Great Vibes @ the Ohoka Farmers Market….

All Happening on a stunning Autumn morning @ the Friday Ohoka Farmers Market…

We have been back in New Zealand since November 2017 but we have had to stay seriously focused on our house & all its related hiccups (e.g., property is a enormous jungle, earthquake damage repairs and a decent slip hitting the house in July 2017). But we try to book in short escapes to break the house routines and so it was last Friday we put on our schedule a series of enjoyable errands (.e.g, get our bikes put back together, pick up paddle board caddy, visit a nursery, etc…) but also a fun visit to the Ohoka Farmers Market for a Real Food Revolution Friday (their slogan). My good friend & fly fishing mate Craig (who is also a damn good pie maker & has a stall – Hope River Pies – here as well as Lyttelton Farmers Market) said it had a great vibe and was a decent market, so off we went for a bit of a toddle…

Grown Veggie Stand Chocka with Seasonal Produce

As we arrived @ the Ohoka Farmers Market, it was about as pitcure perfect a New Zealand autumnal day as anyone could wish or hope for – blue skies & sun, just the right level of fall crispness in the air (but not cold), and no wind or rain in sight. The market is a decent size with probably close to 30-35 stalls (I was told in the summer it is heaving with stalls, filling the field) that cover many of the usual farmers market suspects (e.g., fresh veggies, fish, meat, breads, etc…) but the market may be, due to it being this time of year, a wee bit heavy on the value added products like baked goods and prepared foods. Which has always struck me as a bit odd given New Zealand produces 9 to 10 times more fresh food than we consume (I know lots of it is exported) and here we were, smack dab in the middle of lush, verdent farming country with paddocks in every direction that you could cast an eye, but few local farmer folks on site…more bakers & deli products.

Top: Spanish Stall with Excellent Tortillas & We Spoke Spanish!; Mate Craig’s Hope Pies on Offer; Spanish Menu….

But one of the value-added products we mos def enjoyed was the Spanish Food NZ stall, where we sampled the excellent tortillas and had a good lively chat in español! Excelente! Having just returned to NZ after 2 years in the Basque Country of Northern Spain it was a fresh breath of a treasured past life…

And as much as it is a wonderful experience to come across something or someone new, it is equally nice to see old Lyttelton Market friends such as Emilio’s Cheeses, Volcano Market Olives, Grown and the Sausage Shed & Lovat Venison. We are fairly regular customers @ the Lyttelton Farmers Market and just glad to see their familiar faces at Ohoka…

Lyttelton Farmers Market Regulars – Emilio’s Cheeses & the Volcano Olives & Dressings…

One of the more interesting, new discoveries (besides the Spanish Foods NZ) @ the Ohoka Farmers Market was the Little Bone Broth Company. I think if you were going to offer a value added product for sale @ a farmers market then this is a truly, serious value-added product worth considering as many of us, including me, would not have the time nor inclination to do this on any type of regular basis @ home. The difference between bone broth, stock & broth can be found here…I did not purchase any on this visit (I forgot to get cash out :-() but it is on my short list for the future.

New Product to Me – Bone Broth…; Fresh Fish!

So if you are lacking something fun to do on a Friday morning, then a trip to the Ohoka Farmers Market (they are celebrating their 10th year in operation!) would make for a pleasurable outing…stock up on some awesome fresh products as well as decent pantry items and enjoy a coffee & pastry or three and soak in the good vibes…hasta luego!

We are good cusotmers of the Sausage Shed @ the Lyttelton FM; Beautiful & Delicious Fruit…

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Lyttelton Community-Grown Dinner…

The Invite…

If Lyttelton is anything it is a community…and that is community with a capital ‘C’. I have lived here now for over 16 years and I dove right in to the community spirit in 2005 by helping to start the Lyttelton Farmers Market with Project Lyttelton. Project Lyttelton works their community ‘magic’ on a variety of levels from small (e.g., Lyttelton Library of Tools & Things) to very big (e.g., Festival of Lights) so when we received the invite to the Community-Grown Dinner, there was not a nano-second of hesitation.

