Pintxo Popping in Donostia

August 14, 2009


Fashionable and food-centric San Sebastian (called Donostia in the Basque language) is a sliver of paradise. A magnificent sandy beach, shaped like a shell, wraps around the sparkling bay of La Concha, framed by a mountain at each end. Running the scenic two mile beach promenade burns off calories between meals and finishes at an installation of Eduardo Chillida’s sculptures.

The Basque people are master seafarers, avid fishermen, and superlativedonostia2 chefs who exhibit their culinary mettle on every corner of Donostia. A morning visit to the fish market is a primer on the 50-odd varieties of fish that will be served that day at local restaurants.  Old town overflows with bars serving tapas (called pintxos here) featuring seafood, cured meats, local produce and lots of mayonnaise, either stacked on slices of bread or held together with a toothpick.  Some of our most memorable and haute-cuisine pintxos were served at Aloña Berri and Bar Bergara across the bridge from Old Town.  But Old Town has the density of  pintxos bars with patrons spilling out onto the sidewalks and pedestrian streets.  It takes no effort at all to sample an amazing array of pintxos here in just a few minutes.  Traditionally, it’s self-serve and when it’s time to pay, let the waiter know what you ate.  I just wish we had fast food like this in America!

donostia3The New York Times article by Eric Asimov on August 12 spotlighted some of our favorite Riojas, including the singular wines of Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia, producer of Vina Tondonia. Gracious Maria Jose, great-grand daughter of Lopez de Heredia’s founder, is as passionate about her family’s wines as the history of the Rioja region. The family is determined to continue their artisanal traditions while at the same time embracing modern viticultural practices. A defining element of their wines is the extended aging both in barrel and in the bottle. A Rioja Gran Reserva normally receives at least 24 months of barrel aging and a further 36 months of bottle aging.

At Lopez de Heredia, Gran Reservas receive approximately 8 years of barrel aging, followed by an additional 8 years of bottle aging, depending on thedonostia4 vintage. So unsurprisingly, the most impressionable part of our June visit were the cobweb filled subterranean cellars. Spiders are encouraged as they are natural predators of mites that attack the corks, a serious threat in a cellar storing wines from the early 1900’s. A legendary Rioja producer, the wines of Bodega R. Lopez de Heredia must be tasted to be believed. Eric Asimov’s New York Times article is a great read for anyone interested in Rioja wines. To read the article, follow this link:

Eric Asmiov’s favorite Riojas are from ten different bodegas and have wines from nine of these wineries in stock:

Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia:

1968 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco Rioja ($327.00)

1981 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco Rioja ($88.00)

1989 Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco Rioja ($45.00)

1997 Vina Tondonia Rosado Rioja ($27.99)

1981 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva Rioja ($102.00)

1987 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja ($99.00)

2000 Vina Bosconia Reserva Rioja ($32.00)

Faustino: 1996 Faustino I Gran Reserva Rioja ($37.00) One of the most amazing values in a Gran Reserva, 1996 Faustino is elegant and silky with notes of cherry fruit and cedar.

La Rioja Alta 1997 Vina Arana Reserva Rioja ($27.99)

Luberri 2005 Seis de Luberri Rioja ($15.99)

Marques de Murrieta 2004 Reserva Rioja ($19.99)

Bodegas Muga

2000 Prado Enea Gran Reserva Rioja ($65.00)

2004 Torre Muga Rioja ($90.00)

2004 Muga Seleccion Especial Rioja ($45.00)

2005 Muga Reserva Rioja ($25.99)

Telmo Rodriguez 2000 Altos de Lanzaga Rioja ($50.00)

Hermanos Pecina

2007 Senorio de P.Pecina Cosecha

Rioja ($13.99)

2000 Senorio de P. Pecina Crianza ($22.99) & Reserva ($29.99)

New Txacolis from the Basque country:

2008 Ulacia Getariako Txakolina ($19.99) The Getariako style is the most effervescent style of Txacoli. Ulacia is a veritable explosion of frothy apple and juicy melon flavors. Crisp and refreshing, this is just what a Txacoli should be.

2008 Urki GetariakoTxacoli ($21.99) Light and spritzy, with green apple and pear notes, this elegant white Txacoli tastes just like the wines we sipped in San Sebastian. It pairs wonderfully with any shellfish!

2007 Kurmisti, Guipuzcoa ($13.99) An non-D.O. Txacoli, Kurmisti is loaded with aromatics. Flavors of orchard fruit with moderate acidity make up this easy drinking white. At 10.5% alcohol, this is a light treat on a hot afternoon.


donostia5Portuguese Ceramic Linguica Asadors Imagine a bar full of patrons, each clutch of friends tending a flaming terracotta pig, methodically flipping their chorizos and linguicas until they’re perfectly charred on all sides while they drink and gossip. It’s the ideal combination of friendship, food, and a dose of fire to keep everyone on their toes. Portuguese pig asadors: $15.00-$25.00 depending on style & size

Manná brand sardine pates: These are in little single-serving tins that are absolutely perfect for picnics or trail-side snacks. $1.29 each

Liquid caramel in jars and squeeze bottles. Homemade flan is the best, but that whole bit about caramelizing sugar to make the sauce? A pain, and potentially a scorched mess. Make your life easier: Micau brand caramelo liquido in tube or jar

Green Piquillo Peppers Usually picked and roasted red, try these roasted green piquillos in recipes from The Spanish Table cookbook.

Spanish and Portuguese olive dishes, new Spanish sangria pitchers, big yellow ceramic mortars!


Saturday August 15th Casablanca Restaurant and Lounge, 113 Virgina St. 9pm and 10pm featuring

Savannah Fuentes, Esther Marion, Rafael Vargas 206(448-3590) Tickets $10 in advance

Sunday August 16th Zamani Flamenco, 8:00 – 10:00 pm at Kristos Eastlake no cover Information: 206-588.8885

Saturday August 22nd Carmona Flamenco, featuring guest artist Ana Montes. 8:00 p.m., Solstice Cafe, 4116 University Way $20.00 information: 206.932.4067


Join us at Taberna del Alabardero for a selected tasting of Jorge Ordonez wines, on Wednesday Sept. 9th, 6 p.m. Special attendance by Sara Floyd, M.S. who will talk about the five wines, each paired with a separate course. $75.00 (tax and service charge not included). For reservations and information: 206.448.8884, for more details, click this link:

Have a great week!

Sharon Baden and Steve Winston, Owners

Spanish Table


1 Comment

Filed under Food, Meat, Red Wine, Spain

One response to “Pintxo Popping in Donostia

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