An early morning Malaga departure whisked us to a part of Spain that I had never yet visited. The beautiful lush, mountainous Basque Country is so different to the southerly Andalucia that it was hard to believe I was in the same country. However, the love, passion and care I found everywhere, in making sure you have the best possible food and wine of the area, assured me that I was.
Our good friend Casey (from Biznaga.com) provided us with a list of her favourite pintxo bars so it was straight into town and on with the education.
I became over-excited knowing I was about to have a gourmet first and dragged poor Chelsea into the first bar we came to in Calle Agosto.
Under the gaze of our four thirsty eyes, ‘dos Txakolis’ were poured. Txakoli is the young and slightly petillant and fruity white wine from the grape of the same name, grown on the slopes above the Cantabrian coast. It is the wine of the area and easily consumed. Thankfully only around 11.5 – 13 %…
To watch a waterfall of Txakoli cascading from a bottle held high in one hand and landing into a massive tumbler held lower in the other hand, was pretty impressive. This, I was about to discover, is how the legendary Txakoli of the Basque Country is served – poured from a great height, to aerate. They drink Txakoli in the morning – around the same time you’d find me reaching for a glass of chilled Fino! It was the perfect match for everything we ate there (right down to a dessert of candied oranges).
Pintxos are tapas. Most pintxos of San Sebastian are proudly displayed on the bar counter for all to feast their eyes upon. Freshly made that day, some are taken to be reheated and some are listed on blackboards to be freshly cooked. Many pintxos are served on a slice of baguette. Many are on long sticks. And there can’t be many that aren’t totally delicious! Probably the best anchoas (salted anchovies) in Spain come from this coastline, from the Cantabrian Sea, so they tend to feature big time on menus. How was I going to be able to eat these without a Fino or Manzanilla? Raise the curtain for Txakoli.
It was on this day that ‘Gildas’ walked onto my life. Fabulous, simple and totally delicious Gildas. A Gilda is a pintxo on a stick. It consists of olives, anchoas (salted anchovies) and pickled mild guindillas (green chillies). Rumour has it that it was invented in honour of Rita Hayworth to celebrate the screening of her film Gilda, at the San Sebastian film festival in 1946.
But what really struck me is how perfectly Gildas matched Txakoli. It was simple and beautiful. The wine of the area made to match the food of the area.
At the fabulous Gastronomic Society Experience the following day with Eli and Cristina, we started by preparing Gildas. Here we cut the guindillas into similar pieces rather than bend them in two – another great way of doing them. There doesn’t appear to be a right or wrong way of how you put your Gilda together as long as it consists of the three items, it can be threaded in any order and with any amount of the three items on the stick.
So back in Vejer, armed with San Sebastian purchases, Gildas were hurridly prepared and served with reviving chilled Fino. The combo was truly wonderful – all three ingredients bringing out the best in the Fino, and vice versa. They are fast to prepare. An instant canapé from store cupboard ingredients.
Recipe for Gilda:
- 1 x jar or tin of anchovies from Cantabria
- 1 x jar or tin of pitted green olives
- 1x jar of Guinduillas
- Long cocktail sticks
Arrange as desired and consume with gusto alongside Txakoli or Fino/Manzanilla.
During the writing of this article, I have just discovered that one of my favourite bits of music Amado Mio by Pink Martini – is a cover of a song from the film Gilda. Watch here to see Rita Hayworth in action.
Our favourite Pintxo Bars in San Sebastian
Gandarias: Calle 31 de Agosto, 23
The best Solomillo pintxo and Joselito Jamon. Fabulous Morcilla de Burgos, sliced on the diagonal into thick disks, topped with a lid of pimiento de piquillo. The best selection of Sherry we saw in the city.
Ganbara: San Jeronimo Kalea, 19
Has the most amazing mushrooms – done every way you could imagine! On the recommendation of Amaiur, the charming son of the owners, we opted for revueltos con hongos and setas. Delicious and divine.
Zeruko: La Pescaderia, 10
A very spectacular dish of cod served on hot coals with a pipette of liquid salad. The Bob Limón is their speciality – it’s a dessert with a twist (make sure you eat the little yellow flower!)