Top Left: Chef Sturla Talks; First Course – Salad…and Vino!

The Community-Grown Dinner is a collaboration of Project Lyttelton, Chef Guilio Sturla (Roots Restaurant) and of course, the community. The ticket price of admission was 800 grams of food that you have either grown (we donated home grown potatoes & pears from one of our pear trees) and/or foraged locally, which were then dropped off a couple of days before for Chef Sturla to work his culinary magic.

Chef Guilio Sturla of Roots Restaurant Fame Dishes Up Dinner for the Folks…

The meal was awesome, but I’d have to say the community spirit was even better – a wonderous opportunity to meet & chat with old mates & meet and greet some new ones. We hope to get a return invite for next year when the garden (under Hound #2’s superb guidance) will reap even more edible bounty…

Back in the U.K. for Summer…Sort of.

Last Hoorah in Hondarribia…

We said adiós with heavy hearts to our home of 2 years Hondarribia…and of course all our great mates. We had a week or so of farewell get togethers that ranged from an evening pintxo stroll down Calle San Pedro to a menú del día with our sweetheart Itziar to a grand lunch @ with Gloria & Bernard @ Andoni’s (and Carmen) Txoko (cooking society). Hondarribia & Spain will be an experience that will be very hard to beat…

Back in the U.K. – Effing Cold!

We boarded the Bilbao-to-Portsmouth ferry on time post a nerve-wracking traffic jam that Hound #2 skilfully avoided by using  her Google map skills to route us through a wee fishing village – phew! Onto England…and as we disembarked in the Land Rover, England greeted us with its typical weather – pissing rain, windy as and effing cold…more like winter than effing August!

Frome’a A Pop’n! New Places Round Every Corner! – Sam’s Kitchen & the Rye Bakery Where Billie Found A Bean Bag…Loves Bean Bags!

We spent our first 4 nights camping in our old village of Frome, Somerset as Hound #1 Billie had an important vet appointment (1 of 4) to gear up for his return to New Zealand. We greatly enjoyed our return to Frome despite the wintry weather conditions as it has truly begun to blossom with new establishments popping up around just about every corner. One of our favourite morning coffee spots was the Rye Bakery which inhabits, quite stylishly, the vast insides of an old church. An amazing space that has seen some serious investment….

We also checked out Sam’s Kitchen Deli which has a truly stunning fit out & space…but we were not so impressed with the coffee in terms of quality and price, but could easily see enjoying a glass of wine or two in the 2nd floor bar & just walking the world go by, up St. Catherine’s Hill.

Fox & Badger @ Wellow – Awesome Lunch! Top Left: Bacon & Pea Risotto with Seared Duck Breast; The bar; Grilled Fresh Mackerel with Potatoes & Horseradish Cream Atop Chard

As we wrapped up our brief stay in Frome & prepared to head for Totnes for a month in an AirBnB cottage, we decided to indulge ourselves for having camped in wintry, wet conditions with a lunch @ our fave pub – the Fox & Badger in Wellow. We have never been disappointed in a meal here and this time was no exception. Exceptional quality at a more than fair price! If you’ve never been, GO!

Home Sweet Home for a Month – Totnes, Devon

We settled into our sweet AirBnB cottage late in the arvo with a cracking evening forecast ahead weather-wise. If you ever need a perfect place to stay in Totnes that is centrally located & comfortable as then check out this place. We ended up in good-vibe Totnes because my old Land Rover needed some TLC by my Devon mechanic Kevin prior to shipping to New Zealand. And Devon in August is or can be a serious challenge accomodation & price wise. But this ticked all the boxes!

Top Left: Best BLT & Avocado Sammie @ Rousdon Bakery; Venison Burger @ The Green Dragon Pub; Landcombe Cove – Stunning!

We have had sporadic stretches of an English summer & when we do, we leverage our time & our Secret Beaches book to the max. This is an excellent informational source for secluded, unpopulated beaches – a necessary bundle of information when you live in jammed to the gills England.

