Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Patxi, ay va la hostia!*

Last week, E was sent to Bilbao again on business, so given I was in a quiet time workwise and E had accumulated Spanair points, I decided to join him and that way visit our friends Izaskun and Josefa in Bilbao..

What can I say other than the Basque Country deserves its name as culinary hotspot. What's more, the city is more than just the Guggenheim.. Wandering around the markets while E was working was just amazing. There were people at all the fish stalls, clamouring to get to the front and an amazing variety too. The scallops looked particularly good.
However it has to be said, that the main focus in Bilba
o (and San Sebastian, which is the next city on the "to do" list) is on their pintxos.

Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas, but generally just a mouthful, stuffed on top of a piece of bread. Essentially it arose from when wine was served in the olden days, a piece of dry bread was placed over the top of the goblet to stop any flies or other nasties from falling in. From there it has evolved into a cultural tradition, with all the bars in the Basque country filled with people at lunchtime and in the evening. There's no tables or chairs as everyone stands around, even
outside in the street with a zurito (a small shotglass of beer) or a glass of wine (more common). Depending on the area, the variety changes although most bars tend to have a speciality.. so as
you can imagine, it leads to a bar-crawl! I especially loved the ones with Txangurro (crab meat mixed with mayonnaise) and the amazing mushrooms in Cafe Bilbao in Plaza Nueva.

The weekend we were there was the patron saint of Bilbao so Saturday everyone was out on the street to celebrate. Surprisingly after the rain that we had the days before (constant Ireland-like drizzle) Saturday was a bright, warm winter day. Izaskun and Josefa decided it was about that Alain started to look like a real Basque so he was dressed for the occasion. The atmosphere was amazing, people everywhere with bottles of cider
(not like ours back home) more like wine but made with apples. Izaskun insisted that we try the local Xistorra and Talo - a pancake made from co
rnflour which was rather nice but filling!
All in all, culinary wise, it is definitely a capital city!

*Typical Spanish expression apparently characteristic of the Basques

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