It felt like we were cheating. In the midst of our road trip through Europe with miles and miles of bicycling riding ahead of us, we snuck over the border into San Sebastian Spain. When we should have been training, we would be eating. Though it was only a year since our last visit, the lure of the pinxtos bars was more than we could resist.
Virtually no time in San Sebastian passed before we were in a pinxtos bar ordering plates of Pimientos de Padron. If we didn’t set the record for the shortest time in the city before Padrons were ordered we are undoubtedly close contenders.
Our San Sebastian visit blended urban assault bike riding with a myriad of food stops. Biking around San Sebastian is fun but the real draw is the pinxtos bars. At one bar we’d have glass of txakoli and a plate filled with thin slices of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, Spain’s exquisite buttery, melt-in-your-mouth salt cured ham with a distinctive nutty flavor. At another stop it was a return visit to Bar Ganbara for a glass of cidre to go with the plate of sautéed mushrooms rich with the taste of beefsteak. We mixed in favorite bars from our prior visit with new places, at least new to us, like Fuego Negro. Fuego Negro serves small plates often worthy of the standard of a three Michelin starred restaurant. At another stop we’d find more pimientos de Padron and split a beer. (The Padrons were harder to find and milder this year.) Eating in San Sebastian could be a full time activity.
The peak of our San Sebastian food experience was lunch at the Michelin three starred Restaurante Martin Berasategui. Our meal ranked with the best of our trip. (And that is a high standard; we ate well.) We particularly liked the creative palate cleansers that separated the courses. Courses such as “Little Pearls of Fennel” and “Warm Vegetable Hearts Salad” brought a welcome freshness to the meal. We liked last year’s visit to Mugaritz a tad bit better but both restaurants are amazing and amongst the best we have been to.
Our next stop on 2010’s European road trip was the French Pyrenees. There was some serious road riding ahead of us. Stopping in San Sebastian would not make the riding easier. With a few extra San Sebastian pounds lathered around our belts, the epic Pyrenean climbs just got harder. In the end, though, it was a small price to pay for the time spent luxuriating in San Sebastian’s pintxos.
More pictures of San Sebastian and its food are on Picasa.