Tag Archives: Spain Travels

Café de la Concha – San Sebastián, Spain

I was pleasantly caught off guard by the beach in San Sebastián. The nearby surf culture added a fun twist to the scene. With the combination of Euro-city life and gastronomic magic, the beach-vibes were just icing on the cake. Four and a half days in Basque Country meant Robin and I were adventurers by day and lushy-foodies by night. Soon enough, we familiarized ourselves with the coast line and Café de la Concha made the “must do list”. They stole our hearts with their white façade and blindingly red flower boxes. Plus who doesn’t love eating in a café with a view?

Much like every other bar in San Sebastián , you walk in and you’re tempted by all of the delicious pintxos sitting on the counter. As an American it’s a hard to wrap your mind around the concept of pintxos. The fact that there’s food sitting on a counter for undetermined periods of time can raise some eyebrows. It’s natural to be curious about health and safety and whether or not they can actually stay fresh. The science behind the demand and supply must be genius as they seem to move pretty fast. Café de la Concha is a pristine little eating venue with pintxos to match. They were visually uncomplicated and cheerful just like the restaurant.

It was early in the morning and egg based pintxos made it feel like we were actually having a proper brunch. We sat outside on the terrace (of course). I couldn’t get over the amazing view! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I was really enjoying this until the worst thing happened. Sunscreen began to leave my face and started to seep right into my eyes. They were burning for a good forty five minutes and I couldn’t see a thing. I ventured to the bathroom twice in attempt to flush them out. #byebyemakeup #saddestpintxoeaterever

Nonetheless, I powered through my pain. I’m still convinced the two of us would have gone home morbidly obese if we hadn’t shared all of that “pintx-ing”. After the burning stopped, we ordered a couple of O.J.’s and dug in.

The pintxo on the left had a crab salad on baguette topped with a very fresh shrimp. The pintxo to the right had layered anchovy topped with a deviled egg (yolk whipped with mayonnaise) and last skewered with another shrimp and olive. Of course the O.J. was freshly squeezed… Would you expect any less?

Fresh O.J. + Pintxos + Sunny times on the beach would make anyone jump for joy.

Did I mention how great the view was?

The rest of the afternoon would entail a lot of this.

For More Information: www.cafedelaconcha.com

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Bar Vallés – San Sebastián, Spain

It was a gorgeous afternoon in San Sebastián spent shopping and meandering bars while plucking pintxos off counters and sipping delightful Txakoli. The sky couldn’t have been clearer so we took loads of great photos throughout the day. Eventually we had “shopped until we dropped” and decided it was time for another refreshment pit-stop. Casa Vallés was next on the map since it was super close and a whole two hours since we last ate. We decided to poke our heads in for a gander.

Bar Vallés opened in 1942. It gives off that impression with history exuding from the  wood paneled walls and ham hocks hung dripping from the rustic iron rails. It was the exact opposite experience of where we had our first pintxos earlier that day. Here we had a very traditional menu and much less-modern décor.

I appreciated the step back into “old-school Basque-vibes”. We arrived at an odd time of day which allowed for quicker “pint-xing” since the dining area was completely empty. With all of the sunshine there was no way we could sit inside an empty restaurant. Sidewalk seating it was! There was a bit of scaffolding around us, but otherwise we had a great view of the square from their café section.

Menus were already provided at the table (pictured below). Pintxos are great for sharing (or not) and with friendly price points of 2-5 euros each, one could easily go crazy. You’d explode and maybe rupture something before that, but grazing around town is a very reasonably-priced activity for all.

Our Assignment: Pintxos at Bar Vallés meant we would be ordering Tortilla Bacalao and Merluza Romana (pictured below).

It was nice to have a pintxo where the bread wasn’t part of the composition but rather an “optional” accompaniment. Tortilla de bacalao (pictured on top) was a tortilla made of salted cod, eggs, onions, green peppers, garlic and parsley. It was nice and moist. Merluza Romana (pictured below) is made up of hake (not cod). A lemon is provided to squeeze on top for a citrusy “zing” that cuts the grease nicely. I liked the denseness and consistency of the skin that formed on the outside. Both of these tortillas screamed BRUNCH to my NYC foodie-mind.

On the way back to our hostel we stumbled into another bar that was part of Robin’s hit-list called “Bar Izaraitz”. We looked at eachother and figured one more pintxo couldn’t possibly hurt before dinner.

What do you think happened? We went ahead and ordered a “Gilda’ (pictured below). It was part of our “SS -homework” and helped us feel like we were getting vegetables into our diet…You know vegetables like pickled peppers, salt cured anchovies and green olives on a tooth pick. If I could have it my way, I’d get all of my vegetables into my system like this. I have such a savory palette that I’m basically a walking ball of sodium.

