Category: Basque gastronomy (page 1 of 4)

Basque chef Eneko Atxa interviewed in TheWeek

Check out a short but interesting interview with star Basque chef Eneko Atxa, who not only runs Azurmendi just outside Bilbao, but also has a more informal London restaurant, Eneko.

We picked up on a couple of things he mentions and think they’re pretty important when it comes to understanding Basque culture. For Atxa, “Basque people are born around the dinner table. We are unique in that when we are eating we are also speaking about our dinner; we are just crazy about our food and it dominates our conversations every day.” So true! It’s one of the first things those of us not born into Basque culture notice when hanging out with Basques on their own terrain … they not only love preparing and eating food, they love taking about it as well, while they are actually eating it! And just a heads up for anyone who didn’t know, if you ever get invited into someone’s home in the Basque Country for a meal, be sure to compliment the chef early on into the meal (“Zer goxoa!” “How tasty!”)…

Atxa continues: “my mother and grandmother always showed me the importance of the kitchen and healthy eating, and giving pleasure through food. I understood that it could be one language that could translate and transport people to a space and a culture.” Food as a language! What a great idea! Of course, we as humans communicate through food. It’s one way we transmit our tradition, culture, and love… in fact, what better way to do that than by sitting round a table enjoying great food, great conversation, and great company? Isn’t this the very basis of society, sitting down and sharing common sustenance? We think so!

See the full interview here.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to take a look at Hasier Etxeberria’s On Basque Cuisine, a publication of the Etxpeare Basque Institute free to download here.

 

The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca

Somebody recently mentioned to me that the Martin in Winnemucca is one of the oldest restaurants in Nevada, so I decided to look into it. In fact, according to http://www.onlyinyourstate.com, the Martin is the oldest in the state, opening in 1898. As they put it:

The Martin was established as a rooming house for area cattle ranchers in 1898. Today this beloved family-style Basque restaurant continues to draw travelers and townfolk alike. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s a bit of the restaurant’s history, according to the Martin Hotel’s website:

A lithograph dated 1881 shows a residence on this property.  Sometime between 1898 and 1908 Alfonso Pasquale opened the Roman Tavern and Restaurant here.  In 1913 Augustine A. Martin and Elisee Henri Martin, both of France, acquired this building and the business was named The Martin Hotel.  In 1920, after a fire, the building was reconstructed with twenty-five rooms.

Rene Martin, Augustine and Elisee’s son, wrote in 1980, “My parents catered to the sheepmen and cattlemen.  Although they were not Basque, the sheepherders and stockmen  made the Martin their home when in town.  It was not unusual for a herder to come in from this long stay with the sheep, be paid off in full for his work and give the entire sum over to my father.  The herder would then stay at the hotel, eat in the restaurant, play cards, visit with friends and drink in the bar.  My father, keeping the account, would advance him pocket money when asked for and when the sheepherder’s money started to run out, father would tell them so and help them line up a new job.  Then off the sheepherder would go for another long stint with the sheep.”

During prohibition, the hotel and restaurant downstairs prospered while a speakeasy thrived in what is now the attic.  The story is told that when the revenuers found the whiskey, they dumped it all down Melarkey Street and people turned out with cups to sample it as it flowed by.

The Martin Hotel continued as a restaurant after Augustine Martin died.  It was owned and managed by Basque families stretching into the 1970’s; Yruetas, Bengoa, Bilboa, and Sil and Rosie Uriguen.

The Martin Hotel today is a internationally known Basque and American family style restaurant, still home to stockmen as well as a wonderful cross section of people from Winnemucca and around the world…and as always , “where friends gather”.

Now my point isn’t to make you hungry. Ever since moving to Reno, I have been struck by how so many people know about the Basques and frequent their establishments. Having grown up in California, I constantly had to explain my name, origin, etc. Here, everyone knows about Basques, loves picon punch, and has an opinion. When I visited Winnemucca for the Basque festival a few weeks ago, I was impressed by how many people from the greater community were part of the fun. So, besides recommending you to visit the Martin, this post is dedicated to the strength of Basque culture in Nevada!

The Basque Country “is basically paradise”!

“What is Basque Country?” … Just in case anyone out there didn’t see this great introduction to visiting the Basque Country then check it it out here.

So the Basque Country “is basically paradise”? We couldn’t agree more!

*Image: Gaztelugatxe, Bizkaia, at dusk. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Anchovies or Tornadoes?

I arrived in the town of Ondarroa on the second Saturday of May to observe the celebration of Antxoa Eguna 2017.  My bus had arrived a bit early, so I had the opportunity to see everyone setting up their booths in preparation to serve pintxos-all of which honored the anchovy.  As I walked around in the lovely weather, admiring this quaint little coastal town in the province of Bizkaia, I was quickly transported back to my home state of Kansas.

The sound of an air-raid siren filled the air with an ominous howl.  Unlike the famous Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz, I was lucky enough to grow up with warnings of this kind when a tornado had touched down back home in Wichita.  A small part of me instinctively felt the urge to go hide in a basement as I observed people strolling around in the sunny warm weather, free of any funnel clouds.  I later learned that the siren was a call used to notify people that fishermen were returning from sea with the catch.  As my roommate later told me, this signal meant that all hands on deck were needed to unload and get the fish prepared for their auctioning off at the market.

