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Pintxos (pinchos)

If you love the atmosphere of a cocktail party, glass in one hand, a tiny delicate morsel in the other as you mingle informally, then you are going to adore taking Pintxos (pronounced 'pinchos'). These are small, mouth-watering snacks, similar to tapas (TIP - do not mention tapas in the Basque region) often eaten as an appetizer with a small glass of young white wine, Basque cider or beer. They are a cornerstone of Basque life, as they are normally eaten with friends or family. While the recipes are based on traditional Basque cuisine, they now blend with the philosophy of 'microcuisine' – carefully sculpted small dishes with the freshest and most flavoursome ingredients. The traditional 'skewered' snacks (the meaning of 'pintxos') include a delicious range of toppings: from hot peppers, olives and potato omelette to cod and anchovies, sometimes served on a small wedge of bread (you'll also see other clever methods to of serving them). In San Sebastian, seafood is the speciality (especially mussels, cod and anchovies)  you won't find more fabulous pintxos, than in the old town - Parte Vieja.  Here are just a few possible combinations:

  •  Gildas - The very first pintxo, this is a classic Basque combination of fat olive, salty Cantabrian anchovy and pickled pepper on a stick

  • Grilled squid (chipiron a la planchas)

  • Asturian cheese and mushroom risotto (a racione), melt in the mouth - no normal risotto

  • Bacalao (salt cod) and salsa verde

  • Txuleta (beef) - the delicacy is the beef cheeks 

And the list goes on,  It can be overwhelming, especially if you don't speak Spanish. 

The pintxo etiquette itself isn't hard to pick up. The bar will show a chalk noticeboard listing the specialities. You can choose cold pintxos from the display at the bar, or ask for the (hot, 'caliente') specialities to be made for you. You order drinks and pintxos 'til you're done, and then you tell the waiter what you ordered and pay. Pleasure is pretty much guaranteed.

The cod dishes are especially important, and date to the Basque seafaring exploits in icy Arctic oceans. For something a little different, try the exquisitely textured salt cod (bacalao). For cheese, try the delicious Asturian cheeses from the verdant mountains of Northern Spain.

We invite you to join us local experts on a pintxo-tasting tour. For more information, click here.  Welcome to the best pintxos on the planet.

kat moore