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Trip summary of the Basque region (including San Sebastian and Bilbao) especially for foodies

Trip summary of the Basque region (including San Sebastian and Bilbao) especially for foodies

Old Jul 13th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Trip summary of the Basque region (including San Sebastian and Bilbao) especially for foodies

Hi all. Below is a trip summary of our recent trip to the Basque region of Spain. Many thanks to Maribel for her wonderful guides which gave us so many helpful ideas and suggestions, http://maribelsguides.com/

Our first stop was in San Sebastian, a beautiful town with a lovely beach. Itīs also considered to have the best food in Europe. It is famous for its pintxo (tapas) bars as well as its numerous Michelin starred restaurants. Here is a list of places we tried:

For pintxos (all in the Parte Vieja):

Bar Etxaniz (Calle de Fermin Calbetón): A good place to get started. The bar had a wide variety of pintxos and bocadillos (small sandwiches) and everything was fresh. The barman was constantly replacing plates with freshly made goodies. 3 pints of beer, a lemon soda, and 9 pintxos was only 25 euro.

Bar Txepetxa (Calle de la Pescadería 5): This place makes fantastic anchovy pintxos.

La Cuchara de San Telmo (Calle 31 de Agosto 28): This bar is more like a small plates restaurants with gourmet pintxos made to order, superb. Really crowded, try to go early or just before closing.

Restaurants:

Arzak (Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui, 273): We had to try the 3 Michelin star temple of Basque cuisine. The tasting menu was 125 euro and it was worth every penny. Iīve only eaten in one other 3 star restaurant in Europe (Gordon Ramsey) and it doesnīt even compare to Arzak.

Bodegon Alejandro (Calle Fermín Calbetón, 4): This restaurant is supervised by Martin Berasategui, another 3 Michelin star chef. Good basque food, definitely value for money (2 starters, 1 main and dessert for 33 euros).

Zuberoa (outside San Sebastian, in Oiarzun): a 2 Michelin star restaurant which served traditional Basque food. I left feeling somewhat disappointed as I was expecting more because of the 2 stars.

to be continued...
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Old Jul 13th, 2006, 01:22 PM
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I look forward to the rest of the report! I went to several recommended bars in San Sebastian and enjoyed them, but as you might guess, the single best pintxos I ate were in a dumpy looking sports bar with pictures of internantionally famous boxers where I looked in and saw them serving up chunks of freshly fried cod. They were so tasty. Also on the counter was a plate of rolls filled with blue cheese and an anchovy wedged deep in the cheese. Boy, those were good!

We finally quit looking for recommended bars and just went with our own instincts. It worked better for us.
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Old Jul 13th, 2006, 11:13 PM
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Can hardly wait for more!
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Old Jul 14th, 2006, 02:23 PM
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Hi nessundorma

I agree with you, the food in San Sebastian is so good, that recommendations arenīt really necessary. Itīs so easy to find something tasty to eat.

Trip summary continued...

Since we spent so much time eating, the only touristy things we did were long walks along the beautiful Playa de La Concha, and riding the funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo for spectacular views of the city.

We went to Bilbao just to see the Guggenheim Museum and it was well worth it. The building is breathtaking and a stunning piece of art itself. There was also the incredible Richard Serra exhibit, gigantic rolled steel sculptures with passageways that the viewer walks through.

As we were there only one day, we only tried one pintxos place, El Globo (Calle de Diputacion 8) which was very good. I really liked the morcilla (blood sausage).

The one shopping tip I can give is that if you like sweets, you must go to Arrese (Gran Via 24) where you can buy the most incredible cream filled truffles. Iīve never tasted anything like these before. My only regret is that I only bought one box.

The next day we took a brief driving tour of the Basque coast. The drive was very scenic, with views of the wonderful northern coast. The village of Bakio had a beautiful beach. Also, we stopped at the church of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, between Bakio and Bermeo, which is on a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a stone stairway. It was a tiring walk of over 200 steps to the top, but well worth it for the views. The church also has a bell which people ring for good luck.

We also stopped at the village of Sukarrieta, where we ate at the bar/restaurant La Marisma, which serves good traditional Spanish food and pintxos at the bar. For dessert, I had torrijas, which is the Spanish version of French toast and it is to die for!

