Tuesday, November 1, 2011

San Sebastian, Part II

Given that TM and I spent as much time in our pension's kitchen as we did in the San Sebastian pintxo bars, I thought I would devote the next part of our San Sebastian chronicle to the local farmers' markets, fish markets, bakeries, and supermarkets. First off, I have to say how amazing it was to see real food everywhere. We were hard pressed to find processed junk food and even harder pressed to find fast food restaurants (we came across one, fittingly an American institution). Getting a quick bite never meant compromising nutrition, or money for that matter. You just ducked into the nearest bar for a freshly-prepared snack, spent a few euros, and went on your way in a matter of minutes.

A daily pleasure for us was to partake in the 1 euro baguette tradition. In the mornings, you'd find old men walking with just-baked baguettes tucked under their arms. In the afternoons, teenagers heading home would have baguettes sticking out of their schoolbags. Inevitably, the tops would be missing from them. We found the crumb of the Spanish baguette to be more airy than their French counterpart. The flavor was subtle, the crust was crisp, and they were always only 1 euro.

Another tradition I found fascinating were the fish markets. These markets did brisk business in the mornings, when the catch was super fresh and plentiful: salmonete (red mullet), squid, anchovies, and a variety of shrimp. I'm pretty sure very little was kept to sell the next day. I wish we had cooking apparatus at the pension so that I could have experimented with some of the wonderful seafood. TM had to convince me not to attempt cooking fish in the microwave oven.

We didn't find many supermarkets in San Sebastian, maybe a couple in Gros and one in the Commercial district. Instead we found specialty vendors aplenty, i.e. produce vendors, meat vendors and cheese vendors, wine shops, and bakers. Since many of the produce vendors had super fresh stuff, it was a pretty big surprise to come across the weekly farmers' market. Maybe it was a chance for the farmers (or rather, their wives) to one-up each other in person. Whatever the impetus, it was glorious to see the vegetal bounty of this green region.

At one of the markets we did come across, we found an interesting selection of prepared foods. Look at this beautiful spinach, red pepper, and goat cheese terrine! Or at the variety of ready-to-fry croquettes and fritters!

While in Spain, we ate as the Spanish ate, and drank as they drank (or at least tried to). When choosing wines, Lesley stuck with txacoli at every pintxo bar, TM and I would opt for a rioja red. We found this yummy crianza at a little wine shop in Gros. We remembered the wine key, but forgot the glasses. Not a problem!

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