Pretty soon the action started with people arriving at the booths to buy their fried anchovies, croquetas made of anchovies, tortilla with anchovies, and the famous txakoli to wash it all down.  As with many celebrations in the Basque Country, plenty of eating and drinking in the street alongside the sound of the trikitixa (and a good amount of Basque-speakers I might add!) ensued.  The celebration lasted a few hours with families heading home before dinner.  Final observations: I’d take anchovy season over tornado season any day.

 

Photo from Deia, Ramon Basaldua

Deia article for Anchovy Day

Craft’s love for Txakoli

It’s that time again!  If you are in the Reno area (or feel the need for an adventure to the “Biggest Little City”) this month, Ty and his gang at Craft Wine and Beer are putting together quite the Basque gastronomic experience.  I have learned over here in Euskal Herria that tasting is enhanced when able to simultaneously embrace multiple components of the Basque Culture, so check out the shindig Ty Martin has organized this month to eat, dance, and celebrate one of my favorite wines and the land from which it “stems,” the culture in which it is “rooted” ( bad wine jokes anyone?).

Check out Ty’s announcement as seen in his newsletter:

Next, Txakolina. It slipped out of our normal comfort zone last year but we’re back on track this season. As you can see from the photo that greeted you at the top of this missive we’re loaded for bear. We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, including smoked chorizo from Villa Basque Deli, cidre’ on tap, and if we’re lucky, a few dancers from the Zazpiak Bat dance club. We’ll also be celebrating some May birthdays so if you want to toast some fantastic wine and shake a leg come on down on Sunday,

May 21st from 2p-6p. Flights, glasses, and food will be available.

 

It appears the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community are represented well here, and the warmer weather is the perfect time for indulging in this juice..so hit up Craft, drink txakoli, dance and be merry!

 

 

Four takes on Basque identity from a food perspective

Check out a lovely article on Basque food and tradition in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country from the gourmet food, wine, and travel magazine Saveur, in its continual quest to “savor a world of authentic cuisine.” Now we could get all highfalutin and scholarly about the nature of authenticity in culture as a whole, but seeing as though this is meant to be a fun blog and a downright celebration of all things Basque… we won’t! Yay!! In the article, author Jane Sigal visits a charcutier, a pepper grower, a baker, and a cheese maker in Iparralde to see how the food they make represents the place in which they live. In  a beautiful philosophical turn, cheese maker Raphaël Eliceche comments that, “My cheese is for sale … Not the Pays Basque.”

Check out the full article here.

*Image: Official seal of Bayonne Ham. Photo  by Émile Pujolle, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Major food awards to be held in Bilbao in 2018

It has just been announced that the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, considered by many to be the Oscars of global gastronomy, will be held in Bilbao in June 2018.  Quoting the host organization:

Spain’s Basque Country has long been known as one of the most gastronomically blessed regions of the world, with the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita and a strong and enduring representation of restaurants in the 50 Best list. With everything from fine dining to abundant pintxos, it’s the ideal next location for the biggest culinary party on the planet.

The announcement was made at Basque chef Eneko Atxa’s London restaurant Eneko At One Aldwych.

These prestigious awards, which were held annually in London for 13 years before expanding globally to New York in 2016 and Melbourne this year, will thus make their third international port of call in the capital of Bizkaia, thanks to the generous support of the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (the Provincial Government of Bizkaia), and we’re sure Basques will be ready for the party!

Read more about the choice of Bilbao as the host venue here.

Anthony Bourdain visits the Basque Country

Anthony Bourdain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The well-known travel and food show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which aired on CNN on Sunday, May 7, explored the Basque culinary tradition. Bourdain is a long-time champion of Basque cuisine. As he himself notes:

San Sebastián and the surrounding region has more outrageously good restaurants per square mile than just about anywhere in Europe. Even the bad restaurants are good … The Basque can’t seem to help but make good food from great ingredients … My love for the Basque, for Basque culture, for my Basque friends, is absolute. I hope I will be forgiven for this. But if not, I can live with it.

Check out Bourdain’s field notes here.  These offer up a rich introduction to the main aspects of Basque gastronomy and are well worth a read for anyone interested in this fascinating aspect of Basque culture.

 

The story of Bilbao and salt cod

While in other parts of the world, including the US, fresh cod is a typical part of the cuisine, in the Basque Country, and especially Bilbao, it is dried and salted or just salt cod that reigns supreme. Produced for hundreds of years, the drying and salting of cod was an effective way of preserving the cod caught in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland before being transported across the Atlantic for sale in Europe.

