Small Plates Get Smaller: Pinxto in Basque Country

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San Sebastian

Ed Note: Our friend Jake recently returned from the Basque Country, eager to tell me about his love affair with food from the region. I think he might have even said it was his favorite cooking from around the world. 

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Baby Eel

And Jake’s been around, growing up in Philly, living in Boston, DC and Portland and traveling through Asia and India and many more places.  Especially, Costa Rica, where he toured with teenagers around the hills, farms and lakes of the country. He also wrote about it on Simmer a few years ago. Here are a few highlights from his taste of the Basque Country. 

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Beans, Jamon and Olives

Basque Country (Pais Vasco) claims to be neither a part of Spain nor France, rather an independent region with its own take on how eating should be done. I like.

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Anchovies

I’m pretty sure everyone knows tapas, you sit down to eat with a few friends, share a few small plates and leave hungry and feeling like you overpaid. I get it.

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Oxtail, Mashed Potato, Pepper Guernika

Enter pinxtos (pronounced pinch-os).

Okay, it’s not really cheap eating, but it’s damn good, and worth the experience. Smaller than tapas, and usually served on a slice of baguette, you can down one in a few bites.

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Shrimp, Egg, Mayo

In San Sebastian, a small coastal city on the north Atlantic coast of the Basque region, a cluster of bars in the old city become a nightly hotspot for tourists and locals alike seven nights a week.

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Various Croissants

For one to three euro per pinxto, you travel from bar to bar, eating and drinking, sampling and tasting until it’s time to just switch to good ol vino.

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Pickles, Olives, Jamon

Each bar tries to be more inventive than the next, from baby eel to anchovies, squid and lots of different kinds of cheeses and of course, jamon serrano.

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Clockwise from front center: Croquette of Jamon Serrano, Tuna, Jamon and Cheese, Jamon and Mayo(ish)

Seafood abounds, but it’s the combinations of things where the magic happens. Try jamon, anchovy and a delicious pepper guernika. Actually, try ’em all.

(Photos: Jake)

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