It’s 9:15 am. The bus is late, therefore we will be late. A couple of us had left the residence early so we could get to Lacunza (the Spanish school) on time, since the bus ride is about 17 minutes and then it’s a 10 minute walk from the bus stop to the school. After arriving there late, we each went to class and got together after. At around 1:30 we met with Professor Zabalbeascoa and went on a Pintxo tasting tour. That’s when the adventure began. The task he had assigned us before meeting up with him in the old part of the city was to come hungry, thankfully we were all starving.
Before having our first bite of a pintxo we all decided to go into the tour with an open mind and with the willingness to try everything regardless of how weird or ugly it looked. The point was to open up our minds to a new culture and their food. We started the pintxo tasting tour in one of the city’s most typical bars, where only locals went; Bar Haizea. There we had our first taste of what an original pintxo is like. It was a combination of olives, peppers, alubias (the Spanish words for beans), and an anchovy going over it, all soaked in olive oil. It had an interesting taste to it, because it didn’t taste bad but it was also very salty. There we also tried two other pintxos, one called “the brick” which was the most liked by everyone, and the last one we tried was a combination of different ingredients but it was the one we disliked the most.
From here, we were able to obtain a better idea of what the rest of the afternoon was going to look like for us, and so on we went to try new pintxos at different bars.
The bars in San Sebastián are very interesting. They are not like your typical U.S. bars where you walk in and sit around it and the bartender serves you drink after drink, don’t get me wrong, that can totally be done here but not in a single place we went to did we see something like this. The idea of bars here is mostly to socialize, therefore you walk into the bar and most have tables, some people sit around the bar, but the place tends to look like a small restaurant mostly. People walk in, order a drink and a pintxo, sit down, eat and drink what they ordered, they socialize, they pay, leave, they move on to the next bar, and so on. We tried doing the same, to obtain the whole experience of what being a local here feels like, unfortunately, because it was a Tuesday, some of the bars were closed, so we went to the ones we could.
After that first original pintxo bar we went to around four more bars; in each one always trying something new and unique. The second bar we went to I decided to try “Foie A La Plantxa con Salsa De Uvas” which is grilled goose liver covered in grape sauce. This dish was very unique and tasted amazing, but it did leave a weird aftertaste to it. Here, we also tried things like Risotto and baby squids, which both plates were delicious; afterwards we went to a different bar.
In the next bar we went to, we had the famous Spanish tortilla, it’s a great dish and one of my favorites. It’s scrambled eggs, with potatoes and onions inside and it looks like a tortilla. Some places make it better than others, the one we had yesterday was good. There we also tried some bread topped with seafood mix and mayonnaise on top, which also tasted delicious.
From there we moved to another bar, and at this point we were all stuffed. Here, we only got a couple of pintxos and we decided to share them because not only were we too full but also we all wanted to save space for the last stop, which was a bar where we were going to try the glorious Basque cheesecake. The bar we originally wanted to go to for the cheesecake was closed because they were on vacation, which was very disappointing because their cheesecake is considered the best. Therefore, we had to find a different bar; after we did, we sat down and finally had our first bite of a Basque Cheesecake made in the Basque Country; it certainly did not disappoint.
We ended the pintxo tasting tour, and I can say that personally, I have a better understanding of pintxo bars, and my eyes have been open to a whole different perspective and experience. Throughout the way we saw places that were closed but that were very recommended by tourists and locals, and to not miss those out, we decided to make a list of them so we could visit them on a different day. Now I can’t wait to try other bars around the city, including those we missed, while embracing a new culture!