San Sebastian: The Food, Part I

San Sebastian’s reputation of being a sort of food haven was a big part of what brought me there-that and the beautiful beaches, city life, shopping… shall I continue?

This was my first exposure to the Spanish way of eating that seems so foreign to us North Americans. Dinner is late, quite late, and no exceptions just because your a tourist. If you’re intending on going out to dinner, plan on the earliest reservation being at 9:00. Locals go later than that.

In San Sebastian, the name of the game is pintxos or tapas. From mid-morning to early afternoon, then again from late afternoon through the evening, bars set out a display of food worthy of the entire capacity of your stomach. Truth be told, I didn’t go out to a proper dinner once.

While pintxo “hopping” is what it’s all about (having one drink and pintxo then hitting the road) I found it hard to leave a place that I really enjoyed. If the food was on, the bartenders were friendly and the music was good, I stayed.

Wake up, not too early, and head to Bar Gorriti. While this is a bit of a tourist haunt, early in the day you’ll find nothing but old gentleman getting their daily fix of tortilla (like a fritatta) or small panini with their cafe (an espresso) or a cafe con leche .  Order your drink, ask for a plate or point to what you want and they’ll have it to you in a jiffy.

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Once you’ve filled up on delicious and oh-so-inexpensive fare, head over to Mercado La Brexta. Now this area is a bit confusing but some booths are well worth it. The entry to the market is an escalator going down in the center of the plaza. Hop on and you’ll arrive right into the meat/cheese/olive market. Take a sharp left a bit later in the day and you’ll see one of the best fish markets I’ve seen. Octopus, monstrous fish, and prawns are in their glory here.

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Take the escalator back up and head to the side of the white building (by the bar) to the produce stands. They’re beautiful and sanitary (ask for a plastic bag before you go grabbing…learned this one the hard way).

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The afternoon is time to get accustomed to the pintxo scene before heading to one of the beaches. For lunchtime I loved this little spot at 4 Calle San Fermin Calbeton, Bar Goiz Argi perhaps because it was the first spot I ever went to. Nevertheless, it’s delicious. There is a great spread and even better hot menu. Order the shrimp skewer.

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For anchovies, the only logical choice would be this spot on Calle Pescadora- Bar Txepetxa. Ask for the English menu or get wild and just pick a few. I tried the vegetable topped anchovies and the foie gras. Both divine when washed down with  txchacoli .

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After lunch I headed to the beach each day to worship the sun and submerge myself in the intoxicatingly-blue water. After a rest, or quick siesta, it was time to repeat the experience. But this time, after the sun had set, the atmosphere was to die for.

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Stay tuned for The Food Part II .

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