Pinxto tasting has been one of my favorite days of the trip so far because of one simple reason: I love food. We began the day at 1:30 PM after classes had concluded and headed to Merkatua, an underground market located in Parte Vieja that features a wide variety of local merchants as well as various restaurants, including a small handful of Pinxto bars, which we visited with Professor Zabalbeascoa. There, he ordered myself and the five of my groupmates three different tortillas: one of which that had anchovies, the other mushrooms, and another which had squid (including a good amount of ink on the side too). Each of these tortillas were impeccable and it was at this point where we learned a valuable tip about eating pinxtos. That is that bread, which was served at almost every single place we went to, can be used to scoop up the pinxtos and adds a nice surface for the sauces to soak up with.
Once we finished with the market, our intrepid group of hungry students headed back to street level and walked a short distance to Haizea, a small hole in the wall bar and favorite of Professor Zabalbeascoa’s. What made this place great was not just it’s excellent food, but also the owners: an older couple who cycled through the massive amount of patrons and their various orders yet also keep a smile on their faces. The pride and cool which bartenders and chefs alike display in these places really makes San Sebastián such a unique location and is quite a culture shift from the United States where oftentimes you can be faced with anonymous, faceless employees which only have profits and paychecks in mind rather than providing genuine service.
I digress, however, as after our stop in Haizia, we headed to the heart of Parte Vieja during the busiest time did the day for the bars. After wandering past dozens of places that were absolutely swamped with patrons, we stopped at this place whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch and where myself and another student in the trip ordered stuffed squid which was not necessarily my favorite meal of the day but at the very least I can brag to my friends and families about the meal I had there. One peculiar detail about this bar was that the bartenders would toot a little horn whenever they got a tip which was hilarious and broke up some of the insanity of the busy day. With this, Professor Zabalbeascoa revealed an interesting but of information about the tipping culture in Spain and the fact that people generally don’t tip as much, often leaving one or two euros rather than a portion of the check as they would in the United States.
After this, we hit a couple more spots and came to probably my favorite meal of the day, which was octopus tar tar. Now while my dish was absolutely incredible, it was also slightly difficult to eat because of two dishes that some of the other students on the trip ordered which blew smoke into my face and the entire restaurant since they were served on a sort of “minature grill” that had a piece of charcoal burning underneath to smoke the food. I did not end up trying their dishes but I saw and heard from them that it was an absolutely incredible mix of fish, a bit of starches, and even a shot of cilantro which I had never seen in my life before. That bad in particular was filled with some of the most oddball food I have ever seen in my life before, including a dish made of riverworms. I will definitely have to visit again.
Finally, we finished our grand tour with slices of cheesecake and café from this beautiful little bakery which was planning to close up before the evening time reopening which is a schedule most shops around this past follow. I definitely will remember this as one of the best days on my trip.