Hondarribia Regatta – We Won!

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It can be difficult sometimes living in the Basque Country to always know what is going on as many, if not most event posters are all in Basque. We can generally figure out the potential date, sometimes the time and place but many times we can figure out nada. But the Hondarribia Regatta race is not hard to miss as the WHOLE TOWN goes nuts & gets decked out in the team colours wearing t-shirts, polo shirts, neckerchiefs and hats.

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Team Leader Billie…Back of da Bike

The race starts just off the Hondarribia beach & then heads out to sea & out of sight – this, like most sporting events, is best viewed in a pub or bar on a wide screen HD television. But we thought it an event worth being part of, so we rigged up a bike box for Hound #1 & set off for the starting line.

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Grill Master

Mucho crowds of people were out to support the team & many, many more shouting encouragement from their balconies. We wandered into the festival feeding area (as you do) and were just stunned at the food on offer. A Grill Master was in full charge of his hotter than hot bed of burning coals & grilling fresh tuna in all of its forms. Hondarribia is a decent sized fishing port and the fish on offer is estupendo and super fresca.

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Hot As…

We snatched 2 cañas of cold, cold San Miguel and made a bee line for the pintxo people and we were again stunned, for a single € we were handed a fist sized piece of perfectly grilled tuna steak! We wish they had these regatta races every week so we could eat like kings for paupers’s prices….

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What A Pinto for €1!

And Hound #1 was 100% in the team spirit with his newly purchased Hondarribia Team Neckerchief. And WE WON!

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Head Cheerleader Billie!

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Fly Fishing in the Basque Country Continues…

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Trout Scouts

I met up with my Basque fly fishing mates Iñaki and Asier one week later with the idea of skipping our starter water and heading straight for the Big Boys. We made a few fish spotting stops at different stretches of the river and saw some very impressive trout – like in the 4-6 pound range. Only problem was they were: (a) in very deep pools so difficult to access or cast to and (b) they were surrounded by schools of massive barbels.

We arrived at Asier’s designated starting point and got kitted up as the clouds were turning dark grey & a wee bit of wind was kicking up. Asier said we should work our way down river a bit as he knew of several seriously good pools, so it was down river we went.

No one got a hook up…except me, but with a dumbbell barbel. It was my first time to catch a barbel and he took one of my own tied bead head nymphs. They are a weird fish – they look and fight very much like a carp. Their name comes from the Latin word barba for beard (same in Español). And they appear to be held in low regard if the words from Iñaki and Asier speak for all. Sorry – no pictures…

We decided to get a move on up river to some possibly more productive beats. We managed to spot & spook a few before Asier laid out a perfecto cast to a sighted fish with a wee dry fly & bang! He had hooked himself a sweet wee rainbow. Our luck could be turning…

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Hook Ups All Around

Asier again made the call that it was time to hustle it up & get to as close to a ‘guaranteed spot’ as we could find on the river before the darkness took over. And once again we found ourselves staring at a quite large pod of trouts gulping caddis flies like there was no tomorrow off the river’s surface. Yippee!

Iñaki was the first to connect and boy did he connect – a brown of substance and size to beat the band. The photo above does not do the fish (nor him) justice but it was so dark it was the best my iPhone could do. And I once again brought up the rear and in the dimmest of light managed to see a pair of lips engulf my fly & zing! A sweet, sweet sized rainbow.

Ah, the fish’n fun continues…off next week to thrash a few high mountain waters in the state of Aragón so another fly fishing in España post will be on its way…

To Market We Go – In Ordizia, España

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Ordizia’s Wednesday Market – Going Strong After 500+ Years

The Wednesday Market in the town of Ordizia, Basque Country is very well known and it should be as it has been a happening for over 500 years. The market takes over the town plaza centre which is a Roman or Greek looking parthenon type structure that provides good cover in inclement or hotter than hell weather.

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Olives! Come Get Your Olives!

