

hi su lin
defo check out san sebastian. esp in the old city. the city reeks food.
happy new year!!

hey chris
happy new year to you. we love chistorras too. even the garlicky burbs that we get afterwards.

hi katrina.
we think the festival is dia de santo tomas. st thomas day. it was great seeing everybody dressed up and oooh the chistorras!!

happy new year sarah.
we definately recommend san sabastian. eat, drink and be merry.

Gourmet Chick said...

This looks amazing I have been to San Sebastian and Biarritz but desperate to go back to this area and to St Jean de Luz - looks brilliant.

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