A pinchos ( “thorn” or “spike”) or pintxos are small snacks, and they are very common to eat in northern Spain. They are especially adored in the Basque country and Navarre -(San Sebastian, Pamplona, Bilbao, Cantabria, La Rioja, northern Burgos)-, where the variety of pinchos are usually served on a tray at the bars or taverns. In those cities the pinchos have a strong socializing component so that they are usually regarded as a cornerstone of local culture and society. It is obvious that they are related to tapas but the main difference is that the pinchos are usually ‘spiked’ with a skewer or toothpick, often to a piece of bread. They are served in individual portions and always ordered and paid for independently from the drinks. (It can happen that the same item called “pincho” in one bar and “tapas” in another).
San Sebastian is the cradle of the famous Basque cuisine, and in the last ten years the city has become the Pinxto capital with its 16 Michelin stars restaurants. But going out for “pinchos” seemed to me more fun than to sit in a restaurant because meanwhile I was tasting them I was not only in constant action but I could also discover the Spanish culture. I arrived around 3pm at San Sebastian. First I checked in my hotel and then around 7pm I met my Spanish friend, Ruben, who suggested to visit at least 4-6 bars in one night and in order to try 1 or 2 pintxos with a drink in each establishment. So we hit the old town -the Parte Vieja-after half an hour walking and in the busy restaurant area I found cold and hot pintxos, which were placed on the bars so I could take them directly from there but the hot pintxos were displayed on the blackboards.
Every one of the pinchos consisted of small slices of bread upon which an ingredient or mixture of ingredients were fastened with a toothpick (you got it”pincho”, means “spike) Ruben told me that pinchos are usually eaten as an appetizer in Spain, accompanied by a small glass of young, fruity white wine called Txikit, or Txakoli, or with a beer the zurito, which means quarter of a pint (but I could also accompanied with a rosé or red wine, Sangria). Almost any ingredient were put on the bread, but the most commons included fish such as hake, cod, anchovy; or tortilla de patatas(potato-egg); stuffed peppers; and croquettes. There were also very sophisticated pinchos among the simply ones, consisted of very elaborate expensive seafoods and meats such as the foie gras sandwiches. During my pincho routes we met group of peoples- probably friends who were going from one tavern to another, were drinking small glasses of Sangria and beer and were eating pinchos.
From my pincho tasting routes I could recommend the next pinchos to everyone
La Cepa: Tenderloin brochette with Gernika peppers and chips there I tasted the finest ham and Jabugo pork!
Casa Gandarias: Beef cheek and mouth
Dakara Bi: taco of sirloin steak with foie gras and reduction of forest fruits
Fuego Negro: Olives with wermouth, queen olives stuffed with it
La Vina bar: Cylindrical water filled cheese and anchovy
Bar Bartolo: Grilled foie gras
Izkina: Galician octopus
Haizea: Cod brick (it was hot!)
Meson Martin: Trainera: grilled squid and shrimp over a bed of ham
Antonio bar: Cantabrian sea anchovies in salt with hot pepper and green pepper confit
Rojo Y Negro: prawn broshette with Emmental cheese in tempura
Iturrioz: In low temperature baked cod confit
Cafeteria Lombi: Lombi egg and meat and saussage