Flavour and concentrated know-how
You can spend all day eating but you’ll always be asking for another helping. Gipuzkoa is right at the top of the gastronomic league.
Wherever you go, you’ll never go wrong. Because here there are even cider houses with a Michelin star. Gipuzkoa is, in itself, a huge varied restaurant where you’ll be able to rub shoulders with the most famous chefs. You’ll be amazed by the variety and quality of the pintxos. By the meals in old farmhouses turned into restaurants. By traditional cuisine and innovative gastronomy. And all these discoveries will leave a really good taste in your mouth….
Meat, fish and vegetables presented in a thousand different ways, each one tastier than the last. Here everyone is a chef, a critic, a master chef and a student who passionately lives gastronomy. Because in Gipuzkoa cooking is not just for professionals. Just try it, and you’ll be asking for seconds.
At its best
In Gipuzkoa eating isn’t considered to be a mere need for nutrients. Here, gastronomy at the present time has the status of an art and a cultural expression especially due to a tradition in which the great care taken with local seasonal produce has played a leading role on our dining tables for generations.
Gipuzkoa is a huge signature cuisine kitchen that begins with the raw material. Going to the market is the first step. The really outstanding ones are held on Wednesdays in Ordizia and on Saturdays in Tolosa. Losing yourself among the stalls and the conversations between customers and “baserritarras” (suppliers who come from farmhouses to sell their produce) is anthropology and sheer spectacle.
Fresh produce is essential and this reaches the level of virtuosity in grilling, which is not just a simple or carefree way of cooking, far from it. This is the art of getting all the juiciness of the product out of the charcoal grill and of intensifying all its sensory characteristics. It’s a tradition and an art. Just like making farmhouse cheeses, like Idiazabal, with Latxa sheep’s milk, which is endemic in the region. You’ll see just how lucky you are that you’ve grown teeth. Even if they are milk teeth.
The pintxo: a tasting menu in small bites
When you visit Gipuzkoa you’ll have to go out for pintxos sometime. This is an original and entertaining format for getting to know a lot of aspects of our gastronomy in small bites. Each establishment offers different options; there are very elaborate haute cuisine pintxos, that reflect the chef’s creativity. And there are others that are more traditional, with fewer ingredients but that are just as tasty.
Pintxos accompany the aperitif or can replace lunches and dinners. You can design routes with various establishments and try a speciality in each one. It’s not easy but don’t be overwhelmed by the incredible variety in the first premises that you go into. While you’re ordering your drink you’ll realise what the most popular pintxos are in each bar.
You can choose cold pintxos from the counter or you can ask the waiter about the hot pintxos that they have. It’s customary to have just one pintxo in each bar. This is what we call “going for pintxos”, which basically consists of eating in style in very small portions, a delightful Basque-cuisine tasting menu-walk.
Planet of the chefs
Grandma’s cooking provides the essence. Adapting this to meet the latest trends is the path to follow. Innovation is the future. The original art turned into science and artistry evolved into a field of study. This is what has made possible that, at the moment, there is nowhere else in the world with a greater concentration of Michelin stars per square metre.
Gipuzkoa is the avant-garde of cuisine, which attracts students from all over the world. The Basque Culinary Center is a university faculty and is on the cutting edge of research. In a radius of 15 kilometres around San Sebastián you can find the highest concentration of Michelin stars in Europe. Within this core, Akelarre (Pedro Subijana), Martín Berasategui and Arzak are at the top of the scale, although there are eleven restaurants that have been awarded stars.
However, the first division in Guipuzcoa, which is the largest in the world, doesn’t end in the Michelin sphere. The chefs that the media fight over as representatives of Basque gastronomy are from Gipuzkoa. Those who worked and learnt alongside them form the generation that runs the kitchens in Guipuzcoa today, and have now become masters of other new ones. Visiting Gipuzkoa is like taking part in an endless gastronomy fair, that never closes throughout the year. On egin! Enjoy your meal!
Cider and txakoli
Cider and txakoli, the two traditional winemaking products in Gipuzkoa, are groundbreaking by their very nature. Not just because of their quality and their ability to surprise people. On being poured out and breaking against the glass, both cider and txakoli release their aromas and reveal all their qualities.
Hernani and Astigarraga, where the Cider Museum is, are the epicentre of an area that contains fifty cider producers. On top of the traditional production ritual there is also the consumption in cider houses, where the manager, to the cry of “Txotx!” invites you to try cider from a barrel or kupela. The menu in cider houses, usually located in the same farmhouse in which the cider is produced, consists of cod omelette, beef chops, nuts, cheese and quince jelly.
For its part, txakoli mainly comes from vineyards with a coastal microclimate. Although there are more and more hectares devoted to txakoli in the interior of Gipuzkoa, most of the production is concentrated in the coastal towns of Getaria and Zarautz, whose quality has improved in the last few years to the extent that it can even satisfy the most demanding palates. Cider and txakoli are the two flavours of Gipuzkoa. Young, fresh and... groundbreaking!
Sweet and savoury treasures
The fabulous cuisine on offer in Gipuzkoa also has some less well-known products that help to provide a unique experience for the senses. The top-quality preserves or our confectionary are more than just a mere supplement on the dining tables in restaurants.
Anchovy or bonito have very short fishing seasons, but are always essential in our cooking. Traditionally-made preserves, which began in each port to make up for the seasonal deficit, evolved towards today’s brands, which are still traditionally-made but have been technified in their packaging. Piperras (chilli peppers) from Ibarra are also distributed in jars and are considered to be essential in alubiadas (bean stews) and to accompany other dishes. Complementary gastronomy has its curiosities. In the first Carlist war, Bernard Saint-Gerons, a general in the French Legion, changed his weapons and country for a young woman from Errezil, and gained from the exchange. Having settled in Mendaro, his descendants founded Chocolates Mendaro Saint-Gerons, which is still running.
A chocolate-making tradition has existed all over Gipuzkoa, with some very famous brands: Elgorriaga in Irún, Orbea, Zahor,…in Oñati. And don’t forget to try the local pastries as a dessert. The tejas y cigarillos, (rolled butter & almond cookies) from Tolosa, the Basque cake, Pantxineta (Pastry cream pie with almonds) from San Sebastián, the rellenos (fillings) from Bergara, and the Ignacios (Almond-egg tarts)from Azpeitia head up the sweet pastries offered by our bakers.