Monday, November 8, 2010

Pintxos and Paris

For the first time in my life, I had the pleasure of taking a real cooking course!  The course was centered around learning how to cook and assemble traditional Basque pintxos.  Pintxos, as I've mentioned in previous blog posts, are the Basque version of Spanish tapas.  Most pintxos entail some sort of meat or seafood, seasoned to perfection atop a slice of baguette and adorned with  some type of vegetable or cheese. Pictured above is probably one of the most common and traditional pinxtos you'll find in the Basque region.  It is serrano ham, goat cheese, and a roasted red pepper on a small toast.

In my pintxos course, we learned how to make ham croquettes, a perfect spanish tortilla, fried calamari, and a gazpacho avocado shooter among other traditional pintxos.  The same week I learned how to make pintxos of my own, I explored the wide array of pintxos bars here in San Sebastián. Among some of the most impressive were a perfectly cooked piece of sirlion topped with a thin slice of green pepper and a pinch of sea salt and a tiny dish of garlic risotto garnished with micro-greens and edible flora.  However, the pintxo that was certainly the most memorable was a cooked pigeon breast atop potato puree, with a rice paper sign reading "PUM!" and fake blood painted onto the plate, shown above.  Also in San Sebastián you may find a kangaroo taco, slow-cooked pigs ears, or fried anchovies with garlic confit.  The kangaroo is surprisingly delicious if only a bit chewier than the red meat we're used to. I'll get to the pigs ears eventually...

Paris, in my opinion, is the only city that compares to San Sebastián in terms of beauty, sights,  and food quality.  I made it my business to try each and every quintessentially french food item in existence.  These included macaroons, shown above, which are the famous french cookies that come in dozens of different flavors and fillings. I also made sure to ingest some authentically french roquefort cheese, crepes, eclairs, champagne, french onion soup and escargot!  Sweet or savory crepes are available at street-side vendors which seem to pop up every ten feet in Paris. Nutella, a creamy chocolate hazelnut spread is by far the most popular crepe filling.

One french dish that I unfortunately could not try due to my pesky shellish allergy was moules frites, or mussels and fries.  Moules frites are a popular lunch item also sold at street-side vendors along the Parisian streets.  There are baskets of fresh shellfish on shelves lined with lemons ready to be consumed. I conveniently forgot my shellfish allergy, however, while indulging in a plate of escargot doused in garlic butter. Whether snails are, in fact, shellfish is still up for debate.  But maybe the tiny shells they were served in should have tipped me off...either way, they were delicious and I didn't experience a hint of an allergic reaction!  Even though Paris was by far my most expensive trip, I couldn't have asked for a better experience.  Perfect weather, perfect company and perfect food made Paris a very memorable trip :)

La Tour Eiffel
La Joconde (The Mona Lisa)

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