Evidently this pintxo is a big deal around these parts. It’s named after the actress Rita Hayworth who played Gilda in the film produced in 1946. Like much of the other interesting pronunciation in the Basque region, the “Gilda” is pronounced “Hilda” locally.  (Txa-txa-txa!)

Day one in “SS” already had us acquainted with the city and our map reminded us that we would have to spread out our pin-txing in order to avoid a trip to the vomitorium. With some fancy foodies ahead, we would have to curb ourselves until well after sundown…What to do? Where would Robin and Jenzie “pinch” next? Or who would they “pintx” next? Stay tuned to find out in the next post of Jenzie In The City!

For More Information: Casa Valles

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Atari Gastroteka – San Sebastián, Spain

I landed in San Sebastián early in the morning. I was so excited to see a new city in Spain and optimistic I’d have better fun-luck there. The sight was unforgettable as I looked out the window of my plane. I was entering a romantic painting of moody overcast skies, loads of lush greenery surrounding a body of water with a small boat docked and waiting for its owner. Donostia-airport was quaint, clean and civilized much like the entire city of “SS”. Finally, the moment where I’d find out what all that “Donosti-buzz” was about. Welcome to Basque Country!

I retrieved my bag and waited curiously for another airport bus to take me to center city. There were limited taxis and the majority of people were bus-bound which was reassuring. After about an hour of highway driving, we seemed to approach a bustling area. The architecture appeared to be French-Influenced and the vibe was Monaco meets Barcelona (if I had to describe it). When I passed the Hotel Maria Christina I got a little excited inside. I had been scoping out pictures of this hotel for weeks. Sadly, I wouldn’t be sleeping there this time around.

My phone died just in the nick of time. Luckily I had a Spanish SIM when I got off the bus and GPS came in handy to find my new home for the week. My room wasn’t ready yet which left me with some time-to-kill. I decided to explore the vicinity and soon located a lovely café in the middle of a sunny square. I sat for some tortilla and coffee while I charged (my mind and my phone) in a convenient outdoor-socket. The view was blocked by trucks stocking all of the surrounding cafés with their precious pintxos ingredients.

I made sure to keep an eye on the time since my friend Robin was driving into town shortly. I was silently praying that she might be at least an hour late so I could snooze. Thankfully my wish was granted!

I returned to Pension Edorta which is located on Puerto street in the “Old Town” and very close to the shoreline. It was nice to be right in the center of anything that mattered for the week.

The close beach proximity allowed us to incorporate some evening jogging and a hike in the park to see Jesus at Monte Urgull for some pintxos burning “sports”…

There was also some yoga.

Our Inn-keeper was the sweetest most helpful man ever! Our rooms were super clean and totally decent for the wopping 50 euros per night. It was going to be intimate sleeping quarters for the next 4.5 days, but who was counting?

We were conveniently located right next to Iglesia de Santa Maria and what would soon become our most favorite “pintxos-eria”…

The name is Atari Gastroteka!

 After all the pintxos I took down in San Sebastián, these were the MOST memorable. Besides delicious food, there was something really special about the ambiance in this restaurant. The way the light came through the windows and the close proximity to the cathedral was magical. It was high energy and the pintxos that sat lining the bar looked so fresh and decadent they could make your mouth drool upon first glance. No pintxos were left un-pinched at Atari. The plates kept coming and coming with new and interesting treats to admire. (Note: Some pintxos at other bars could get a little stale!)

For an early afternoon visit, the place was already slammed. They have outdoor seating and indoor tables, but we struggled to find standing room at the bar. We were greeted and offered menus, but who could bother reading with trays of enticing pintxos staring them in the face? It seemed like Atari operated on a pintxos-honor system…Take what you want and fess up to it later.

Anyone that actually follows my blog might remember Robin from my trip to Charleston in 2014. Both Robin and I can talk a lot. While we were at Atari we were very quiet. There was way too much chewing going on. (There was also pointing, some non-descriptive grunting language, more chewing and pointing and grabbing of pintxos (repeat).

Pintxos Photos at Atari (So you get the idea):

1- This was a trio shared plate.

2- Pintxos of jamon with chutney and feta on a whole grain croissant.

3- Brie with chutney and jamon.

=Happy Girls!

To think that this was just a warm up. There were so many pintxos ahead of us and we were already full! It was time to set out and discover San Sebastián with distended bellies and our map in hand.

First, this would all require a churro.

For More Information: ATARI

Questions, Comments, Concerns and Review Requests Please email to: JenzieInTheCity@gmail.com

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