Top Left: Pigs Nose Pub – A Real English Pub; Macely Beach/Cove; Coastal Fields on Walk to Macely Beach

We got lucky with another forecasted, semi-summer’s day so made a plan to walk the track along the River Dart (below) to the village of Ashprington. An excellent walk was had by all and is a favourite activity of Hound #1, Billie. Hard to beat the Devon (or Dorset) countryside with rolling hills, mucho greenery & woods and a sweet river…and the pubs! Ashprington is home to the Dunstan Arms and we had a stunner of a lunch (and a pint or two).

Top: Dart River; Billie Waits for the Pizza; Lunch @ Durant Arms in Ashprington…Rabbit Rillettes & Toast Points & Cornichons.

Top: Billie Plays Hard With Toy Gift from Mate Gorka in Hondarribia; English Summer – Needs a Fire!; Another Gift from Gorka – Txakoli Vino!

We felt that after a few weeks in the village of Totnes that a day out in the Big Smoke of Exeter was in the cards. We had a few shopping missions to accomplish that could not be satisfied in Totnes, so on the train we hopped, Exeter bound.

A Day Out in Exeter…

We were able to tick a quite a few boxes in Exeter – I succeeded in replacing my about-to-disintegrate Levi jeans & Hound #2 raided all the Op Shops (Charity Shops for non-UK folks) nabbing some books & DVDs. We also managed a quick squizzy of Magdalen Road, foodie central for Exeter.

Thurleston Beach, Devon…

We were gifted with another stunner of a summer’s day…only problem it was a Bank Holiday Monday. Hound #2’s whole family has a genetic aversion to doing anything on a Bank Holiday, especially going to the beach. But we sort of devised plan which was to leave super early, get a swim & beach time in and do a coastal walk to the village of Bantham to the Sloop Inn pub for at least a pint & maybe lunch…crowds dependent.

The beach was awesome…until the hordes horded in. General theory is that any beach you can drive to & has a cafe or beach bar will have a tsunami of folks by lunchtime. And it always strikes us as funny or strange that if you are only willing to walk 10-15 minutes farther along you will almost always find a near empty, secluded beach.

The Sloop Inn was also awesome – we knew nothing about this pub but we dodged another Bank Holiday bullet by arriving a bit early when no one was there (yet) & placed our food & drink orders & grabbed a table in the empty garden courtyard.

The meals were stupendous and exceptionally well priced…wish it was our local!

The Sloop Inn, Bantham, Devon: Smoked Mackerel Salad & Local Mussels in Cream/Butter Sauce – Superb All!

Well, as we count down the days to our New Zealand return, frantically ticking off dozens of boxes of things to do with Billie the Jack Russell, my 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie – going to New Zealand!) & us and all our stuff, we have this (below) to return to…a massive slip – the backyard is now ever so much closer to the back door. Happy, happy, joy, joy in our wee casa in Lyttelton :-(.

Welcome Home…

Mercado Urdanibia (Irun, España) – Estupendo!!!

I had promised after my last blog post that I would return to Irun to have a decent gander at the market that takes place every Saturday in Plaza Urdanibia – well, here it is. The weather gods looked to be co-operating to a fair degree (generally cloudy but no effing rain) so with any early start we snagged a place on the E25 bus for downtown Irun….

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Busy Market Scenes On A Crisp Autumn Saturday….

This market is VERY popular with the local folks – anytime a temporary stall needs to employ a ticket numbering system you know they will be busy! I like a lot of things about this market, and some not so much. My likes are: (a) tremendously wide selection of products (mostly local) on offer at precios fenomenales (as in LOW) from charcuterie to cheeses to olives to dry goods (beans) to veggies; (b) the overall quality is superb – with many of the stall holders clearly being the actual person who grew or made it; (c) it has a real market feel with lots of noisy, up beat chatter & jokey banter back & forth between the vendors & customers and amongst the customers themselves as many appear to be regulars.

