Pintxos––The Backbone of San Sebastian’s Culinary Landscape

Just returned from a journey that I cobbled together with a close friend. Like myself, she’s a food and travel-junky.

We meandered through the Basque region of Spain and France, finishing the trip in Fes, the heart and gastronomic capital of Morocco.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking in San Sebastian, Spain, sharing with you our exploration of their pinxto culture, one bite at a time.

San Sebastian––heck, the Basque region, in general—is a food lover’s dream date, pintxos being the elaborate crown jewels of the city.

Canapé/tapas/appetizer-styled morsals––Picassos on a plate–– they’re the staple of the local food culture here, as well as all across the Basque landscape. Wherever you turn, that elusive perfect bite awaits.

Eating pinxtos is what one does—tourists and locals alike––in San Sebastian, and the art of composing and consuming these delectables is serious sport.

Bars are continuously trying to outdo their competition with the spoils delighting the consumer. On several occasions, my friend and I went on pinxto crawls through the old town  eating a pintxo or two before moving on to the next bar.

Pintxo is the Basque take of the Spanish word, pincho, derived from the verb ‘pinchar’, which means to pierce.

These succulent treats are traditionally pieced with a cocktail skewer but as Basque food has evolved, the bites are not necessarily pierced or composed atop a bread slice.

It’s forgiveable to confuse pintxos with tapas and the differences depends on where you’re travelling in Spain and the custom of how they’re served.

In the Basque country, the  bites are NEVER called tapas as their Andalusian brothers, skewer or no skewer. As well, a pintxos doesn’t necessarily have to be served on a piece of bread. Witness the above pic of this beautifully wrapped piece of cod–my idea of the perfect holiday gift (-:

Some of the more common toppings on bread slices are the best salt and vinegar-cured anchovies you’ve ever tasted; fluffy, sweet crab meat; delicious local beef; seared cod; suckling pig and the list goes on and on. Acorn-fed, black-hoofed Iberian ham has to be the most ubiquitous of the toppings and, to this writer, the finest ham on the planet. Pictured left is me getting a lesson from San Sebastian’s Master Iberian Ham Carver. Could be a novel in the making (-:

Stacked Shrimp & Avocado Tapas

Stacked Shrimp & Avocado Tapas

Several years ago I wrote a blog christening the recipe:  “Stacked Shrimp and Avocado Tapas“.

Back then, I’d never known pinxtos were a thing. Now I know better. Note the skewer: a name change is clearly in order.

I’d like to continue sharing our culinary adventures in Fes, Morocco with you, but with Thanksgiving around the bend, let me direct your attention to  my Holiday Cookbook on the Gold Ball icon up and on your right. Perhaps you can create your own towering cathedral of texture and flavor as a starter for your feast.

Eat well, my friends. Safe holidays!


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