The much prized salt cod. Picture by IanH1944, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But the story of how salt cod came to be so popular in Bilbao is particularly illuminating. In 1824 the Spanish government established state control of this important food source with all imports subject to strict controls. Smaller dealers, in turn, tried to get around the new controls by only making modest orders in an attempt to keep under the government radar, so to speak. In 1835, one such dealer, Simón Gurtubay Zubero–not, as some sources claim, his son José María (who was four-years-old at the time)–sent one of these orders to his supplier in Great Britain. However, a clerical error along the line meant that the order, which was made for “100 o 120” (as in “100 or 120” in English), was interpreted as being for 1,000,120 salted cods. With a flourish of Bizkaian self-assurance (Simón himself, though resident in Bilbao, had been born in Igorre), the intrepid Gurtubay accepted the order and began making arrangements to offload his rather large order wherever he could. Just at that very moment, though, with the First Carlist War (1833-39) already underway, Carlist troops laid siege to Bilbao in 1836, provoking a major shortage of provisions in the city. Suddenly Gurtubay became the savior of the city, with his warehouses full of this now almost priceless commodity.  The city withstood the siege, Gurtubay went on to establish one of the biggest fortunes in the country, using a lot of that wealth and influence to establish the Bank of Bilbao and the Bilbao Chamber of Commerce, as well as to build the hospitals of Basurto and Igorre, his birthplace.

See this short TV report on the Gurtubay family, cod, and Bilbao (in Spanish) here.

Cod Pil-Pil. Picture by jlastras, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

And Bilbao came to be the city of salt cod, which is served typically in two ways: in the white pil-pil sauce (really, the natural oils of the fish plus olive oil and garlic) or in the red Bizkaian sauce (made from onions and sweet dried red pepper). Check out the late Hasier Etxeberria’s On Basque Cuisine, free to download here from the Etxepare Basque Institute, for a discussion of and recipes for both sauces. See, too, of course, Mark Kurlansky’s wonderful Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World.

Salt Cod in Bizkaian Sauce. Picture by Tamorlan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kalimotxo: Tradition vs. Pepsi

Today we bring you a post on Kalimotxo, the delicious and refreshing drink that’s popular throughout the Basque Country and is making its way into the United States. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the beverage, it consists of equal parts wine and cola, although the ratios vary by person (I personally like 70:30, wine:coke). I know, you must be thinking, this is outrageous! I propose you try it before making up your mind, especially now that we’re finally getting a taste of summer, at last!

Image Credit: Marie Claire Magazine

The origin of kalimotxo is said to have its roots in Algorta’s Puerto Viejo (Getxo, Bizkaia) during its jaiak (fiestas) in 1972. The story goes that the kuadrilla “Antzarrak” had purchased 2,000 liters of wine to serve at its txosna (bar stands run by groups of friends during fiestas). They soon discovered that the wine had gone bad. However, they were not in the position to buy more, so after several mixes, they came up with equal parts wine and coke. The question was, how were they going to market it? Two of the kuadrilla members were nicknamed Kali (short for Kalimero) and Motxo (Motxorra). They put the two together and voilá, kalimotxo was born.

Puerto Viejo, Image Credit: Daniel Defco, Creative Commons

The reason we bring you this story today is not only to encourage you to take a break and have a drink, but because kalimotxo is slowly gaining fame throughout the world. In fact, Pepsi has come out with a new product in the United States: Pepsi 1893. It is meant to be the perfect pairing to wine. Check out their promotional video on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/pepsi/status/856945990208761861

This glamorous new take on kalimotxo goes hand in hand with the following article from The New York Times, which even includes a video and recipe:

Wine and Cola? It Works

Some might consider the kalimotxo (pronounced cal-ee-MO-cho) a guilty pleasure; I’ve received more than a few skeptical glances when I’ve ordered it at bars in New York. But I don’t feel an iota of contrition when I drink this Basque-country classic. It couldn’t be easier: equal parts red wine (some say the cheaper the better, but that’s up to you) and cola. I like a squeeze of lemon juice for a little brightness, and maybe a slice of lemon or orange to dress it up. But purists might consider even those modest additions a little fussy. The overall effect is surprisingly sangria-esque, minus all that fruit-chopping and waiting, and wonderfully refreshing.

If you can find cola made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup, all the better, but the drink is still fine with whatever you’ve got on hand. The soda’s caffeine actually makes the kalimotxo a fine pick-me-up: an ideal afternoon drink when you know you’ve still got a long day, and night, ahead.

In a glass filled with ice, combine 3 or 4 ounces dry red wine (preferably Spanish) with an equal amount of cola and 1 squeeze lemon juice. Garnish with a lemon or orange slice to serve.

By Rosie Shaap: May 20, 2013

Well, in spite of all the hype, I’m a traditionalist. The best kalimotxos are made from cheap wine (in the Basque Country either Don Simon or Eroski’s own red wine) and are best served with a group of friends on any night, evening, or afternoon. Give it a try, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

For more about kalimotxo and its history, check out the following videos (in Spanish) and book (also in Spanish and available for download at the Getxo City Hall’s website):

“El verdadero origen del Kalimotxo”, EITB

“El origen del kalimotxo”, La Noche De, EITB

El invento del kalimotxo y anécdotas de las fiestas, by Antzarrak: http://www.getxo.eus/es/turismo/descubre-getxo/origen-kalimotxo (scroll to the bottom of the page for download)

 

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