My dis-likes are: (a) Besides all the fantastic food folks here, this market also has a fair bit of tat as in cheap & tacky clothes, shoes, etc…which I feel detracts from the food side; (b) and there appear to be 2 fruit & veggie sections – one side is clearly folks who have been straight to the wholesale produce market earlier in the day & purchased their lots to on sell here, while the other side of the aisle is made up of locals with private allotments or gardens, and they are here to sell what they actually grow. We shop with the latter crowd and have yet to be disappointed.

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Fruit & Veg…

As good and fresh as the local fruit & veggie sections are, it is the stalls of cheeses, charcuterie, olives, etc…that really grab my heart and stomach’s attention. I have been a quite rabid fan of these products from an early adult age and I can get a bit giddy when starring at such a cornucopia of taste sensations. A serious level of restraint is always attempted because we are a small household (just 2 people & one dog) and we hate to see any delicious food go to waste.

So on this visit we managed to pick up:

  • 2 fat chorizo sausages that the vendor claimed were ‘muy picante’ and another one that we tasted that was just barely picante but full of flavour;
  • Amazingly powerful, flavourful goats cheese in an ash covered rind (see photo below – 3rd photo down on the left);
  • A wee round loaf of wood oven baked bread;
  • Piles of local apples;
  • A stuffed bag of clementines from the actual grower who had driven from Valencia to sell at this market;
  • A beautiful bunch of red onions & a midget of a butternut squash.
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From the Deli Section of the Market….

So if you are an Irun or Hondarribia or San Sebastián & surrounds local, the mercado at Plaza Irdunibia is well worth the effort to explore. And after you have done your required market shop, make a bee line for one of the best wine shops around – Vintoteca Mendibil (subject of a future blog post) – to top up your shopping basket with essential bottles.

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Charcuterie Cornucopia!

Toddling Off To The Tolosa Market…

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Tolosa Saturday Market – White Arched Building Sitting on the banks of the Oria River…

We Hounds are a wee bit passionate about exploring our local markets, and we have ticked many market boxes since arriving in Hondarribia, Spain in June 2015. But one that stubbornly still remained on our ‘to do’ list was the Saturday Tolosa Market, which many Basque foodie mates of ours had vociferously said was a ‘must do’. So we mustered ourselves out of a comfortably warm bed @ 7AM, piled into Gertie the Land Rover & bounced & jounced our way to the town of Tolosa (which, BTW, is rather infamous for being the home of the Elósegui Basque beret, of which I am a proud owner).

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Market Madness…Shopping Ops Galore!

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Market’s Kicking Off Early Saturday Morning…

And our Basque foodie mates where damn right – this is a sweet market. Not too big, not too small, not at all limited in its products on offer – just a perfect balance of all the things (in season) you’d be looking for to make a meal or fully stock your pantry. It is called the ‘mercado del tinglado’ which roughly translates to the ‘shed market’, with the actual shed being constructed on this site in 1898 (the market has been going in Tolosa for yonks).

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Tolosa Scenes: Top Left – Market; Crazy Vino Man; Lettuce Seedlings; Market & River Reflection

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Yum – Fresh Figs In Season & At Their Peak; Shiny Carrots; and Sweet Cauli…..

While Hound #2 got into the thick of it right off the bat at the very first stall with several purchases (including PERFECT aubergines – 3 for a euro…deal!), I decided to have a good squizzy of the market hall & inspect all of the vendors for potential purchases. Well, everything looked spectacular – and awesomely cheap. We were most impressed with the cheese stalls – lots of variety (many Basque market cheese stalls seem to sell the exact same cheese or minor variations on a theme) and prices to beat the band. A quarter slice of a beautiful, creamy blue which we thought would set us back €5 only rang the bell @ €2.7!

Hound #2 was on the prowl for late season figs (see picture above) & voilà! A single stall was in possession of 4 magic trays (at €2.5 a tray) of perfectly ripe figs – score! Something good & tasty will come of that I am sure…

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Cheese Galore; Local Special Beans; Chorizo!!!

