In Spain’s Basque Country, pintxos – a finger food similar to tapas, are ubiquitous fare in small bars. Pincho (the Spanish version of the name) or pintxos (the Basque version) means ‘spike’ and helps to distinguish this toothpick-adorned treat from its tapas cousins, which generally aren’t served with toothpicks. Go into a bar – especially in the late-afternoon hours – and you’ll see locals feasting upon pintxos after work, even making a progressive snack out of them, by moving from bar to bar.
Renditions made with fresh tuna fish, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, or shrimp often found their way onto my plate since they’re generally gluten-free. However, Shawn and his parents enjoyed pintxos protein resting atop a crispy slice of a baguette.
Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene.
A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia.
Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.
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26 thoughts on “The Pintxos of Basque Country – Spain”
They are, Emma, and since they’re relatively small, it lets you do a lot of experimenting. :)
I love pinchos. The problem is, they’re always so tasty we end up ordering more! But the whole process of moving bar to bar and trying more and more is the best thing about it. I remember visiting my friend in Madrid and doing this a lot! :)
Mytravelmonkey, pinchos should be guilt free because you’re burning a lot of calories while progressively dining, right. :)
I haven’t yet been to Madrid, but I’m guessing the tapas scene is quite fun there? Last month we stopped in to Logroño, known for having more than 50 tapas spots within a few blocks of each other. Loved the atmosphere, and the variety!
There is always so much pressure related to entertaining. This is a wonderful concept with the food prepared ahead of time and people would just graze their way through the evening. You wouldn’t even have to set a table. Just lots of big napkins and voila – dinner is served.
Virginia, I wholeheartedly agree! And to make it even more effortless, the hostess could carry out the pintxos from the bars, ready-made. :)
hmm, a wonderful reason to return to the Basque area :)
It’s always nice to have an excuse to return! We’d also like to go back so that we could see the fishing villages on the coast. What places did you enjoy in the Basque country?
I only went to Bilbao and then took a small regional train to Leon to jump on the camino. We stopped with the train in villages I can’t remember the name of anymore… would be nice to explore the area more!
Ah, we’d love to do the Camino someday! How much of it did you walk?
Several years ago, we stopped in to Santiago de Compostela, which was our first introduction to the Camino. I remember the pilgrims with their walking sticks, the shell symbols emblazoned on buildings and souvenirs, and the Botafumeiro being rapidly swung inside the cathedral. Of course we also enjoyed our fair share of beautifully-arranged tapas!
We walked from Leon to Santiago. Next time, whenever that might be, I’d do the start though ;) I did a blog post about it too, if you want to take a look. It’s awhile ago though, I also spent a few months traveling Spain back the, also enjoying my fair share of tapas!
Please feel free to share the link to your post about the Camino here in the comments. :) We’d love to do some, or all of the walk one day, so welcome pointers too.
Sure, here it is: http://freebutfun.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/camino-de-santiago-way-of-st-james/
Another pointer is, that even if it is easy to buy food on the way, it is not an easy region for vegetarians. If you are a vegetarian, you may want to take nuts etc with you. Also, cooking facilities in the refugios are minimal or nonexistent.
The other thing is that people on the camino often chat at least some English but the village people mostly don’t, so it was a great opportunity to train Spanish ;)
Sounds like an adventure in so many ways, and a fine way to learn Spanish and get fit. I appreciate your pointers as well. I have a colleague who did the Camino, and she said the lesson she came away with from it is that you don’t need many material items to survive. Living a minimalist life on the Camino illustrated that for her.
I agree with her. But then I was backpacking for a few months back then anyway, so the difference wasn’t huge for me. But it was so much fun!
I am hungry for pintxos again!
Mary Ann, sounds like a return is in order! My pick would be to return to the village in La Rioja with the delightful swan fountain. Such fond memories… :)
It’s all very mouth watering, should have had dinner before grazing through your post. Happy Summer to you, Tricia.
Cornelia, I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. Perhaps it’s time I tell more stories about our active adventures so we’ll motivate dear readers accordingly. :) Hope you’re enjoying a relaxing weekend!
These look delicious Tricia! We were first introduced to pintxos when we were in Bilbao. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven :) The entire tapas/pintxos tradition is so appealing and a has a certain romance to it. Lovely photos. ~Terri
Terri, tiny bites are a fun way to explore a cuisine, and potentially better for the waistline, aren’t they? :) When were you two in Bilbao?
We especially loved going on the pintxos / tapas trail in Logroño. There were many tapas bars packed into a few blocks and the locals were in such a celebratory mood – enjoying good wine, food, friendship, and a sunny Saturday afternoon.
We spent several weeks in Northern Spain when we were moving from Sudan back to the States. It was fall there, the harvest was in process, and it was cool … gloriously cool. After years in the Khartoum heat it was wonderful, and the food was the icing on the cake. :) ~Terri
I’m sure the Spanish wine was also much appreciated, Terri? :)
Shawn and I keep hoping that we’ll have the chance to participate in a grape harvest. Something tells me that you and James have probably already done so!
Absolutely Yes on the wine, Tricia! And no, we haven’t participated in a wine harvest, but we have hauled hay together – much sweatier work. :) Grape harvest season should be coming up pretty soon. I hope you find the chance. ~T
Hauled hay – where? :) That sounds like a post in the making.
We hauled hay at my Dad’s farm in Kentucky. The experience totally endeared James to my Dad. They bonded over their mutual fear of encountering a snake in a bale of hay. :) ~Terri