Finally, we made a stop in Getxo, interesting for its bridge, the Puente Colgante, with a suspended platform.

I loved San Sebastian so much that I plan on going again, and plan on visiting the French Basque country as well.

One pintxo that I really liked is very simple to make: on a slice of baguette, drizzle a bit of olive oil, then place a slice each of tomato and roasted green pepper, an anchovy, and a slice of goat cheese. You can add a little bit of chopped onion on top if you like.

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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 01:23 PM
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Pocari thanks very much for the good report. I am so excited about my visit to San Sebastian in the fall and am saving this for reference. Just one question: Did you reserve far in advance for Arzak? Did you have lunch or dinner there? I will only have time/budget for one multi-starred meal this trip and am wondering which one to choose....Thanks again.
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 03:07 PM
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Hi ekscrunchy

I would recommend reserving at least two months in advance for Arzak. I ate there for lunch and the meal lasted about two and a half hours. I loved this restaurant and plan on going again in the future.

BTW, there was an article in todayīs travel section of the NYT about going to San Sebastian.

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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 03:21 PM
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Thanks, Pocari! I posted that article on another thread from tomorrow's paper. It sounds like Arzak might be a "must." I am traveling with a friend who is more budget conscious than I am so I have to tread a bit lightly...... Were there other top-tier places that you considered as well? I should mention here that perhaps the main reason (no, not perhaps) in traveling to the city is for food.....
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 03:22 PM
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... and I just noticed that you already know about it!
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 03:39 PM
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The main reason we decided to go to SS was for the food as well! There was an article in the Guardian that first turned me on to this place: Is San Sebastian the best place to eat in Europe?

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/...614403,00.html


Considered Martin Berasategui as well, but Arzak is such a legend that I wanted to go there and like you, I only had the budget for one big name restaurant!
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 03:56 PM
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Pocari you sound like someone "after my own heart," to use an old and somewhat dated expression here in the US. Actually I really love the old dingy bars with the sports photos; I like being able to sample lots of dishes in a relaxed atmosphere. If I don't like something, order another, and another......

Maribel was supremely helpful in guiding me to good food during my recent trip to Extremadura and Castille..let me tell you right now that if you are a true food lover, and I know you are, you must get yourself on the "lechazo trail" (el sendero de lechazo??) in Segovia province. See what I mean by reading my (very long) trip report posted in late May. I can only count the days until my trip to San Sebastian.....Spanish food is finally getting the recognition is deserves!! Thanks again for posting!
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 07:28 PM
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The Sunday travel section of the NY Times features San Sebastian.
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 11:36 PM
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Iīve just read the article on The Guardian, it seems very accurate. Depending on the time youīre staying, ekscrunchy, Arzak is a must, but I also like Akelarre (magnificent views, on top of Igueldo mountain). If you have a car during your visit, all neighboring towns are much worth visiting (at Getaria you have Elkano, probably the best grilled fish on earth, sorry, on the universe; at Zumaia, Asador Bedua, for great chuletones; at Hondarribia you have Ramón Roteta and many pintxos bars...), almost anywhere there is a good place (or several) to eat...

Iīm more familiar with the Bilbao area, if you are coming this way feel free to ask.
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Old Jul 15th, 2006, 11:44 PM
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http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/07/1...l/16going.html
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Old Jul 16th, 2006, 04:34 AM
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Thank you, Mikelg. I will do a bit more research and come back with a few more questions. Another place I read good things about is Casa Nicolasa. We will not have a car, I don't think, so will probably confine outselves to the city on this trip; we have three nights in San Sebastian before we take the train to the Dordogne. Here is a food report that might interest you:

http://www.gastroville.com/archives/spain/000005.html
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Old Jul 16th, 2006, 05:41 AM
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I wanted to add that José Maria Arzak was in the kitchen that day. Not sure how much of a difference there is if only Elena Arzak, his daughter, is there.
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Old Jul 16th, 2006, 11:30 AM
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Very interesting article on the top restaurants of the Basque Country. Iīve enjoyed a couple of excellent meals at Etxebarri, and itīs true that this man is a Grill Master. The rest of restaurants are a sure win, although their food is getting far too complicated lately...Hope you enjoy the Dordogne, itīs one of my favourite spots in France.
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