Pintxos of power

Crisp and soft thymus gland. Or possibly pancreas. Thats what I would write about if my teacher told me to write an essay about my summer holidays.

For my summer holidays i went to san sebastian in spain spain is a country in europe and is next door to france where my friend ben went on holiday ben has a dog called john which pooed in my dads car when we went to chessington. When i was their i ate pancreas and in spain the money is euros and there is ladies on the beach who my dad looked at because they only had pants on.

I adore San Sebastian.

It might be my favourite place. With the possible exception of  Kaya Maya- which I shall maybe write about soon.

San Sebastian is right at the northern tip of the  Basque Country- nearly french (in geographical terms only) and on the Southern coast of the Bay of Biscay- sort of in that arm-pit-y bit where Spain joins France. Residents of San Sebastian, or Donostians as they proudly call themselves are not going to win any hospitality awards any time soon. You will feel as welcome as a bum based pustule. They have a certain gruff charm though, that warms when you TRY. Unless you TRY and are a total spaz. Like me.

Before reading about my faux pas you should consider the following:

1. I have sailed the seas, been in moonlit harbours buying flapping fish from Croatian gangsters. I write about food, I have been in the food industry for 11 years- I have eaten, bought and cooked food on almost every continent of this fair planet and would like to think that if not an expert, I know more than your average punter. Allied to this I have visited San Sebastian twice before. I am experienced is the point.

2. I am arrogant, rarely wrong, show off quite a lot and hate looking stupid.

I walked into a Pintxo (basque for tapas) bar on our first day (lovely girlfriend in tow) and gestured dramatically for her to look in wonderment and awe at the food laden bar- ‘I told you so- isn’t this brilliant!  -you just help yourself and keep your own tab of what you have eaten’. So I had some ham (you know how I like ham) and some delectable lamb skewers and a divine croquette and then noticed some little home smoked spratty, kippery things- all lying in shoal formation on some nice salad stuff. So I picked one up and popped it, face first into my gob and closed my teeth. Three things happened instantaneously. Firstly my spidey senses detected that this was not smoked fish but raw fish. Secondly a Basque man stormed from one end of the bar to where I was standing, gesticulating and roaring wildly. Thirdly I died a little inside.

Because they were not little home smoked spratty, kippery things, they were fresh sardines that you point at and get deep fried by the  ferocious gesticulator

So there I was in a packed bar, girlfriend watching on- with a mouth full of raw sardine- spine and all. Being shouted at.

More fun was La Cuchara de San Telmo, a pintxo bar with a definite modern twist. It was stunning and I went there every day. Each Pintxo costs between 2 and 4 Euros and each is as good as a course on any Michelin tasting menu. Its the sort of place where Chef’s go on their day off- Pigs ears, beef cheek, foie gras and sweet breads all appear- The pig ears are cooked for hours til glutinous and then fried on a high heat to crisp up- all savoury and crackling-y and sticky and delicious. The beef cheek is braised for hours and hours in decent Rioja and can be eaten with a spoon (cuchara) It has such deep intense flavour that I wanted to write an ode to it there and then. The foie was generous and seared perfectly til sweet and caramelised but still soft and luxurious. All of the dishes- confit duck leg, grilled octopus, goats cheese risotto amongst others,  are garnished impeccably and have perfect accompaniments- the beef cheek sits atop a fine chick pea puree, adding earthy notes to the rich meat, the duck with a zingy apple sauce to cut through the fatty meat. Everything has been thought about and tasted and perfected until it is right. And it is wonderful wonderful wonderful.

Do some research on San Sebastian- google it- it is Europe’s jewel. It has incredible beaches, a beautiful old town, class, culture and best of all the finest food scene in all the world.  And should you get the opportunity to eat crispy pancreas in La cuchara de San Telmo then I urge you to do so.

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