The Hounds had visited the market before on a trip 2 years ago but since we were travellers then, not residents, we were limited in our take. Not this time! We had also been forewarned by a Basque fly fishing mate of mine to take ‘pockets full of money’ because, he said, it was a very expensive market. So all the Hounds piled into our 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie) and bumped & bounced our way to Ordizia…

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Hay Muchas Verduras!

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Hay Mucho Queso…

This market pretty much ticks all the right boxes – it is authentic (no wholesalers here), it offers a great selection of local produce & products and the prices, to us foreign folk, seem almost cheap compared to our local Hondarribia Farmers Market (which we love BTW).

The cheeses on display provoke a puzzling question about Spanish cheeses – they all seem to be pretty much the same type and/or style. A medium soft cheese with the body or texture of say a Gouda or Gruyere, but there appear to be no soft cheeses like a Brie or any Washed Rind options (e.g., Saint-Nectaire). One local queso, Idiazabal, has achieved a well deserved international reputation & recognition but it is still in the same style – and expensive.

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Golden Shrooms

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Ceps

The selection can be overwhelming at times, and every turn of a corner or wander down a new aisle brings yet more temptations…and purchases. We were especially taken with the fresh, foraged mushrooms on offer – a decent selection of types and quite affordable prices. We grabbed a good sized bag of the Ceps for a mere €5 or so…estupendo!

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Free Range Huevos or Huevos Camperos

And one of the food items we are really enjoying while we live in the Basque Country of Spain is the vast variety of charcuterie (from chorizo to jamón) we can choose from and this market did not let us down. We are not quite chorizo’d out yet in our first 2 months, but we may be closing in on our ‘peak chorizo experience’!

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The Only Bread Stand – Porqué?

Oddly enough, the market has only 1 baker & bread stall? Not sure how that happened or why a market this size with so many stalls would only have one bread seller.

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Shopping Rewards

And since market shopping on this scale can be tiring, especially with the heat rising & the testing our Spanish language skills to the max, we re-treated to a shady street & procured a bit of refreshment.

So if you happen to find yourself in the Basque Country for whatever reason and you like your food, put the Wednesday Ordizia Market on your to do list!

Casa Cámara – Lunch Fenomenal!

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Estupendo!

We went on a bit of an explore a couple of weeks ago to a small fishing village called Pasajes de San Juan (and the sister village of San Pedro) which is just outside of San Sebastían. It had been recommended to us by a nice Spanish hombre we’d met at a menú del día lunch @ Cantina de Guadalupe and subsequent research made it a must go.

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Great Harbour View

While strolling the one street of San Juan we came across Casa Cámara & stuck our heads into a wonderful, old style dining room looking out on the harbour. It was busy as with mucha gente devouring scrumptious plates of food. We grabbed a card & made the decision to bring Hound #2’s Mum here on her week long visit.

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Serious Family Owned/Run Place – Since 1884

Casa Cámara has been around a wee while – since 1884 when it was family owned & run as it still is today. We were the first to arrive (damn English habits) and scored a spectacular table with a fenomenal view of the port – excellente!

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Awesome Harbour Views….

Casa Cámara does not do a menú del día (though they do offer group menus) so it was ordering a la carte – pretty much our first time doing that! Everyone seemed to lean towards the healthy path and making the most of what the Basque Country does so well – seafood.

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Ensalada Temporada

My primero plato was a Ensalada Temporada de Pimientos, Endivias & Ventresca de Bonito (Warm Salad with Peppers, Endive & Belly of the Tuna). A fantastic mix of flavours and textures that went down well & was delicious mopping up the residual dressing with the crisp bread.

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Pulpo…Octopus.

Hound #2 went with a regional favourite – Pulpo (Octopus). Not really seen too much in the States or New Zealand / Australia in our memory but here it is everywhere (salads, entrees, mains, pintxos) and it is so good.

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Ensalada Mixta – Old Fave

Hound #2’s Mum stuck with a tried & true favourite of the week – Ensalada Mixta (Mixed Salad). The ingredients for this salad generally remain the same across many venues but gets put together in a multitude of ways. This was a perfecto example.

