The beautiful and modern Basque (translated Euskadi in Spanish and Basque) Country is an autonomous small Spanish community located in the northern region of Spain. Popular to visit for the small villages among the Pyrenees mountains, beautiful coastal cities, beaches, neo-modern architectural landmarks and friendly culture, one of the best reasons to visit is to enjoy the culinary experience.
Basque dining is based in traditional cooking created with detailed preparation that has been preserved and passed on from its origins from the original Basque people. Gastronomy has always been the most important aspect of the region’s culture dating back to the tastes and techniques of the original Basque people.
During the late 20th century a group of young local chefs innovated traditional Basque cooking, merging it with recipes from their popular neighbors in the northeast, France creating a new foodie movement known as New Basque Cuisine.
Today despite the small area of the Basque country, you will find one of the highest number of Michelin rated restaurants per capita (almost 40) throughout the region. Because some of the best chef’s in Spain originate here, Euskadi has grown into a popular destination and developed a reputation for some of the best dining in the world.
The kitchen is the canvas and the local ingredients are the paint that make the cuisine into a gastronomic experience. Seafood is a key component but with wonderful options like lamb and Iberian cured meats, farm grown products and locally produced cheese and wines from the villages and mountains of the region, the primary component in every dish is quality. The key indulgences enjoyed while visiting go beyond the traditional Spanish Tapas and include inventive dining experiences that are found everywhere from the highest rated restaurants to the small cafe and even the local bar.
Still based around the traditional small portion size of tapas, the design and presentation of the offerings have changed. The most popular item, Pintxos (pronounced peen-chose) are finger sized snacks that are created in varying shapes using ingredients from both the sea and the land with primary focus on presentation. Enjoyed with a locally produced cider, fruity sparkling white wine called Txakoli or a local vintage from one of Euskadi’s premiere wine vineyards in Samaniego, Laguardia, Elciego or Labastida the experience is a journey from start to finish.
The three primary cities of the Basque country that are best known for their gastronomic experiences and have received the highest awards for them are Bilbao, San Sebastian and Pamplona.
Bilbao, a port town and the capital of the Basque Country is popular for its famed art and architecture but is also a prime location for finding a large offering of Pintxos whose presentation match the artistry seen within the city’s local experience.
The beautiful seaside resort town of San Sebastian on the Bay of Biscay offers nine Michelin starred restaurants including many within the old quarter – Donostia making it one of the best places for food driven travelers in the world. Here you will also find locally inspired Pintxos called “Gilda” created with locally sourced green olives, spicy pickled peppers, anchovies in addition to more traditional menu options like Salt Cod and local daily fish dishes.
Perhaps you have heard of the city Pamplona which is best known for its annual Running of the Bulls festival every July. Pamplona is also home to four Michelin starred restaurants serving their local version of pintxos and popular stew dishes.
As Pablo Picasso once said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction”. The story of gastronomy in the Basque Country is a tale of tradition and re-creation, an expression of the skills and the imaginations here that continue to expand the practice of cooking and eating amazing food.
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