Friday, April 28, 2017

Seafood All Around San Sebastian

Trip date: November 2015

Northern Spain Trip Day 8

We started our second day in San Sebastian with a stand-up breakfast at the Santana Cafe before taking a nice walk through the city's market, Mercado de la Bretxa. 

I love browsing market stalls and had not been in this one before. We all split up so that we could do things at our own pace and planned to meet back up at a designated time. There are always so many things, especially different species of fish, that I've never seen when I'm in the markets of Europe. Being that this one is also in one of the gastronomic centers of Spain there were specialty items like monkfish liver, hake roe,  various pork pieces, etc. 
We left the market and strolled through old town so the folks who hadn't joined us the night before could take a peek. 

I love this church which seems to be built right into the hill behind it. When we were done our driver Antonio took us to a small port where we boarded an even smaller boat and crossed over to an adorable and colorful fishing village, Pasajes San Juan. 
What a fantastic side trip this was, I didn't know anything about it! The houses are all from the 16th and 17th century and the inhabitants are fiercely Basque. 

Besides wandering the narrow streets and taking in the views, we visited a restaurant where they have a basket of live lobsters held in the sea below. The owner showed us how they pull it up when someone orders one, well she had George demonstrate for us!
Although we had lunch plans, it had been a while since breakfast so we stopped at the Plaza de Santiago and ordered some wine and delicious roasted prawns from the Yola cafe. It was quite a spectacle, all of us sucking on these prawn heads! One of our hosts Gerry managed to get prawn/butter juice all over his shirt and pants, luckily he knew of a special powder spray that the Spanish use to treat such stains and asked one of the waitresses to spray him down. That was also quite a spectacle!

This town was adorable, I'd absolutely suggest making the short trip over should you be in San Sebastian!

Back on the other side, Antonio drove us to Getaria where we would be having lunch at Kaia- Kaipe. This restaurant is owned by the same family who has the very well-reviewed Elkano, which was unfortunately closed for vacation. Although our lunch was so superb that I'm not sure we missed much by not getting there. 

Both restaurants are known for their grilled whole turbot. While ours cooked we enjoyed some incredible tuna, a decadent lobster salad, hake cheeks, and roasted spider crab. Each course was served with a different wine, of course! The main course of turbot, while not particularly pretty to look at, was spectacular! The 1947 Viña Bosconia was a stand out as well. Now I should mention that this wasn't really included in our package but John was kind enough to order it and share it with the table. Officially the oldest wine I have drunk!

We had such a fantastic time at lunch, our table of 9 overlooking the harbor, eating absolutely delicious seafood, and drinking some stunning wines. There was a table of about 6 older gentlemen, regulars for sure, who were also having a fun, long wine-filled lunch. That's just the kind of place this is!

Besides a nice dessert, we finished our meal with Judy and my new favorite liqueur, pacharan. Seeing how happy it made Judy the restaurant even sent her off with a bottle of it!

It was dark when we returned to San Sebastian, and Antonio pulled over at a great viewpoint to take in the lit-up La Concha before heading back to the hotel.

We were having dinner at the 3-starred Akelaré and even though I was hardly hungry after our lunch, I was really looking forward to it. I love that kind of dining experience! I got ready and headed out on my own back to the Museo de Whiskey for a gintonic and some me-time. 
At Akelaré, Chef Pedro Subijana greeted Gerry and our table. He was very nice and seemed genuinley happy that we were dining there. The courses started to come, there would be eight in all, and it became apparent that although these dishes were quite beautiful and creative to look at, they felt a little passé. 
There wasn't either the amazing flavors that accompany many seemingly simple dishes, like we had that day at lunch or at Asador Etxebarri, nor the elaborate over-the-top experiences I've had at other 3-stars. 

But fear not, we still had a good time and really the service here was excellent. And restaurants are all a matter of personal taste so YMMV.
Gerry, John, Beth, and I decided to go have nightcaps afterwards at Dickens, supposedly the origin of the gintonic as it is made throughout Spain today. And in case you think that I am just too lazy to write gin AND tonic, I will inform you that in Spain gintonic is the proper name of the drink!
The owner himself was in the house and made our cocktails. They were ridiculously priced and no better than the ones at Museo de Whiskey; in fact I preferred the drinks and the space over there. So we were 0 for 2 for the night! But the day more than made up for that.

Day 9

The next morning was our last in San Sebastian. I headed out on my own for a bit, my first stop being our fantastic neighborhood spot Bar Gorriti, where we had started with vermouth just two days before. It was 10am and I was the only non-local in the place and the only one without a beer or a wine to have with breakfast pinxtos. 

From here I walked down to La Concha to soak up some sun and take in the beautiful beach. I'm not gonna lie, going back to someplace that holds such past, dear memories is bittersweet, as it was on this visit. I was happy that I was with such a fun group and having some new experiences and memories.
Before heading back to the hotel and boarding the bus, I stopped back in at Bar Gorriti and rectified that wine situation with a pour of Txacoli. And then we were off to the Navarra region!
All photos from the Basque country here.

Other posts on this trip:
Northern Spain Food & Wine Tour
Shellfish & Grapes in Galicia
On the Move in Galicia
Shooting Sidra in Asturias
Beef and Basque

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