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.
Guisantes de lágrima could be the vegetable equivalent of angulas.
These “tear peas” are 500 euros a kilogram, as a recent article reports. That’s $295 a pound. This article reports that the first guisantes de lágrima of the season have appeared. From each pod, 12-14 peas can be harvested. The most famed producer of this delicate legume is Jaime Burgaña of Aroa farm in Getaria.
Basque Country is famous for its incredible raw materials. It doesn’t matter how many star chefs you have in a square mile if you don’t have the quality produce to back it up. In fact, the confluence of talented chefs and incredible fish, vegetables, meat and dairy could be the secret to this region’s cuilnary success.
In places like Restaurant Fronton , this perfection is respected. And enhanced with a little bit of salt and good quality olive oil. Plates that result are like the baby winter vegetables above: cooked to their perfect point. Judiciously seasoned. From the nearby garden to the table. And done with little fuss or showmanship, done because that’s what chefRoberto Ruíz is passionate about.
I had this incredible dish earlier this week: savory artichokes, perfect baby brussels, carrots, asparagus, with little leaves of jamón over a warm, thick vichyssoise. Worth the trip.