For me, food is a big part of any trip abroad. Besides eating in a variety of restaurants, I often make it a point to sign up for a food tour while in a new destination. In Spain, we chose Devour Tours, which we hired in Madrid, Seville, Barcelona and San Sebastián. The company started in 2012 and makes it a mission to support local businesses, taking guests to authentic family-run eateries rather than typical tourist traps.
The focus of our tour in San Sebastián was pintxos, the Basque version of tapas. The word itself means “skewer,” and in fact the dishes, typically stacked on top of a piece of bread, are held in place with a wooden toothpick. Traditionally, you enjoy one or two pintxos at a bar and move on to the next location that specializes in a different kind.
Joining the Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxo & Wine Tour one evening, we found ourselves with a group of eight, plus our English-speaking guide, the charming Ania Wielechowska. Before we got started, she taught us how to pronounce a few words in the Basque language so we could be polite customers. (“Thanks,” for instance, is spelled “eskerrik asko,” which is easy for Americans to say because it sounds like “a scary Costco.”)
On the three-hour tour, we sipped a local cider, Petritegi, and learned how to correctly pour it; dove into mussels in a picante tomato sauce and mussels in vinegar and onion. We tasted the area’s popular Idiazábal cheese and sampled different styles of Ibérico ham. We were talked into trying anchovies slathered with blueberry jam (surprisingly good!) and ate the most famous pintxo of all, “La Gilda.” Consisting of a salt-cured anchovy, green olives and a pickled guindilla pepper, it got its name from the Rita Hayworth character in the 1940 film of the same name who was described at the time as “dirty, charming and spicy.”
We ended the tour with a glass of sherry and a burnt Basque cheesecake. (You will find a recipe for this mouthwatering dish in Devour Tours’ online cookbook.) It was a lovely evening, start to finish. We learned a lot about Basque cuisine and also a little history along the way. Not wanting the night to end, we slipped away with another couple we met on the tour for just one last taste of San Sebastián.
For more on the delicious food of San Sebastián, see which pintxo bars we recommend.