GASTRONOMY IN SAN SEBASTIÁN
San Sebastian is a recognized gastronomic oasis that offers a lot of culinary experiences. From simple pintxos (miniature, artistically prepared dishes) to delicious foie gras and basque txuleta (a thick steak on a bone). Here you can enjoy a wide range of wild-caught seafood as well as all kinds of fresh meats. You can lean at a bar to have a quick snack with a beer, or sit in a restaurant until midnight enjoying a traditionally-late Spanish dinner with a rich Rioja wine. Having the largest number of Michelin stars per capita, San Sebastian sparkles unlike any other gastronomic city in the world. You can choose from six one-star (Alameda, Elkano, Kokotxa, Mirador de Ulia, Zuberoa) to three three-star restaurants (Akelarre, Arzak, Martin Berasategui)– depending on your tastes and budget ($100 - $250+ meal per person).
Somewhere between the magnificent, and sometimes difficult, selection of pincho bars and the complex magnificence of the Basque Michelin restaurants, there is a huge category of restaurants in which you can have a wonderful Basque cuisine meal for a reasonable price. In the north of Spain, siesta is just as important as in the south, but it lasts less due to a more balanced climate. From 1-4pm bars and restaurants are filled with people. Some choose to have a glass of wine and irreplaceable tortilla but the majority prefers the menu of the day, the cost of which varies from 14 € to 18 € for an aperitif, a main course, beverage, bread and dessert (or coffee instead of dessert).
Food critics say that no matter what bar you walk into in San Sebastian – everything will be delicious. We think that this is absolutely true. Old Town, where bar counters groan with trays full of delicious mini-dishes meticulously prepared by crafty chefs, is the best place for pintxo tasting. You ask a bartender for a plate, then select your pintxos and pay at the end. Rarely do pintxos exceed the cost of 2.5 euros each.
Calle Bermingham, 17
Calle Bermingham, 3
Mercado San Martin
Thursday evenings in San Sebastian are dedicated to the pintxo pote: Barcelona's anti-crisis scheme, designed to bring people back to the bars, adapted well in this city. From 7-11 pm the usual price of pintxos (2 euros) includes a small beverage. A socio-cultural phenomenon, that brings people together on the streets of Gros district. They socialize while eating their mini portions on the sidewalk. A more luxurious version of the pintxo pote, called gastro pote, takes place near Buen Pastor cathedral and includes, among other things, live music and sushi at a price of pintxo.
SIDRERIAS "CIDER HOUSE"
Sidrerias are best to visit in winter; popular with both tourists and locals. From February to April, a regular family outing is a Saturday visit to a cider house. Basques combine a Saturday morning walk in the mountains with lunch at a sidreria, that includes txuleta-steak, fish and omelet (with cod and green Gipuzkoan peppers) and sausages that in the Basque Country are truly traditional.
New type of coffee shops have appeared in San Sebastian where the quality of the grain, country of origin, roasting and serving are important. True coffee lovers are willing to pay an extra euro for magnificent views, excellent service, gluten-free cookies, real carrot cake, beautiful dishes and a short consultation the professional barista regarding which coffee to take home.
The proximity to France, largely explains the love of the Basques to quality chocolate and gourmet pastries. Cozy shops scattered around the city, offer hand-made truffles, orange slices covered with dark chocolate and a local version of home-made cheesecake. Coffee, tea or freshly squeezed juices are also offered to complement sweets in many of these shops.
BUTCHERS AND FISHMONGERS
Besides supermarkets, small grocery stores and farmers' markets, there are also specialized butchers’ and fishmongers. The fresh catches are rich in variety of fish (here it is classified into white and blue) and other seafood. You can find everything from delicious hake cheeks to snails, still retaining the distinctive smell of the ocean. Butchers’ shops besides different meats and meat products (ham, salchichas, etc.) also sell farm eggs, cheese, cereals and fresh bread.
Bread is very popular in San Sebastian - a daily must; a way of life. Bakeries are located on every corner and seduce customers with the smell of ground coffee beans and delicious, freshly-baked pastries in the French style. It depends on the size of the bakery but usually there are at least ten types of bread (from integral to unsalted to from simply yummy and not-so-healthy). Here, you can always have a leisurely breakfast, read the newspaper and, of course, make a conversation with the locals. Small talk at the bakery is another great opportunity to practice Spanish. In addition to traditional bakeries such as Oggi Beri, Takona or Lekuna, new bakeries have emerged. Some have Scandinavian style design with decent collections of high-quality tea (Gogoko), others an open kitchens and a baking courses for those who are interested (Loaf).
San Sebastian is a mecca for those passionate about gastronomy in general, and healthy food in particular. Local food - for geographical and climatic reasons is a very good quality. For those who enjoy integrated rice and pasta, distinguish quinoa from Gulum, prefer almond to cows milk, and are accustomed to the taste of spirulina – there are Eco Stores. You can either go to the cozy community store Sentido Commun, next to the Bretcha market, or to the gastronomic concept-store Organic 49 located on Urbieta street in the city center.
The first farmer’s market in San Sebastian, steeped in with local history with magnificent architectural design, arose before Buen Pastor cathedral appeared on the city map, in the 19th century. The market of San Martin was a miniature copy of that in Bayonne, but offered very different produce. Instead of French cheeses and wines, there was a variety of vegetables, meats and cereals. Several years ago, the old building was demolished. In its place a shopping center was built that combines under one roof a flagship Zara, multi-media store Fnac, a supermarket, and the farmers market itself.
Another farmers market, la Bretxa, is also worth visiting. Its counters are located in the gallery connecting the boulevard and la Bretxa plaza. The market is small but notable for its floral section, cozy atmosphere and vendors that sell superior quality self-grown products by local farmers. There are many other farmers markets that sporadically appear in different neighborhoods and suburbs of San Sebastian known only to locals. Fairs and fiestas often accompany these events at which you might find Basque folk music and dance, enjoy grilled txistorra (basque pork sausage) and cider straight from the barrels. The locations of these secret farmers' markets can be found here.
Walking through the market can be a great start to a Saturday morning.