After many months of preparation, meetings and decision making between Basqvium and chef Reggie Aspiras, we developed an itinerary with the best gastronomic experiences in Basque Region to bring the “Kitchens of the World” program from the Philippines direct to the Basque Country. These are highly personalized culinary tours that focus on learning secretly guarded recipes from the masters, set in their own private kitchens. Detailed designed culinary sojourns to offer one of a kind dining and cultural experiences – for the cook, the epicure and the curious.
For 10 days, a group of Filipinos had the opportunity to enjoy some of the most significant food experiences of our land: pintxos, Txakoli and Rioja wineries, Cider House, pastry shops, grilled fish and seafood, Michelin restaurants… Those 10 days have been divided into visiting Bilbao and its surroundings, San Sebastian and some of the coastal villages near it, the inside of Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia, La Rioja and Biarritz.
We had the chance to visit the only Cider House in Bizkaia that produces its own cider. The first historical reference to Sagardoa (Cider in Basque, that literally means apple wine), dates from more than 1.000 years ago, that’s why Cider Houses are so loved by Basques.
We had the opportunity to meet its owner, «Txampi», who showed us the whole production process, followed by one of the most traditional lunches that you can enjoy in the Basque Country- a Cider Menu consists on cod omelet, fried cod with green or red peppers, grilled beef steak and Idiazabal cheese with quince and nuts as dessert, accompanied by the cider served directly from the barrel.
During the day of gastronomic tourism in Bilbao, they took part in a show cooking where they prepared and ate some typical recipes from Bilbao. They could also taste the traditional “cazuelitas” in one of the very few classic bars still on duty, that serves these ancient recipes deeply rooted in the gastronomic culture of the Basque Country, or even try to drink wine in the traditional “porron” style.
They also enjoyed the best seafood specialties related to the fishing tradition in the Basque Country.
Moving to San Sebastian, the other Basque Gourmet capital, thanks to a local chef we visited a «gastronomic society», a unique phenomenon that maintains the attachment to local culinary traditions very much alive. There we enjoyed a show cooking of how to elaborate some of the most traditional pintxos, miniature cuisine masterpieces. They completed the day in San Sebastian with a pintxo route through the old part of the city and the tasting of the famous Basque Cheesecake.
In the trip through the hidden treasures of the province of Gipuzkoa, they were able to learn the elaboration of the centenary recipe of the Chocolates of Mendaro, with its stone mill dated from 1850 and still on duty.
Also a stop in one of the traditional Cheese Farms to enjoy the Basque Quality Label Idiazabal Cheese. To move later to the coastal village of Getaria, famous for its “Txakoli” Basque white wine and grilled fish and seafood restaurants.
We learnt about the Txakoli by visiting one of the best wineries, where we could taste the wines to finish with a lunch in one of the traditional grill fish restaurants located in the old fishing port of Getaria, where Turbot is the star.
Related to the world of wine, we enjoyed two more experiences:
Firstly a visit to one of the worldwide most reputed wine area like La Rioja
A land bathed by the Ebro, that enjoys the mild climate of northern Spain, with plenty of sunshine, enough rainfall and a variety of climates and soils, becoming in the perfect place for growing vineyards, especially for the tempranillo grape variety, ideal for the red wines.
It is a region that is very close to ours and the gastronomy is different. Located at the foot of Cantabrian Mountains, composes an impressive scenery, combining medieval villages, with the most modern architecture of some of the wineries. We choosed for this occasion a family run winery where they could taste their famous golden wine and of course enjoyed the delicious traditional Riojan gastronomy, including typical regional dishes, such as Potatoes in Rioja style and lamb ribs and best seasonal vegetables like artichokes and asparagus.
And secondly, back in Biscay we made a very special visit to one of the unique spots in the Basque Country, the underwater wine cellar located in the pristine beach resort of Plentzia.
At 20 meters deep and thanks to a group of passionate and experts of the sea and the world of wines, the best Basque and other wines are aged, that we could taste.
They also had a getaway to Biarritz, a charming town in the French Basque Country, where they could enjoy a visit to the traditional Fresh Food and Gourmet Product Market and the famous Sunday Brunch within the luxury 5 Star Hotel du Palais.
But probably, the crown jewel of the trip has been the visit to Asador Etxebarri. The 4th best restaurant by “The World’s 50 Best Restaurant” is within this list since 2008, and during all these years it has maintained its excellency. Victor Arguinzoniz has made the Atxondo valley, located between Bilbao and San Sebastian, famous worldwide. The experience begins even before entering the restaurant, which is surrounded by the Anboto mountain and the views are spectacular. They enjoyed a complete Michelin experience, which highlights the fresh products used for the preparation of the dishes and the touch of ember of several of them.
After so many days of tasting different dishes, it was also necessary to make time to give importance to the final dish, the desserts. They went to a pastry experience where they tasted typical desserts such as Carolina, Rice Pastry and Butter Brioche, among others like churros, chocolate truffles or delicious “pastelitos” petit fours.
Last but not least, when the cold season arrives in the Basque Country, spoon dishes are very common. That is why they had the opportunity to taste traditional black beans stew with the so-called “sacraments” and Basque swell chili “piparra”.
In fact, we enjoyed a very complete gourmet tour through “The Land of the Endless Feast“, a seminal trip that all foodies must make at least once in their lifetime, being able to learn more about our culture and gastronomy from the hands of professionals in this sector.