August 3, 2021, was a big day for me. Before I begin with the real content of the post, here is a little background information about me. I have been a vegetarian since I was in second grade. To put that in perspective, I have not had meat in about 12 years. Now that you have that fun fact about me I can continue.
When deciding which excursions each of us would write about, my hand shot up for the reflection on our adventures pintxo tasting in Gros. Since the moment I heard this was on our schedule I knew exactly what I was going to write. The original plan was to write a post about what is available at the pintxo bars in San Sebastián for vegetarians to eat. It was going to be a nice informational piece for anyone who was thinking about going to this beautiful city but worried they would not be able to find vegetarian safe food. Sorry to tell all you vegetarians out there, that did not happen. My first step into our first bar (that was open) I decided I was going to do something crazy, or crazy for me at least. I was going to try meat for the first time in 12 years. I know, pretty lame for most people but this was huge for me! There is something about this amazing place that makes you want to experience everything possible. Anyway, here is a recount of my adventures being bold and stepping out of my comfort zone on our pintxo tasting tour in San Sebastián, Spain.
First Stop: Casa Valles
Our first stop in this tour was at a bar called Casa Valles. This was on the list because it is the birthplace of the “original pintxo”. Unfortunately, the bar ended up being closed so all we got here was a nice picture of all of us looking sad 🙂 Bars being closed or too busy were definitely the theme of our outing but did not in any way deter from the amazing experience.
Second Stop: Antonio Bar
Our second stop was at Antonio Bar where we were met with much better luck, scoring the last three pieces of their Spanish tortilla. This bar is home to chef Marti Buckley’s favorite tortilla in all of San Sebastián, and I totally see why. This was definitely my favorite pintxo of the tour. It had so many delicious flavors, the potatoes were excellent, and the egg, in my opinion, was cooked perfectly. Not too runny, which is just what I like. I cannot wait to go back to this bar and get this tortilla again. This one was right in my comfort zone but the rest of this tour was crazy.
Third Stop: Ezkurra Bar
On our third stop we were able to go into the bar, sit at a table and order several different pintxos and raciones to try. One of these was a raciones called Ensaladilla Rusa. Apparently this dish is what this bar does best so I had to try it. Another thing I should mention about myself, I do not eat fish or most seafood, so this dish was the first of many that was out of my comfort zone. It consisted of potatoes, mayonnaise, and maybe a hint tuna and anchovies. It was honestly pretty good, and tasted similarly to potato salad. Although I would probably not order it for myself at a bar, I am glad I tried it.
The next raciones we tried was called Tabla de Ibéricos. This was a plate filled with slices of cured ham from the leg of a black pig, which San Sebastián apparently has a very large amount of. I was unsure of whether I wanted to try this one or not, but when in Rome (or San Sebastián)! It was actually really good. It was very salty due to it being cured so it did not really taste like the ham I remember eating 12 years ago. As I write this post I am still shocked I tried it but I am glad I did.
The third raciones we tried was called Rabas de calamar and it was SO good. This was a plate of fried calamari, which I already know I like but this was by far the best I have ever had. I suppose that is to be expected in a city ranked with some of the best food ever. I would 100% order this again and will be doing so before we head back to the US.
The last thing we tried was called the Gilda pintxo. I previously mentioned how we attempted to try the original pintxo at our first stop but could not, well we finally did. This pintxo has peppers, an olive, and a whole anchovy, served on a skewer. This pintxo was daunting to say the least. I was very close to not trying it but with encouragement from those in my group who had already tried it and liked it, I went for it. All I can say, not my favorite. It does not help that I do not like banana peppers, which is what the peppers taste like, I do not like olives, and I do not like anchovies, so this pintxo was doomed from the start. It was certainly an experience but was not for me. I am, however, glad I can say I have tried the “original pintxo”!
Fourth Stop: Gure Txoko
During our fourth stop at the lovely Gure Txoko, we tried a lot of food so I am only going to include the ones that were adventurous for me. One dish that we tried was a sandwich with lettuce, tomato and a soft shelled crab. The whole concept of eating a soft shelled crab is wild to me. You eat the whole thing, shell and all! I just had to try it, and I am so glad I did. It was delicious! I would definitely get this again.
The next pintxo was one that included a squid, cooked in its own ink. I had previously had calamari before so I am no stranger to eating squid, but one cooked in its own ink was a first for me. It was surprisingly good. I thought I was not going to enjoy this one but I did and would probably order it again if I was feeling adventurous.
A few pintxos I could not get myself to partake in at this stop was blood sausage and foie gras. I don’t see myself ever being ready for anything with the word blood in it or duck liver, but those who tried them really enjoyed them, so maybe someday!
Fifth Stop: Txiki Taberna
Our fifth and final pintxo stop of the day was at a bar called Txiki Taberna where we tried a few more pintxos. One of which I just could not convince myself to try was pig ear. Those in my group who tried this one actually liked it, so if you find yourself here in San Sebastián, give it a try!
A pintxo I did try was one with pieces of octopus served in a potato sauce. This one was actually really good. It was chewier than expected but had great flavor and the sauce was really good.
Another one that I tried was salted cod with a slow cooked egg served on top. Like I stated above, I do not eat fish, so this was also pretty far out of my comfort zone. The cod was not my favorite of the day but it was still good and I would recommend it to any fish lover.
The last pintxo of the day was a croquetas de jamón. This one was delicious. After everything else I had eaten on this tour, the idea of eating ham was no longer that wild to me, so this was easy to try, and even easier to eat the whole thing! I definitely recommend this one and will be ordering it again.
To end the day we got the best gelato I have ever had from Papperino. This pintxo tasting tour was an incredible experience that I am so grateful I was able to participate in. Being in a new place can be overwhelming, especially a new place that’s in a country you have never been to, with food you have never had. This tour gave me and everyone else in my group the opportunity to try new things, while gaining a better understanding of this beautiful city and its food. I cannot wait to take my new knowledge and go explore San Sebastián and its food some more.