To The Cidery We Will Go…

ITZHouseShot

Itziar’s Home Sweet Home…and Dogs & Cats.

We have a very good mate named Itziar who, like us, is struggling to learn a second language – for us Spanish, for her English. She’s quite good with her English but for practice we spend a bit of time each week in what is called an “intercambio”, where half the time we speak in Spanish and the other half in English. We first met Itziar at one of our absolute fave restaurants, Cantina de Guadalupe, where she works along side many folks from her family. During one recent visit to the Cantina, Itziar presented us with a bottle of her family’s cider which we promptly took home, chilled & drank as our evening beverage. Estupendo! was the general consensus.

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Cider Making Stuff

We conveyed those sentiments to Itziar upon our next meeting and she offered up an invitation to pay a visit to her parents home & see the cider making workshop and…buy some cider! Yippee! So off we toddled one fine summer’s eve in Itziar’s car, winding our way up several back country laneways, making a slow ascent toward the foothills of the Jaizkibel Mountains.

We pulled into a courtyard where a passel of folks were having a chat, buying some wonderful cider while the dogs & cats wandered freely about. Itziar introduced us to her Mum & Dad, and then launched into a tour of the cidery, explaining each piece of equipment & how it is used, as well as a timeline of events from start to the finish – cider to sell & drink. Post the tour, samples were poured all round and after a couple or three doses of cider, we headed up the hill for the late evening views.

ITZGrapes

View from the Hill

It was a warm and slightly humid evening, which left a vague haze across the valley but the view was still stunning. We had a close inspection of the neighbour’s txakoli vineyard which appeared to be coming along nicely. Txakoli is the only native Basque Country grape and it makes a wonderful crisp, low alcohol, slightly fizzy white wine that is meant to be drunk within a year of bottling. Traditionally it is poured from a decent height when served to punch up the effervescence factor.

ITZBuildings

Apple Orchard Trees & Sheep Shed

Post a tour of the orchard and the veggie garden, we got down to business and procured 12 bottles of this wonderful liquid. It is our favourite cider that we have tasted so far in the Basque Country and on all our trips through Spain. Long may it last or at least Itziar’s family supply stock! We hope to buy more…and maybe lend a helping hand in next season’s harvest….

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Going Vegetarian in Hondarribia, Spain

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Going Veggo In Hondarribia @ El Curry Verde

Having a vegetarian restaurant in Spain is almost an oxymoron as Spain is the king when it comes down to eating meat – especially pork or jamón. Hondarribia is not short of a bar or twenty that will readily serve up all the wonderful Spanish carnivorous treats and you are quite hard done by to get any green veggies with any ordered meal. We had wandered by El Curry Verde hundreds of times (it is on one of Hound #1’s fave walks), read the menu and said “we have to go here”. But we didn’t…until Hound #2’s vegetarian-bordering-on-vegan Dad paid us a week long visit which prompted our initial & most enjoyable meal. But we had to return…

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El Curry Verde offer an a la carte menu but they also have a version of the infamous menú del día  where for €17 you get a first & second course and a dessert or for €14 you can choose a second or main course and a dessert. Unlike most menú del días in Spain, wine is not included in the price but the wine list is quite modestly priced with bottles of red, white or rosé starting out at an accessible €8.

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Top Left: Hound #1, Sweet Rosé, Veggie Spring Rolls

For vino we opted for the Egiarte rosado which we thought, on its own, was a tad too sweet for us but it worked wonders with the food. We both love El Curry Verde’s version of spring rolls so I had them as my primero course with my €17 menu while Hound #2 talked them into making them up in a main size for her segundo course. Stuffed with vermicelli noodles & diced veggies these are a taste treat – just be careful you do not burn your mouth being too eager to bite into one!

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Falafel Tacos…

My main course was a tummy filling falafel taco – perfectly cooked & full of flavour with a sensational salsa on the side. Loved the generous use of fresh herbs & veggies that lent the taco a crispy freshness and as I said before, a bit of a rarity in the Spanish restaurant or food scene.

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And to finish off our estupendo meal we both chose the inventively served cheesecake – filling up whole insides of a mason jar. Delish it was too — crispy, crunchy topping with a tart & sweet cake.

We will mos def be going back and if you are in Hondarribia, crave some super flavourful veggie comestibles, make a bee line for El Curry Verde!

The Bacalao Pil-Pil Cookoff…

BACAChefs

The Beginning Prep: Top Left – Bacalao/Cod & Olive Oil; Sauce Happening; Swirl & Swirl; Key Ingredient – Garlic.

Bacalao (or cod) is a mainstay ingredient for many dishes here in the Basque Country, but probably the most famous bacalao dish of all is bacalao pil-pil. Recently we were privileged to watch a Basque Cook Off of this very famous Basque dish right here in Hondarribia. About a dozen contestants had been rounded up or entered to try & make the bacalao pil-pil supreme to tickle the judges taste buds & snare a trophy.

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Basque Billie; The Trophies (looks like everyone wins!)’ Da Fish

It is pretty simple as far as ingredients go – garlic, olive oil and bacalao (cod). The challenge is in making the sauce which happens by an emulsion process, very similar to making mayonnaise. So if you have ever attempted mayonnaise by whisking in the oil by hand & ended up with a disaster, you can appreciate the skills at work here.

The cooks place the oil & garlic in the ceramic pan & then the bacalao, which starts the gentle swirling motion – first to the right, then to the left, back to the right, etc…until it all, hopefully, gels into the classic pil pil sauce.

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Top: Chefs Prep & Swirl; Judges Tasting: The Finished Product

The only mildly disappointing thing about the cook off is that we, the audience, never got to sample the goods. All we were offered is what you can see below in the photo – a fried cod pintxo or a chistorra sausage! They both tasted great but where’s my bacalao pil-pil?

Have to venture out to one of the local tavernas then….

BACPintxos

The Sad Offerings for the Audience 😦