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Grilled Turbot

Mum likes her Rodaballo (Turbot) so Rodaballo it was – grilled with a side of verduras (veggies). We heard lots of ‘yums’…

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Dish of the Day – Txipirones (Squid)

Hound #2 went with one of her perennial favourites for her main – Txipirones a la Plancha (Grilled Squid). By general and unanimous consensus, it was nominated as the plate of the day – super tender squid (I had a couple of bites to verify the vote), grilled to perfection with a mountain of finely grated, fried vegetable mixta as an added bonus.

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Almejas – Muchas Yummy

Para mi, I chose the dish I do not cook enough – Almejas (clams – easy as to cook but very expensive to buy in España). These were estupendo – cooked in a buttery vino, herb flavoured broth that made for an early dessert with lots of bread mopping going on.

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Rosado Muy Rico – Perfecto!

We washed all this delicious comidas down with a refreshing & enjoyable rosado from Marqués de Riscal. A cut above many of the rosados we’ve had recently, with a nice salmon colour (vs. the strawberry red) and a bit more heft & weight on the palate minus the usual sweetness.

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Tarta de Manzana…

I opted out of the dessert choices but the other two were keen. Mum went straight for the Tarta de Manzana (Apple Tart) and I state that none was left on the plate (the piece on the fork in the photo is my bite).

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Chocolate Mousse – Made to Share

And ever so predictably, Hound #2, as though her fate, chose the Mousse de Chocolate…again, none was left.

It was agreed by all that Casa Cámara was an excellent choice and muchas gracias to Mum for the shout…you can come for a visit any time!

Alcampo Es Gigantesco!

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Alcampo – Mega Store

Alcampo is Spain’s version of the US of A’s Costco or Sam’s Club and is as big or I’d say even bigger than those stores. You almost need a motorised shopping vehicle to get from one end of the store to the other – it takes a good 5 minutes of walking to go from one side to the other (pictured above). And it is as deep as it is wide.

And it sells all manner of products from homewares to car accessories to garden supplies and of course food & wine. We do not shop here often, and for the most part our purchases are confined to cleaning products (they carry the Froggy Eco range) or toilet paper, dog food or snacks (Smackos – Billie’s fave) and food items  we cannot seem to find in our local shops (e.g., gran padano or mozzarella cheese, fresh herbs). And I will give them some credit for their wine department – extensive range and good prices (booze is cheap too – €10 for a litre of Gordon’s Gin).

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Modest Selection of Take Home Jamón

In some areas they are quite impressive (like wine mentioned above) such as their charcuterie selections – hard to beat several hundred pounds of cured pork legs on offer or the 150 foot double sided, chilled display case chocka with every type of charcuterie imaginable…then there is the deli counter! And then there is the Fish Departamento….

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Alcampo Fish Departamento….

The supermarket fish departments are, on average, very impressive and they should be given the proximity to the sea, the fishing industry and the Spanish & Basque love of pescado. But Alcampo’s is – for lack of a better word – staggering in size and selection…covering all known fish types and some not known, as well as most forms of crustacean. And, of course, at very affordable prices compared to our experiences in New Zealand or Australia or the USA.

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I was very lucky to get these photos as it seems most fish folks do not take kindly to having their or their fish’s pictures taken. We are not sure if this is because they think we are competitors of some form or that some of the fish may be of suspect origins (i.e., from UK waters). As I snapped my final shot, a massive, burly woman in an apron & waving a samurai sized knife approached me and yelled in Spanish ‘te poco mierda, te poco mierda’…you little shit, you little shit.

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It’s Tuna Season in the Basque Country

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Shellfish Anyone?

The Menú del Día March Continues @ Laia Erretegia

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Laia Erretegia – Asador y Sidería

We decided to up our menú del día game a wee bit as we had read about a very highly regarded place called Laia Erretegia, which is both an asador (cooked on the grill kind of place) and a sidería (cider house).

It was a simple & pleasant 20 minute hike up into the hills surrounding Hondarribia and we were at Laia’s front door and very happy to see a functioning kitchen herb garden.