And folks we are knee deep into prime fungi season here in the Basque Country, with most of the hills covered in woods of various tree species providing the perfect spawning grounds for this epicurean delicacy. They were here in all shapes & sizes & flavours (and prices)…completely hand foraged.

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It’s Mushroom Season Folks!!!

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Market Scenes…

And after some very busy shopping, a cafe con leche & sweet treat were called for…we were pointed (by several stall holders) to the Solana.4 cafe, smack dab adjacent to the market buzz. And once again our Basque advice was spot on – the best cup of java we have had in a while and pastries stuffed to the gills with deep, dark chocolate. Excelente!

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Caffeine Stop @ Solana.4 – Estupendo Coffee!

And now that we know about the Tolosa Market, we will mos def be back…even if it is just for the coffee!

Paris Birthday Bash…The Beginning

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Like anyone’s birthday, the day only comes around once each year & it is actually like any other day for all intents & purposes, but for Hound #1  and Hound #3 to hit the big ‘six oh’ (in dog years for #1) was an event requiring a wee bit more than a cake (or bones) with some candles. So Hound #2 sorted out a surprise visit to one of my fave cities – Paris.

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On Da Train – 1st Class…All Muzzled Up

And she splurged for 1st Class Train tickets from our humble abode in Spain to gay Paris…though Hound #1 did not think it 1st class to have to wear a muzzle. We raided our local fine food store Solbes for some lunch time goodies – jamón iberico, olives, prunes, selection of cheeses, bread (from our mates at Amona Margarita) and a wee cask of vino tinto…we be ready to roll.

Our arrival in Paris was none too welcoming – bucketing down rain and sadly, we had a 20 minute walk to our hotel (Solar Hotel – good eco establishment)…only to find out they had no record of our reservation. Most fortunately Hound #2 had a copy of our confirmation so the sweet hotel staff scrambled & we spent out first night in Paris in a single room. Better than out in the rain!

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Our Local Street – Rue Daguerre 14th Arr.

We based ourselves in the 14th Arrondissement and much of the pre-trip research turned up pretty much nada of interest except for a highly reputed natural wine store (read below). But we were very pleasantly surprised on our first night’s stroll to find Rue Daguerre only 100 feet from our hotel. Rue Daguerre was chocka with bars & restaurants to suit all our needs, but the long block between Rue Boulard and Avenue de Général Leclerc was a cornucopia of food & wine stores. And to paraphrase the Stealers Wheel tune – cheese store to the left of me, charcuterie & rotisserie chooks to the right of me, a couple of wine stores straight ahead, fishmongers behind me – here I am, stuck in the middle of food heaven!

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Rue Daguerre Continued….

As mentioned above, our research on the 14th turned up this little beauty – La Cave des Papilles. By many considered & respected vino opinions, this shop “has risen to become arguably the most dynamic, well-stocked and brilliantly curated natural wine shop in Paris”. I’d have to say I 100% agree…too many choices my friends, too many choices. But I made a few…and we popped the cork that night on the fresh & fruity Vaste Programme Les Maoû. Perfect nightcap to a long, wet day…

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Most Excellent Cave de Vin Round Da Corner…

Most happy to awake to a grey overcast sky that was not hosing down droplets. So off on our first explore of the trip…we Hounds (especially Hound #1 with his 4 paws) like to walk & Paris, like New York, is a damn decent walking city. We wandered & sauntered our way through the 5th & 6th Arrondissements to arrive at the Seine & Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. We felt the need to have a squizzy as the crowds were thin at this early hour…

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Obligatory Notre Dame Visit

Then we made a bee line for a market that according to all the online info, but more specifically BuzzFeed’s blurb – “located in the Marais, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges is Paris’ oldest and most charming covered market. It is home to THE BEST Moroccan food in the city…”

Well to say the Food Hounds were unimpressed would be an understatement…it was very small by most market standards, had far more eatery stalls than actual stalls (2 fruit & veggie and 1 fishmonger) to buy food from and was no bargain by any stretch of the price dimensions. Oh well…

