The Basque region is located in the western Pyrenees, and extends from southern France into Spain on the Atlantic coast. A diverse and picturesque region, it is also known for its culinary delicacies.
Pintxos (pronounced “peenchos”) are the Basque equivalent of Spanish tapas. Served on slices of bread, pintxos can be topped with anything from cheese and olives to potatoes and baked eggs, to pickled fish and various meats. Many bars set out spreads of delicious pintxos early in the evening as a prelude to dinner. These pintxos are served on the honor system. You simply keep track of how many you’ve eaten and tell your bartender before you leave.
Marmitako (in photo), or tuna pot, is a fish stew that was historically eaten on tuna fishing boats in the Basque region. It is still served in many French and Spanish Basque homes and restaurants, prepared with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and pimientos. Some varieties of marmitako use salmon instead of the traditional tuna. It's a savory, satisfying dish.
Idiazabal is a Spanish cheese is made from sheep’s milk. It has a strong, smokey flavor. The cheese is still handmade using traditional artisanal techniques. You can recognize Idiazabal by its hard, deep brown rind. It can be eaten fresh (often with fruit or quince jam) or aged and grated (like parmesan) over entrees.
Calimotxos and Picas
You’ll need to wash down all of this good food with something, right? Popular drinks in the Spanish Basque region are calimotxos (pronounced “kalimochos”) and picas. Both are incredibly refreshing. Calimotxos are made with equal parts red wine and cola, and picas are equal parts light beer and lemon soda.
Gâteau Basque is enjoyed throughout the French and Spanish Basque regions. It is a dry cake that has the appearance of a tart. Oftentimes gateau Basque is filled with a rich pastry cream. Another traditional filling is black cherry jam, made with cherries grown in the Basque region. Contemporary renditions include fillings such as lemon curd, quince jam, or sweet cranberries. Gâteau Basque is best paired with a strong cup of coffee.
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