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Fresh Herbs – Yes!

We had opted to sit on the terrace and though not as nice a day weather-wise as we have been having we still had terrific views of the start of the Pyrenees range. And we were most amused by a robot lawnmower that had to be rescued from repeatedly pounding his or her ‘head’ against a fence post. Who then proceeded to mow in the most random of patterns. Not so sure about the new age of robots & AI if this is a basic example…

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View From Our Table…

 

The menú del día was a very reasonable (at least we thought so) @ €22 per person for a 3 course meal including vino, water and coffee. We initially thought the menu selections to be quite extensive until we tried to figure out what some of the additional items were and realised they were just the same menu items written in Basque…Duh!

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Menú del Día @ Laia

Two completely different starters were chosen, for Hound #2 the usual suspect of a healthy choice was an ensalada de cogollos (hearts of lettuce). I opted for a dish, arroz con chipirones (rice with baby squid), that Hound #2 had sampled the week before at another menú del día. Tough life I know but someone has to eat like this!

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The Starters

We both thought our respective dishes excellente but there was little doubt who’s was the winner – mine. Look at that tender piece of baby squid perfectly grilled sitting atop a savoury hill of risotto rice bathed in a most tasty broth. Would eat again most def.

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Arroz con Chipirones

And we both agreed that the vino tinto on offer at Laia was the best house red we had had in our time in España so far. Muy rico, a velvet Elvis and made to be a crowd pleaser.

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A Velvet Elvis (thanks to Scott Monahan for that phrase)

A carnivorous choice was made by both parties for the main event. And since España is the king of cerdo (pork) and I think it is the national dish, I went for the solomillo de cerdo a la brasa (grilled pork tenderloin) – perfecto!

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Solomillo de Cerdo

Hound #2 was tempted by the jarrete de cordero y puré de patata (lamb shank & super puréed potatoes)…estupendo! Though she felt it was lacking in vegetables…

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Jarrete de Cordero

Desserts were delicious, so much so we forgot to take a picture at the start! But it was decided that mine (pictured below), the París-brest con chocolate blanco, took the honours as most tasty.

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París-brest con Chocolate Blanco – Yum!

Hound #2 chose the crema de jengibre y espuma de chocolate (ginger cream & chocolate foam)…the jar was totally emptied.

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Crema de Jengibre y Espuma de Chocolate – All Gone!

 

Another Menú del Día @ Batzokia, Hondarribia…

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During my numerous Billie walks we would pass this taverna and it was always packed, so following one of Hound #2’s Dad Theories (if its packed, it must be good) we dropped in on a Thursday lunch hour for the €11 menu del dia…and Dad’s Theory was spot on.

The name of the place is Batzokia Jatetxea where the second word in the name means it is traditional Basque food. As mentioned above, the menu during week days is €11 but somehow mysteriously jumps to €20 on Saturday & Sunday with the only item changed on the menu being the price ;-).

BATZMenuWe both ended up choosing muy rico sopas – for me an artichoke based, almost stew like bowl of delicious flavours and Hound #2, once again a bit health conscious, devoured the Arroz Marinero which was about as close to a chowder as you could get in this part of the world.

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Artichoke Sopa and Arroz Marinero

And once again a Y in the road appeared on our mains, with Hound #2 having no hesitation (I did) for Fried Anchovies – she liked them despite the bones. I veered off onto the Bistec Con Patatas path and had no regrets…nor did Billie.

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Fried Anchovies…

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Bistec con Patatas y Pimiento

All effectively washed down the the super chilled house rosado…it being a weekday we did not finish the bottle.

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Cake & Custard…

Then it was on to the postre (dessert) and the only word both of us heard and understood was ‘pastel’ (cake) so that is what we had…sweet, moist almost spongy cake with a custardy cream sauce – perfecto….

And our timing could not have been better because shortly after we sat down & our first orders arrived, the tour bus crowd was deposited at the taverna’s terrace and queued up for a feed…kitchen implosion about to happen.

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The Coach Crowd Arrives…