Tag Archives: basque

Dan Lepard in The Loaf

I’m not very political minded.

But I have to admit I’ve always been more or less in favor of independence for the Basque Country. Why? Because I’m pretty sure I could get the job of ambassador! I mean, I speak a bit of Euskera, I’m spending the summer in Ataun, the Basquest of Basque villages, and I have to be the number one foreign fan of this place (okay, I can think of about four others who are possibly equally deserving). I say this all joking, and really just to introduce an Englishman who, if I were ambassador of Euskadi, would fill in for me on summer vacation: Dan Lepard.

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He’s the baking mastermind at The Loaf, Donosti’s favorite new place to wait in line.

And besides making marvelous bread at San Sebastián’s first pop-up bakery, he also is writing about Basque baked goods in The Guardian this month.  Check out some of his recipes below if you want to try your hand at some:

#ssrestweek: Gran Sol

The first San Sebastián Restaurant Week has officially come to an end.

I’ve seen some of the numbers, and there were tons of people dining out for 25 euros at some of the city’s most respected restaurants.

But in my opinion, one of the best part parts of SSRW was getting out to the neighboring towns’ restaurants that I’d never try otherwise.

Here are some photos of our meal at Gran Sol, the restaurant. This restaurant and pintxo bar, featured in the New York Times,  is under Bixente Muñoz.  Both are worth a try should you end up in the small, beautiful town of Hondarribi.


Rollito de verdura | Vegetable Roll


Nuestro milhojas de foie , manzana y queso caramelizado con salsa de mosto reducido a la mostaza antigua | Foie, apple and cheese mille-fuille with stoneground mustard grape reduction


Gazpacho de tomate, con tomate a la plancha con mousse de cabracho al aroma de limon , com pescado marinado | Grilled tomato with lemon-infused scorpionfish mousse and tomato gazpacho


Taco de bacao confitado a baja temperatura con piperrada, patatas panaderas y salsa morron and  Entrecot con patatas fritas y pimientos | Confit cod with piperade, potatoes a la boulangere, and red pepper sauce and Beef filet with fried potatoes and peppers

And finally, where Gran Sol really shone, the desserts. You could tell these were housemade, which is actually pretty rare here in culinary paradise.


Tarta crujiente a los tres chocolates | Chocolate Tarte


Tarta de queso | Cheesecake.

The grand finale, one of the best I’ve had anywhere in País Vasco.

The Basque ABC’s : F is for….


F is for…Frijituak! Literally ‘fried things’, this concept is both absurdly obvious and totally foreign. It’s a plate of varied fried things typical to the cuisine, such as croquetas, stuffed mussels (tigres), and balls of meat.


It’s served as a first course (for one person!) in the most hallowed of the daily eating institutions, the restaurant that has menú del día. This type of spot is both holding strong and dying out. More and more there are fewer, but they are still an indispensable part of the worker’s life. A place to go and get simple food, like your ama makes, and for relatively inexpensive. There is a drink all you want, eat all you want air to it. Other typical first courses include soup, salads, fish puddings, etc. and the second course is often meat and potatoes, fish, or meatballs.

Cider House Rules


Cider season is nearing a close here in Basque Country.

Basque cider is a drink in its own category. It’s not quite French cider, it’s nothing like American…and it’s a seasonal beverage, best enjoyed in the same building in which it is made, the ciderhouse.


There are a few rules that can help an outsider enjoy the ciderhouse experience as much as a local. It’s much more difficult to have a bad time in a place where steaks are sizzling and cider is flowing from wooden barrels, but there is a method behind that madness. Here are some cider house rules:

  1. Is it May? Anytime between June and November? Please, don’t go to a ciderhouse. Unless you are looking for a Disney version of this hallowed tradition.
  2. Reserve ahead because during the season the smaller (read, more local) ciderhouses tend to fill up.
  3. Go in a group. With cider, the more the merrier, in all senses of the word.
  4. Wear a sweater. It’s cold in the rooms where cider is kept in huge wooden barrels.
  5. Come hungry. Four courses include tortilla, cod, steak and traditional dessert of membrillo, cheese and walnuts.
  6. The sound TXOTX! (phonetically, choch) means please head directly to the barrel room.
  7. When taking cider from the barrels, line up directly behind the person ahead of you. Align your glass with theirs, such that when they step away, the cider streams directly into your glass.
  8. Get a little bit of cider at a time. Down it. Get more. Repeat, a LOT.
  9. Most importantly, have fun.
  10. Night should end in song.

Gosh, I love this place.

The Basque Food ABC’s: B is for….


Another installment of the Basque Food ABC’s. Today, we talk about the letter…B!

B is for….babarrunak. Babarrunak is basque for beans, and nowhere are beans more treasured than in the nearby town of Tolosa.  Alubiadas, loosely translated as bean fests, are parties for groups of friends from the age of 15 to 95.  And they revolve around a relaxed afternoon of eating beans, drinking, and talking.  I’ve been to a fair share thanks to a good friend, and there’s something special about sitting in a square in Tolosa, knocking off the chill and eating your fill of the famous black Tolosa bean, and lingering over cocktails for hours.

The Tolosa bean is peculiar for several reasons: it’s quite expensive, usually running between 7 and 15 euros a kilo.  It’s also misleading: when you buy them, they resemble black frijoles. However, after hours of cooking, they turn a dark red and take on their luscious silky smooth texture. These are a must try.  My mom was probably confused when I sent her a bag for Christmas, but these beans are as close to a luxury item as legumes get.


what is basque food?

What is basque food?

This is a question that is so much more complex than what most would have you believe. It’s not just pintxos. It’s not just chuleta (steak) or seafood. And it’s not just food.


It’s a table set for all your friends, in a txoko, or dining society.  It’s fresh products, eaten at their peak time and with hardly anything added.  Basque food means leave your curries, leave your spices, and heck, you don’t really even need your black pepper.

Basque food is a food that is equally at home in restaurants of the highest caliber and grandma’s kitchen.  This is so not true of all cuisines.

Basque food is a sporting event.  Who has the best marmitako? Where do you have your hamaiketako (midday snack)?  And most importantly…how many courses can you fit in your stomach? There is no room for people with a hesitant relationship with food. And there is  definitely no room for the word ‘calories’. I can’t remember the last time I used it, in fact.

Basque food is bar food, to be eaten one at a time, moving from place to place and always accompanied by a small glass of wine or beer.

Basque food is a food that is shrouded in mystery. Due in part to the mysterious language and in part to the tendency of Basques to stick with their social group of toda la vida (lifelong).

This is just a little intro. Here we’ll be talking about all things Basque, so I hope you chime in!

What do you think of when you think of Basque cuisine?