5.197 Pintxos


21 (Mon) July 2014



at Arantzale Taberna

-Getxo, Biskaia, Euskadi, Spain-

with W and DJ

Mission to Spain + Holiday (Day 2 of 9)

In Getxo.  From today to Friday, I’ll be attending a 5-day workshop food law.  With W and DJ tagging along, we’ll stay an extra couple days for fun in Barcelona.

At the top of the hill, an old fishing village overlooking the water, steps leading down to the beach.


Over the course of 11 days, through a combination of personal and professional travels – relating primarily to the aforementioned mission in Spain – I will be in 9 localities across 5 countries, eating and documenting at least 1 meal in each of them.

Today is Day 3 /  Locality 3 / Country 3.

Getxo is a municipality in Spain.  Located on the north coast in the province Biskaia (Biscay) in the autonomous community Euskadi (Basque Country).  Aside from the throngs of vacationers who come in for day trips, the permanent population is comprised mostly of affluent retirees and beach bums.

(For additional posts, see 11/9/5.)

Located at the entrance to the village.
Please take my order.

Arantzale Taberna is a Spanish pub.  Current ranking on TripAdvisor: 13 of 83 restaurants in Getxo.

Among the many places that we visited over the course of the afternoon, our favorite was Arantzale Taberna.  Best food, best ambiance, best service (server, see above).

Estrella Damm, the flagship pilsner from Barcelona; ceiling tap makes great sense.
A standard spread of pintxos.

Pintxo is a broad subcategory of Spanish tapas.  Includes anything that is served or can be eaten with a long toothpick – the term literally means “spike” – such as various pickles, small bits of seafood, especially pickled fish, or sliced bread topped with meats and skewered to keep everything together.  Typically found in pubs, prepared in advance, laid out for self-service.  Prices start at 1 euro apiece, rarely more than 3 euros.  Differs from the more globally famous tapas calientes, which are made to order, served warm, and consumed with a fork (see for example 5.017 Gambas al Ajillo).  Like all tapas, pintxos are often eaten as a snack/appetizer/accompaniment to beer or wine but can constitute a meal.  Traditionally associated with Basque cuisine, the form is now entirely mainstream, available alongside other tapas in pub/restaurants across the country,

The food was awesome.  My favorite was a pintxo consisting of olive + cucumber pickle + anchovy + roast paprika + pickled chili + olive.  All components that I’ve tried individually, but never in tandem.  Perfect combination of briny + tangy + salty + sweet & sooty + zesty.  And even each on its own, the olive, the cucumber pickle, the anchovy, the roast paprika, the pickled chili was the best that I’ve ever experienced.  I could’ve eaten 10 of them.

The grilled octopus was also excellent.

In the traditional Basque language Euskada, the TX letter combination is very common.  It’s pronounced “ch.”  So, for example, Getxo = “GEH choh,” pintxo = “PIN choh,” txikiteo = “chi KI teo,” kalimotxo = “kalo MOH choh,” txokos = “CHOH kos.”

After the first day of the workshop, the participants were taken on a walking tour of the town, including several stops for drinks and pintxos.   At one point, the group was moving too slow, so we quietly slipped away on our own.

Indeed, the wining and dining tradition in Basque Country calls for having just one pintxo and one drink per establishment then moving on to the next.  In Euskada, this practice is referred to as “txikiteo.”  One reason is that some places offer better this, better that.  Another is for the mobility in between rounds to keep the juices flowing.  Also, dating back to the old days, it allows for all the establishments in the community to make some money every evening.  And yes, it can happen every evening. A culturally mandated week-long pub crawl.  When in Spain.

(Koreans have adopted the axiom “When in Rome,” translated into Korean.  But the funny thing is, it has to be said all the way through: “When in Rome, do as Romans do.”  If I were to say to someone, “When in Rome….” and left it there, the other person would frown and reply, “What, what happens in Rome?” Seriously.)


One of his many stories, mostly about food, tour guide us told us about txokos.  Gastronomical societies, traditionally comprised of men, in which the group members pay dues, rent or buy or build kitchen facilities, and gather to cook and eat together.  A very common pastime among men in Basque Country.

The final stop was Los Tamarises, an upscale bar/restaurant adjacent to and affiliated with our downscale hotel, which otherwise doesn’t serve food after the crappy breakfast in the morning; the pintxos were great, of course.

I’m beginning to believe, upon tasting the food today, and getting a sense of the food culture, that Basque Country may be home to one of the finest culinary traditions in the world.

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

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