This is how we eat in Northern Spain, are you joining us?
If I were to tell you that the people of Northern Spain like to eat well, you probably won’t be surprised.
Perhaps, if you are familiar with “our ways” you might even respond with a "don’t all Spanish?”
And you will be absolutely right.
We all love to enjoy good food surrounded by family and friends.
However, and if I may say so myself, in Northern Spain we have turned that devotion to what I like to call “social gastronomy”, into a real art.
Testimony of this are our "Pintxos".
And testimony of this is the "ritual" that takes us “pintxo” hoping every single week of our lives.
For starters, the Pintxo itself.
Rather than accompanying the drink like many other tapas, the Pintxo is the hero of our pre-meal activities, having become a “main” on its own right in many occasions.
Considered the culinary emblem of Northern Spain, the Pintxo concentrates the purest flavors of our local raw materials to create, with great care and mastery, true works of art in miniature.
In Northern Spain - but especially in Navarra -, a "social culture" has developed around this type of food that consists in family and friends hoping from one bar to the next in search of pure pre-lunch or dinner gastronomic enjoyment.
We taste pintxos and wines here, then we taste them there, we chat, we laugh and we enjoy the good life and the good food together.
Because that's what it's all about, don’t you think?!
However, we still love to innovate and try new variations of this classic from Northern Spain. The best example being the very creative works of art produced during the "Semana del Pintxo" or Pintxo Week, held this year in Pamplona between March 31 and April 9. A new tradition which, just like San Fermin, attracts and welcomes thousands of visitors from all over the country and abroad.
Just about anywhere.
Because it’s the quality of the local produce that guarantees a superb flavour.
Some places will offer some of the old-time classics like the fried peppers and shrimps or the Spanish ham and pepper sandwiches.
However, in other places you will find some of the more sophisticated creations that play with flavors, textures, colors and temperatures.
Both options will bring you the same level of satisfaction, there’s no doubt about that - because both options are usually accompanied by a good wine, and above all, by some very good company.
It’s true, though, that in Pamplona, ??the “poteo” (or Pintxo hoping) is concentrated in the bars and taverns in Plaza del Castillo, and along the Estafeta, San Nicolás, San Antón and Zapatería Streets. Here, each establishment usually has its specialty, but they always tend to refresh their menus and adapt to seasonal produce.
You will find some of the best Pintxos in Pamplona here:
Bar Gaucho, c/Espoz and Mina 7. You can’t miss their famous Spanish omelette!
Casa Otano, c/San Nicolás, 5. Try their tasty croquettes, Iberian ham, chistorras (mini chorizos) or some of their most elaborated pintxos.
La cocina de Álex Múgica, c/Estafeta, 24. This establishment boasts more than a dozen culinary awards. It’s part of the famous Gran Hotel La Perla’s restaurant.
In San Sebastian, pintxo hoping is a more expensive exercise.
I recommend you take advantage of what locals call the “pintxo pote”, a sort of “combo” that includes a beer or a glass of wine and a pintxo at a fix price. Although this tradition tends to be common in less touristy areas, in the Old Town or Gros, for example, it generally happens every Thursday.
While it might hit your wallet a little more, it’s almost imperative for you to try some of the pintxos in the capital where this kind of miniature food was born.
Here are some of your best options in San Sebastian’s Casco Viejo:
La Mejillonera, c/Del Puerto, 15. At a very affordable price, this place is always full of pintxo lovers trying to savor their famous mussels, patatas bravas and calamares.
Sport, c/Fermín Calbetón, 10. Can’t leave without trying their txangurro crepes, foie pintxos and grilled sardines with vinaigrette.
Goiz-argi, c/Fermín Calbetón, 4. Their prawn skewers are a must!