Sunday, April 3, 2011

San Sebastian - Pintxos

A breath of fresh air... and a sigh of pure contentment. I don't know how else to describe San Sebastian in words other than to call it perfection.

Playa de la Concha

I'd been planning this trip to San Sebastian for a while now. Yes, being the foodie that I am, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode on Spain sparked my interest in the city... but after reading up on it, it became more than just a food pilgrimage. I'd been having a hard time with the bitterness of the Parisian winter... and images of sandy beaches, sunshine, and waves were calling my name.

La Playa

We spent the first two nights at Urban House hostel... a homey place with a warmth that overrides the need for a five star breakfast and turn down service. I knew I was in the right place when Sara, the girl working the desk, actually wrote me a list of where to go and what to eat... complete with sketches.

Sara's List

Originally, I was planning on going a little overboard, splurging on the 5+ course tasting menu at the world renowned Arzak. After battling back and forth in my head on whether or not I should spend that kind of money for one dinner, I came to the conclusion of not going. I would much rather spend a little more money on each meal than shelling out the big bucks on one meal and spending the rest of the week eating at McDonald's. Good thing I did.

Pintxos (tapas) are the attraction here. Little 3 Euro bites of pure, unadulterated bliss. In my personal opinion, you don't need to sell your first born to go to all the 3 star Michelin restaurants that are in an earshot from San Sebastian. If you can afford it, hell, go for it. For me, I experienced so much more crawling from bar to bar... eating a few plates here and a few plates there.


Usually at pintxos bars the food is set out on multiple plates along the bar... and you pick and choose as you wish. In some places you have to order as you go - which can be a bit more expensive, but you're most likely getting fresher and better quality food. The first pintxos bar we went to, Borda Berri, is head up by an ex-chef at El Bulli (known to be the greatest restaurant on Earth). To me, that's more exciting than 3 Michelin stars. There were no plates on the bar here... which is usually why it gets passed over by tourists. Thankfully, Sara told us about this place, and exactly what to order.

Risotto Negro con Txipipron... Squid Ink Risotto. Even though it was made with orzo, and not rice, it was still incredible.

Squid Ink Risotto

Magret de Pato Asado Lentamente... Slow roasted duck breast. Drool.


Vieira Asada con Puré de Coliflor... Scallops cooked perfectly with the smoothest cauliflower puree I've ever had in my life.


... and then there was this:

Beef Cheek

Carrillera de Ternera al Vino Tinto. Beef Cheeks braised in Red Wine. This literally melts in your mouth. To. Die. For.

For pintxos that look as fabulous as they taste, we headed to A Fuego Negro. With the list from Sara in hand, we ordered everything she wrote down... and then some.

A Fuego Negro

The Menu

Mini Kobe beef burgers cooked to a beautiful medium rare. If only they were bigger... 

Mackobe with Txips

Mini Kobe Burger

The famous Jamón Ibérico on a crostini with goat cheese and sun dried tomates...

Jamón Ibérico

... and enormous green olives with peppers and anchovies. Yum.

Olives, Peppers & Anchovies

Dove breast so tender and juicy, with a wicked presentation. Complete with beet blood splatter and edible bullets.

Paloma, Tiro, PUM!

Risotto like I've never experienced before... full of flavor from all the herbs and with hidden sprinkles of puffed rice, which gave it a surprisingly fun crunch.

Risotto with Puffed Rice

... and then there was this chocolate & licorice thing... oh my goodness...

Regalize It!

The name of this dessert was called "Regalize It!"... a play on words as the Spanish word "regaliz" means "licorice." A seemingly strange combination, especially in my case as I'm not a huge licorice fan, but once I put it in my mouth, everything clicked. Like an electrified Oreo. Trust me.

There were plenty of pintxos bars we popped into for a bite, but these two were by far my stand-out favorites (and this post would get really long if I talked about every single one). So ta ta for now... I'm breaking up this trip into multiple posts... stay tuned!!!


  1. I am so completely jealous. Wow. Everything looks fabulous, I can't wait to see more!

  2. Stumbled across your blog just now, and already I know I'm going to be a daily reader :)

    Girl, you are living my dream! I fantasize about leaving my day job behind and flying off to France (or an equally foodie city, but paris of course is the creme-de-la-creme and my one true love!) and leaving it all behind to pursue my culinary dreams.

    Sigh. I can't wait to read more!

  3. Thanks everyone! The trip was amazing. The food was perfect. There are more posts to come! :)

  4. Good for you to get out and explore!! It's so easy in Europe b/c you're only a train ride away from anything! San Sebastian was lovely when I was there, but it was with a school trip, so you know we weren't eating dove breast, hah!!! I love your pictures-- it's true food porn!! Can't wait for more installments!!

  5. Oh my goodness...I'm drooling over all the food pictures!!

  6. I am going this May/June 2013 - Thanks for the useful info on Borda Berri...was thinking of giving it a miss but not after I've read your review!