Last week I turned 40. It wasn’t awful. Partly because, well, that’s how old I am, and partly because I did so in Rome. It took the edge off… 😉
Our main reason for going to go to San Sebastian this summer was the food. We wanted to bar hop and drink the traditional basque white wine, txakoli, all the while sampling lots of different pintxos. Pintxos are small portions of food – what we outside of Spain usually call tapas. Turns out tapas in Spain come “free” with food whereas pintxos are paid for, portion by portion. Pintxos are often (but certainly not always) more refined or elaborate than tapas too.
So during our 10 days in San Sebastian we walked and cycled and explored the city, and in the evenings we headed out to sample the town’s pintxos. Turns out finding the best food and navigating the bars was a skill to be learnt. The bars are busy and noisy and were a little intimidating at first. In our first pinxtos bar on our first day, I managed to steal food from another customer’s plate and had to be told to give it back. Mortifying, yes, but at least I could then drop any pretence of knowing what I was doing!
If you’re heading to San Sebastian, these are our tips on making the most of the pintxos…
One of our favourite bars was Mesón Martín. The gambas rebozadas (battered prawns) were outstanding as was the squid trainera. A trainera is a traditional Basque boat but the term is also used to describe a slice of baguette topped with seafood. The following was a trainera I returned to order again and again then I came home and made it so I could continue eating it some more. It’s very easy to put together and really great BBQ food.
Garlic infused olive oil (Shop bought or simply slice up a whole head of garlic and add to 250 extra virgin olive oil – heat very gently until the garlic starts to cook and the oil becomes fragrant – let cool and store in the fridge for up to a month)
2 cm wide slices of baguette
Slice of jamon or other thinly sliced cured meat
1 large prawn per trainera
1 small squid per trainera
Parsley and salt to serve
We fell in love with Nashville last summer. Oddly, it was David’s choice of destination on the trip. I’m the country music fan but he was the one that suggested it and continued pushing for a visit, even though it was out of our way. So visit we did and we loved it.
Nashville’s a good looking, laidback town with great food, super friendly folk and an unbelievable music scene. The latter may seem like a rather obvious statement but we couldn’t get over just how much good music was available all over the city, all the time. We’d go back in a shot.
Nashville Hot Chicken is a must-eat when you visit. Moist fried chicken with a blow-your-head-off coating placed on a slice of white bread and served with pickles. I knew I had to learn to make it when I returned and that’s exactly what I’ve done. My waistline may never recover. 😉
Nashville Hot Chicken
8 chicken legs and thighs
200ml tabasco sauce
2 tblspn brown sugar
1 litre vegetable oil
1 tblspn chilli flakes
2 tblspn cayenne pepper
1 tspn smoked paprika
1 tspn garlic powder
1/2 tspn cumin powder
1-2 slices of white bread per person
This summer we spent three weeks in the States. I flew over mid-July and taught at the wonderful John C Campbell Folk School then David joined me and we began our road trip from Nashville through the Smokey Mountains then up and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was fabulous.
Since returning I’ve been planning on posting about some of our travel and food experiences. So let me start here…
One of our favourite stops was towards the end of our trip – Floyd, Virginia. It’s a tiny town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway known for it’s jamboree. Every Friday night musicians from the local area and further afield gather in the town to play. The main event is in the Floyd Country Store where musicians play and folk dance from 7pm until late. Outside on every street corners bands also play. The crowd was a mix of musicians and dancers, locals and visitors, young and old. It was an amazing experience and one we’d love to repeat.
Our accommodation for the night was just outside of Floyd itself. A tiny wee cabin in the woods with an outdoor shower and toilet, it was . Had we not been flying home the following day, we would have asked to stay an extra night.
6kg of butter later, my course at the John C Campbell Folk School is over.
Wonderful week in a wonderful place with wonderful people.