Lucky for me, I happened to be in town for one of the most festive holidays of the year, El Día de Santo Tomás, a [long] day dedicated to eating, drinking and rejoicing. We kicked off with pintxos, pintxos y más pintxos. Here is a photo of my beverage of choice here, Txakolí [taken from last night when I celebrated the eve with Marti and yes, por su puesto, with more pintxos].
At 10am this morning, Guillermo, my local guide for the day/Sammic techie/dining compañero took me first to the famous Mercado de La Bretxa for a gander at the local produce, seafood and meat. This little piggy went to the market:
Right across from el cerdito was his brethren, dried and cured just the way I like:
Then we moved to the seafood section. Don’t these barnacles look like dinosaur toes?
I swear the French and Spanish seafood markets have the hugest fish (not counting the tuna and bonito I’ve seen at Tsukiji). Why are the fishies in the Boston markets so small?
Check out the huge shellfish too:
The underground market is fairly large, but so large that it needs this map? I wonder what happened to the missing…perhaps we should consult #113.
The mercado made us hungry so we delved into pintxos at Hidalgo. Every pintxos bar in town was serving up these sausages today:
My favorite dish of the day came from here as well:
The pumpkin purée was so simple: olive oil, salt and time well spent in the oven. It tasted like tea to me! Bizarre? iDelicioso! Paired with the perfectly cooked foie and the caramelized onions, it was a match made in paraíso!
Next I had the blood sausage ‘volcano’, a medley of rice, blood sausage and raisins topped off with an egg yolk and a side of apple purée. Mmm…what a decadent brunch option, eh? Eggs and sausage all day long.
To digest, we walked around the Gros side of town. Actually, we were en route to eat the best talos. That’s when I saw this man making pelotas:
iQue guay! I hope to watch or participate in a match next year [and not get hurt]. Then we found the talos [and the only other Asian in San Sebastián]:
Mujeres haciendo talos
According to Guillermo, the key to good talos is hot water and the wooden paddle on which the mujeres pound the cornmeal by hand. Pas de rolling pin. iHecho de mano! Did I mention the whole town dresses up in these cute outfits? Adults too! Perhaps I should’ve worn my pink beret.
I got a talo con txistorra because apparently I thought I hadn’t had enough sausage for the day. Guillermo had one with queso pero no pictures because our hands were full! Umbrella + talo = messy, pero good eats! We proceeded to the next pintxo stop, Mil Catas, one with the 2009 award-winning pintxo. Si, they really hold pintxo awards in San Sebastián every year.
Their award-winning dish was seared scallop with lemon foam, thin-sliced squid ink potato, potato aioli, cockles and sea salt flakes. It was a perfectly executed scallop but for me, scallop dishes rarely reside in my memory unless they are one of two things: 1) superbly fresh and served raw or ceviche to highlight this quality, or 2) the synergy of the scallops and their accompaniments make the dish tastier than the scallop itself. Hence, all items on a plate should have purpose. This was not the case here but I appreciated the flaky salt crystals…
Same philosophy goes for the pulpo. The fried rice chips and orange glaze were superfluous. I would have been content with simply the pulpo. It was crispy, smokey, tender and a bit QQ, the taiwanese term for having a toothsome bite or pleasant chewiness, similar to the italian term, ‘al dente’. Bravo!
At this point, Guillermo lingered in the breakfast genre and opted for the perfect egg, por su puesto con potatoes and pork! Bacon, I believe? Yum…runny yolks…
On we moved to have some local atún in bocadillo form:
The best in town according to Guillermo, these bocadillos sure were tasty! Porque? El uso del aceite y del vinagre. At this point I had eaten plenty and a bocadillo with Spanish bread and chunky, dry tuna could have easily done me in for the day. Vinegar to the rescue! My mouth was watering throughout the consumption and not once did my bocadillo feel dense. It was quite the opposite, thanks so surprisingly decent bread, quality tuna and the inconspicuous heroine, vinegar. Oh and the piquillos were nicely tart and crunchy too. Adios tuna salad subs, bienvenidos mitxelenas!
After satisfying our palates once more, we headed back to the other side of town and found Papá Navidad:
There in the plaza, we also found donkey, but no sign of shrek:
Even Doraemon decided to show up:
A lot of dried sausages:
There was even a raffle for this 350kg cerdo:
I think we were shooting for ‘cerdisimo’ status because we made our way through the plaza to meet with Andoni for a pintxo at A Fuego Negro, one of the most innovative pintxo bars in town. Here’s a riff on a Mcdonald’s burger:
Sauce and flavor were pretty accurate if they were shooting for Mcdonald’s ‘taste’ and I mean this as a compliment. Surely I would prefer this combination of bun, patty size and banana chips over a Big Mac any day.
Andoni suggested café y té so we followed him and his British ways to tea time:
Café cortado, espresso with a dollop of frothed milk, is a great way to refuel. Refuel for what, you ask? Why, pastries of course:
“You must try this” -Andoni
Seconds later, Andoni was giddy with excitement as the waitress placed a fresh one of these on the display. Of course we had to have it. Even if it is frowned upon a faux pas to eat Austrian cake in San Sebastián:
Gracias for the great food and company, amigos! I eventually made it back to my Pension for a siesta, but not before taking a walk by the beach and enjoying the first sign of señor sol all day: