Posts Tagged ‘tapas’

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San Sebastian, Spain is one of the major food meccas of the world: wonderful shops, pintxos (tapas) bars, and some of the top restaurants On earth, all on the north coast of Spain in Basque country, off the Bay of Biscay, just a stone’s throw from the French border.

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Pintxo bars are everywhere, especially in the old part of town where the narrow streets are for pedestrians only, and many bars specialize in just a few prepared foods, like the beautiful sautéed fresh mushrooms, above.

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Some joints, like Cuchara de San Telmo, jam every night until they literally run out of food.

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Clearly, we couldn’t get enough of the mushrooms!

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No shortage of fantastic Basque cheeses and charcuterie in local San Sebastian shops, either.

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Not all the best pintxo bars are in old town. This one, Restaurante Ni Neu,  is just across the waterway from the classic Hotel Maria Christina.

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Need a break from all that rich food? Craving a burger, a salad and a beer? Head down the boardwalk on La Concha Beach for the Wimbledon, a tennis club that has a great pub open to the public.

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Many great family-run restaurants. Often, like with Munto and Egosari, you’ll find the first floor is all about the pintxos, and the second floor has a more formal dining area where you can sit down to a wonderful meal. Others, like Astelena, are finer dining experiences. And Narru has indoor dining as well as al fresco dining with a view of La Concha beach.

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San Sebastian is home to many of the world’s finest restaurants, including Arzak, rated the #8 restaurant in the world. Here’s the gazpacho at Arzak…

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And an incredible plate of fish, served on a clear dish so you can see the video of ocean waves crashing on the shore on the iPad the dish is served on!

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The talented Elena Arzak was named best female chef in the world in 2012.

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At the #3 spot on the top restaurants of the world, there’s Mugaritz, another amazing dining experience.

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One incredible dish after another. An experience hard to put into words, but I tried. Read about it here: http://wp.me/p1c1Nl-vn

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The “Linking Dish,” one of the most memorable moments of the evening at Mugaritz.

And no evening was complete without a tour of the kitchen…

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Just a short drive from San Sebastian, we visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a day trip I highly recommend. Even if you’re not an art fan, the architecture of this building is out of this world.

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And the bistro at the museum, where we had a wonderful lunch, was worth the price of admission.

On the way back from Bilbao, we stopped at the small village of Getaria, where we visited the hard-to-find mountaintop vineyard of Bodega Elkano. The Zimmerman family has made the wonderful wine known as Txakoli here since 1830, and we visited with Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman, neither of whom spoke any English. Fortunately, my Spanish was up to the task! (They do have a son and daughter, both of whom do speak English, but they weren’t in the area at the time of our visit.)

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They welcomed us with open arms, and it was one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had in my travels.

We had dinner back down by the waterfront, at the port of Getaria, at Restaurante Kaia-Kaipe. Excellent seafood.

Back at San Sebastian, we spent our days burning calories at La Concha beach…IMG_9451

…and visiting what is considered the oldest hilltop water ride in the world at the park at Monte Igueldo, just a short and fun funicular ride up the mountain.

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Of course, the view doesn’t suck, either.IMG_9453

Amazing food and drink, a beautiful beach, wonderful friendly people, world-class dining, down-and-dirty bar hopping, art appreciation, a world-class aquarium…San Sebastian has it all. This was our second trip in 10 years. And one of the very few places I’ve ever been to where I started talking about coming back while I was on the plane going home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No trip to Madrid is complete without visiting a couple of food markets. The quality and selection of foods, ready-to-eat on location or packaged to go, is mind-boggling!

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

On our recent trip to Madrid, we sampled foods from two food markets: Mercado de San Miguel and Mercado San Anton.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

Praised by many as the best market in the city, Mercado de San Miguel is near the tourist center of Madrid, by the Plaza Mayor, a plaza featuring open-air restaurants, outdoor concerts and loads of street performers looking to make a few bucks. The choice of foods at Mercado de San Miguel is incredible, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an empty seat.

My not-so-adventurous daughter found happiness in a personal pizza.

My not-so-adventurous daughter found happiness in a personal pizza.

It’s worth the extra effort to elbow your way over to your own private corner of the market to enjoy everything from olives to oysters.

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House-made sangria and little salamis served up like french fries.

House-made sangria and little salamis served up like french fries.

Grilled sardines.

Grilled sardines.

Sweet as well as savory bites.

Sweet as well as savory bites.

If you’re lucky enough to have a place to cook, you can take home some fantastic seafood…

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…including swordfish and squid!

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Though the Mercado de San Miguel clearly has it all, its large size and huge crowds can be a challenge to those not wanting to stand in long lines. The Mercado San Anton across town, meanwhile, is funky, smaller and a more manageable market.

Pork heaven at Mercado San Anton.

Pork heaven at Mercado San Anton.

 

Mercado San Anton has five floors. Three feature food shops and tapas bars. Grab a bite and a drink right there or take it with you.

Our favorite tapas when in Spain: a skewer of olives, peppers and anchovies.

Our favorite tapas when in Spain: Gilda de Boqueron y Anchoa (a skewer of olives, peppers and anchovies.)

And on the top floor: a great restaurant that you shouldn’t miss: La Cocina de San Anton. If for no other reason, you need to dine here to experience the magnificent plate of Iberico ham and other meats they offer, sliced to order. This is truly a situation where more is more.

Acorn-fed Iberico ham: there's nothing like it!

Acorn-fed Iberico ham: there’s nothing like it!

 

The window at Cocina de San Anton.

The window at Cocina de San Anton: it’s all about the pig!

We’d go back to the Mercado San Anton in a heartbeat. Located in the colorful Chueca neighborhood full of art galleries, it’s a place where you can easily spend hours and hours over lunch.

Madrid has many fine restaurants. But tapas are a great way for any self-respecting foodie to explore the markets for a real taste of this beautiful city.

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