A Txoko Experience…

TXOSign

Club Nautico Hondarribia – Our First (and maybe last) Txoko Experience.

We had heard or read about txokos and we had seen quite a few of these slightly mysterious Basque men’s gastronomic societies or eating clubs in our wanders around Hondarribia and San Sebastián. But they remained a wee bit of a mystery to us, as they appeared almost impossible to get into without some form of  invitation. We came so close in our first month or so here when, by sheer accident, we stumbled into a group of chatty txoko folks round the corner from our flat. Once we made it clear that: (a) we lived in Hondarribia proper, in the Casco Antiguo and (b) we really liked our food & wine, a convivial older hombre said a visit just might be arranged. But nada happened…

TXOGroup

Awesome Txoko Group

Until my wonderful Spanish teacher Gloria came through, once again, with a special Spanish opportunity. Gloria’s mate Andoni (and sweet partner Carmen) is a member of the Club Nautico Hondarribia which is not only a full on sailing club & school (with fishing too), but also a txoko, with a splendid port side club space with great views of the marina.

TXOPizza

First Course – Vegetarian Pizza

Txokos have been around in the Basque Country for more than 100 years and got their start as places where the fishermen & workers could bond & chat & tell stories over food & drink. They have been pretty much 100% male up until a few years ago when a few opened up their doors to women – only to eat though, as all the cooking is usually done by the men folks (Andoni’s txoko allows women in the kitchen).

TXOPaella

Gloria Fast @ Work on the Main Course…

Boy, it’s a lot of fun folks! Andoni’s txoko, like all txokos, has a top notch professional if not better kitchen which is shared amongst the members (you need to reserve a space). You bring all your required meal ingredients but the txoko also has a bar for beer, wine, cider & soft drinks (you can also bring in your own bebidas). It is a serious social affair – muchas familias were there that day, cooking & drinking up a storm & chattering away. The table just behind us was having a grand old time post draining half a dozen bottles of Moët bubbles, which is when the boisterous singing began…and we left.

TXODessert

Dessert & Cava to Wash It Down With…

So a big muchas gracias to Andoni, Carmen, Gloria and Bernard for an estupendo time! So if you are ever in the Basque Country and somehow manage to wrangle a txoko invite – GO!

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A Paella Party….

PAEPoster

Paella Poster That Started It All…

It all started with the poster above…we could not decipher the Basque words other than ‘April 9′ and ’17:00’ so we queried our mate Marina at our local cafe Amona Margarita as to the relevant details. She told us it was essentially a youth effort but if we wanted the best paella outside of Valencia, she was our woman. A flurry of Whats.app messages ensued and the date was set for the coming Sunday – yippeeeeee!

We three piled into my trusty (usually) old Land Rover and headed to Hendaye (France) where Marina’s friends Yolanda and Santiago reside and the gorgeous site for the Sunday Paella Fest…

PAEChefBorja

Master Chef Borja Starts The Prep…

The day, weather-wise, was far better than forecast with bright blue skies and PLENTY of warm sun that had a few of us winter white folks burning up! Introductions were made all round (in addition to Yolanda & Santiago we had Borja – our Master Paella Chef – and Enrique, up from Valencia & Da Kids) and drinks were soon in hand with plates of olive tapenade & fresh bread…and then the paella process began…

PAELounger

Lounging Hound #2

The paella pan is a serious piece of work – not one burner, not two burners but three burners a burning! Once the olive oil & salt had reached a prime temperature (hot), Borja added the meat course (chicken & rabbit spiced with fresh rosemary & moderately minced garlic) to sizzle off to a golden, crispy brown…

PAEStart

Step 1: Pan Hot, Meat (Chicken & Rabbit) Goes On…

Just when the meat had achieved its perfecto caramelised colour, it was moved to the pan’s edges & the green beans are added to the mix to gently soften. Last but not least in the veggie section was the addition of the artichokes – in season here and the perfect size.

PAESousChef

Super Sous Chef Assists in Step 2: Green Beans Go In…Then The Artichokes…

Then it is aqua & more aqua & a saffron dose to create a stupendous, simmering broth…which simmers away until it has reached a special notch on Master Chef Borja’s cooking spoon. Then it’s the perfect time for the last ingredient – the rice!

PAETeam

Step 3: Mucha Agua & Saffron Added to Create A Wonderful Broth for the Rice….Simmer & Simmer….Team Paella Making Adjustments

All is left to simmer & bubble away for some minutos to deepen the flavours and cook the rice…

PAESalad

Salads & Vino Course Whilst Paella Simmers…

While the paella perfected itself, we retired to the deck table for the entree offering of 2 tasty salads – an endive, orange & cranberry mixture with a nice balance between sour, bitter & sweet and a Spring-y greens & cherry tomatoes ensalada…ah, Spring.

PAETable

Paella On The Table!…And On Da Plate!

The ‘All Done!’ announcement was made by Borja & the massive paella pan was brought to the table – steaming its savoury goodness for all to smell. Serving utensils were handed out all round & we dug in! Estupendo! De hecho, estaba para chuparse los dedos! (It was finger licking good!). Several helpings were had by all, emptying the seemingly endless pan till we reached the ‘socarrat’ – the crispy rice bits that have caramelised to the pan’s bottom & a much desired Spanish taste treat. A wee bun fight ensued as folks took turns scraping the socarrat off & generously serving out portions.

Nos lo pasamos de maravilla estupendamente!!! Muchas gracias to Marina, Borja, Yolanda, Santiago, Enrique & Kids. Esperamos veros otra vez pronto!