Sunday, March 1, 2009

European Trip-Spain


Arrived in Madrid airport at 9am and was met by Scott Hawthorn (co-owner of Salt) who had arrived from New York earlier. Rented a car from Avis and set off on our 4+ hour drive to San Sebastian.

Stopped at a truck stop and were delighted to find lomo packaged as a roadside snack, a welcome change from the pepperoni and jerky at Canadian Chevrons.

Arrived in San Sebastian at 4pm and after a snooze and a freshen up, we set out for the old town to experience the Tapas Bar culture or as the Basques call them Pintxos.

As mentioned in the previous post we are in Spain to collect ideas for a new project, specifically to see if the essence of the Tapas Bar can be transplanted to Vancouver.

Our conclusion is that in order for an authentic Pintxos Bar to operate in Vancouver several established laws would have to be broken. In many locations we observed people smoking, food left at room temperature on counter tops for hours, the same food items completely exposed to the elements (including people sneezing on or around them) and dogs, dogs everywhere dogs.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a problem with most of this (the octopus was a bit iffy) but we could never recreate these particular elements in Vancouver. We used to allow dogs to sit in the Heather’s glass conservatory until one concerned citizen dropped a dime and we were threatened with the Health Board’s full wrath if we allowed dogs to continue to enter.

But these aren’t the only things that give a Pintxos Bar its unique feel. Some of the aspects that we like and feel would work in Vancouver are -Smaller pours of beer & wine, a varied selection of small reasonably priced food items, hams hanging from the ceiling, ham being sliced off the bone from a counter top and a standing bar (ie no stools, not even one.)

We are curious to see if the Tapas Bars in Madrid allow dogs and smoking like their Basque counterparts. There is definitely a feeling in San Sebastian of “we do it our way and to hell with the rest of you”. I pity the individuals who are charged with enforcing the smoking bylaw in San Sebastian. Most of the people who we saw smoking in restaurants were doing so under no smoking signs.

We ate and drank our way through 4 bars that night with the best being “Gandarias Taberna’s” as recommended by Tim Pawsey.

amazing meats...

baked goat's cheese wrapped in bacon

pouring a glass of the Basque sparkling wine, txakoli

deep-fried pig's ear...

Stuffed and tired we returned to our hotel and decided on a nightcap at the local Irish Pub Molly Malone’s.

The next day we walked the length and breath of San Sebastian and concluded that while beautiful, it was a seaside town that’s heart beat loudest in the summer.

That night we decided on dinner at a restaurant. Bernardo Etxea came well recommended for their work with fresh seafood. We decided on sharing half a fresh fish, some grilled octopus and some locally produced lomo. All were great, with the fish being the standout.

Grilled octopus dusted in smoked paprika...

Whole grouper...

head off, filleted and hissing on the grill...

plated and doused in a warm lemon infused olive oil

Still tired and slightly hung-over from the previous nights “Nightcap” we called it a night.

Next installment: hanging out with Iberico Black Pigs

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