Pierbusseti's Favorite Foodie Destinations: San Sebastian
When deciding where to travel for delicious Spanish cuisine, one might immediately think of Barcelona or Madrid. However with the second-most Michelin stars per capita in the world, the picturesque bay city of San Sebastian has as much to offer in flavor as it does in quality. Whether foodie travelers have a taste for pintxos (the local term for tapas) or a five-course meal from one of the countless celebrated chefs in the region, they will be in paradise.
Located in Basque Country, San Sebastian offers up some of the best scenery in northern Spain, complimented by world-class dining. The city was recently listed by the New York Times as one of the top 52 places to go in 2016.
Even the small plates at the local bars are at a quality that is unparalleled. Pintxos bars line the cobblestone streets of the city, ready to serve hungry locals and tourists. Pintxos usually consist of hors d’oeuvres served atop slices of baguette and held together with a toothpick. Once finished, the servers will count the number of toothpicks to know just how much to charge for the pintxos, a system that has been used in the area for centuries. With a wide array of meats and vegetables spiced to perfection, budget-travelers also wishing to sample the world-famous New Basque Cuisine can do so for just a few Euros.
When it comes to fine-dining, there are few cities that can compare to San Sebastian’s gastronomy. It’s no wonder the city earned the number-one slot on Conde Nast’s World’s Best Food Cities: Reader’s Choice Awards for 2014. With views overlooking the bay and three Michelin Stars to its name, Akelare is one of the top restaurants in the region. Chef Pedro Subijana was originally going to study medicine but ended up learning from Luis Irizar, one of the founders of New Basque Cuisine, and his career took off. In addition to creating one-of-a-kind dishes, Subijana gives lectures and teaches cooking classes at Akelare for fans and aspiring chefs.
Another notable Michelin star spot is Juan Mari Arzak’s self-titled restaurant, Arzak. Just like Akelare, Arzak proudly boasts three Michelin stars. Through research, experimentation, and innovation, the chefs at Arzak continuously blend traditional Basque and Spanish cuisine with a more avant-garde flair. In addition to founding the restaurant, Juan Mari Arzak also founded Arzak Instruction. Arzak Instruction’s goal is to advise restaurants and other businesses within the food industry on topics like menu renovation while also acting as a consultant for start-ups.
Some of the notable and most important delicacies in the region include salted cod, beef cheeks, and Txangurro a la Donostiarra (stuffed spider crab). The strangest specialty? Baby eels, a traditional Basque dish. What makes this dish so peculiar is that in the Basque provinces, it is custom to leave the faces on the eels.
So whether travelers are able to splurge on a meal they won’t forget from one of the city’s many Michelin starred restaurants or take to the streets to sample a little bit of everything at the pintxos bars, foodies will find everything they’re looking for and more in this coastal city.