The Basque Country for Foodies 2023
Posted: December 07, 2022
After recent trips to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Turkey I can't stop thinking about the food put out by these European giants of the culinary arts. And beyond the food there's the miles of meandering cobblestone streets filled with history and culture. I love a good dinner party, so I've decided to share one of my favorite destinations by introducing a one week foodie tour to the Basque Country of northern Spain. The Basques have distinctively delicious food and serve it in their classic European settings, our job as a group would be to provide some good company with great appetites, they then add the Rioja and or cider and wallah, the makings for a memorable feast is pretty much guaranteed.
Five hours north of Madrid by road and you enter Basqueland. Along with the dramatic natural beauty of this area and it's enigmatic and ancient origins, this is also home to the world of Pintxos (peen-chos) - and some of the oldest recipes and best tasting food prepared in the world. Their ingredients come from the Pyrenees mountains and valleys, the Bay of Biscay and beyond. There's a tried and true respect for the processes and they've been safely tucked within this indomitable culture for centuries. They may say "it's grilled lamb" but you'll ask yourself, grilled how, with what? this is so good! The same can be said for the other proteins, the cheeses, vegetables, oils, salt and pretty much everything that comes from their farms, rivers and sea and is prepared in their way.
The Pintxos have all the good flavors and also come with a culture of their own, often times you'll be bellied up in a crowded bar or huddled around a table pub style because that's what's available in these very popular local establishments. Pintxos are typically served on a small piece of bread or a small plate often with a skewer or toothpick, hence the name. A number of them at different bars makes for a great night out. Each Pintxos will typically have multiple ingredients stacked, similar to Spanish tapas, but there's a difference between Pintxos and tapas and it may be for any number of reasons; creativity, local farming methods, climate, proximity to market, I'm not entirely sure what it is, but it's a delicious mystery, like so much of Basqueland. One native foodie I met in Bilbao put it this way, "it's like Guinness mate, the closer to home the more original the flavor." That's not all the Basques and Celts have in common.
The tour includes dining at Michelin Star restaurants, a scenic coastal drive, Paleolithic cave art, a visit to a farm with a special lunch, a tour of the Rioja wine country and visits to select museums and stunning cathedrals.
With a population of roughly two million, Basqueland has nearly 40 Michelin star restaurants, and aside from the popular chefs there's a slew of sous chefs and other creative's who have carried on the art of this cuisine for centuries. The bounty in tiny Basque is rich, and a must do for serious foodie travelers, and it's my pleasure to guide the way.
I've designed a one week tour for up to 7 people plus myself that will visit Bilbao, San Sebastian and points in between with a private van and local guides on occasion.