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The Marché des Enfants Rouges

By this time, with all the walking, we were becoming a group of starv’n marvins so lunch was next on the agenda. Disappointingly, our Fawlty Towers hotel wifi was inoperable for the first couple of days so we were navigating via a microscopic font sized tourist map, so numerous over shoots & retracing of steps were required. We first tracked down Au Passage, which superficially ticked all the perfect Paris backstreet bistro boxes but sticking a head into the joint revealed a kitchen still unpacking the morning’s deliveries & simmering stock on the stove. No lunch here any time soon. We tried 2 more eateries on our list but they had no appeal – one was a way over-priced, old bistro & the other a nice enough place but they had nothing on their menu we wanted to eat. So we high tailed it to the end of the block & grabbed a table at Chez Gladines

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Basic Bistro Lunch…

Chez Gladines was nothing too fancy but offered solid bistro plats & beverages at modest prices – a starving student joint. We started with a shared lardon & lettuce salad which was a meal in itself (Hound #1 had an awesome bacon dinner that night). And we each chose a French classic – pan seared magret duck breast for me, cassoulet for Hound # 2. All washed down with a cheap & cheerful Côte du Rhône. Excellent.

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Our Local…

We try, when we explore a new city or town or area for a few days, to find a ‘local’ – a place nearby to where we are staying that is friendly, affordable and covers lots of bases well (good coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner, wifi, dog friendly). This trip it turned out to be Cafe Colette – just a few block walk from our hotel offering excellent service & value for money. We shared the mixte assiettes plat of charcuterie, cheeses & bread for a light dinner one night  for a mere €7.50  ($12.5NZ, $8US, $11.5AUS) that we found hard to finish. In a city where pints of beer can run to €11 ($18NZ, $12US, $17AUS) , that’s a sweet bargain.

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To be continued….

Santo Tomas Fiesta…Or Day of the Pig

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Santo Tomas – All Basque To Us….But Day of the Pig.

As I have written before, it is quite amusing living in the Basque country of Spain as many if not most things are in Basque. So it takes a wee bit of detective work to sort out if there is something going on that we might just be interested in…take for example this poster that appeared on our newsagent’s door. Our newsagent is a funny man & when asked what was going on, he shrugged his shoulders & simply replied ‘It is the day of the pig’…nuff said, we’re going.

We’d sorted out it was kicking off on December 21st with ‘things’ happening at 9AM, 1PM, 4:30 & 6:30PM – but what, who knew? So as 1PM rolled round, we departed our flat to see what we could see.

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Estupendo Day – Crowds Are Out!

Whoa! Our High Street Calle San Pedro was packed to the rafters with stalls selling all forms of charcuterie, cheeses, pastries & cakes & breads, fruit & veg and a food court area offering up fresh steamed pulpo & the sausage of the day – txistorrra. We managed to squeeze through the crowds to arrive at the txistorra & cider counter & ordered up plate & a glass…made for an excellent mini-lunch. And we were most surprised & excited to find out that all the San Pedro bars plated up free txistorras with every drink order – perfecto! But our finest version of the day came at our local bar where mate Idoia cooks them in cider – best of the bunch.

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Snails, Pulpo & Veggies….

And blessed with yet another gorgeous no-end-to-summer day, the punters were out in force making last minute holiday purchases for the fast approaching Feliz Navidad. And since our plan for the Big Day was a hike & picnic in the Jaizkibel mountains (blog post coming up), supplies needed to be procured! We picked up some stunning blue cheese (from Asturia but not seen that often in these parts) and some delicious (and quite expensive) cecina de buey (oxen). Cecina is the Spanish version of bresaola, an air-dried & salted beef but this came from an oxen. Superb! Melt in your mouth tender & packed with flavour.

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Star of the Day – Txistorra sausage & Cider…

Love this bit about Spain – seems every other day of the week some type of festival be going on with food & drink at the heart of it…my kind of place.