Stick a Fork, No, I Mean, Stick a Toothpick In It – San Sebastian

San Sebastian is one of the jewels of Spanish Basque country.  People come from all over the world not just for its beauty but also for a taste of the amazing food.  A staple of the area is the ubiquitous pintxo. Its Spanish name, pincho derives from pinchar, meaning to poke or stake.  This makes perfect sense for a food that originally consisted of a toothpick staked through a topping and a piece of bread.  Early on, counting toothpicks was also used as a method of keeping track of the number of pintxos eaten in order to tally up a customer’s bar tab. While similar to its cousin the tapa, a pintxo, is a smaller finger food sold in individual servings.

Naturally, the first thing the GEO and I did upon arrival in San Sebastian was go on a pintxos bar crawl with a local guide so we could learn about the culture, and more importantly, how to navigate the ordering process on our own.

This can be quite daunting for a foreigner faced with a counter heaped high with platters of pintxos, extremely large crowds and absolutely no knowledge of the Basque language. 

Our tour started at a no frills old school pintxos bar.  Judging from the wall of celebrity photos this is one of the most well known bars around.  Here we were served the traditional fare of boquerones (local pickled anchovies). 

Given that pintxos is a bar food, it goes without saying that each bite should be accompanied by a sip of local wine or cider.  My go-to was the Txacoli, a white wine that is light with an effervescent quality which is accentuated when poured in the requisite Basque fashion.   One starts by holding the bottle high up at an angle to the wine glass so that when the liquid hits the hard surface of the glass it result in a slight amount of bubbles. 

As the evening went on, we saw the evolution of the pintxo from its modest beginnings to the avant-garde status it has now achieved. One of my favorite modern takes was the best (and tiniest) burger I have ever eaten in my life.

During the tour, I came to realize that the pintxo is does exist merely as a form of physical sustenance, but it also represents a significant piece of the Basque community’s social fabric. Friends and family will often meet at a favorite pintxos bar in the afternoon to relax and catch up with each other before heading to a more substantial meal in the evening.  So what could be more fitting than finding the virtual cache placed in memory of a dear friend of the cache owner?

GCG7PA (Spanish Horses) not only focuses on one of the city’s most visible landmarks, but also serves as a memorial. An excerpt from the cache description is bittersweet:

When I created this cache I was traveling with my friend Antonia who lived in Barcelona. She passed away last year. So after finding this cache, please go find a tapas bar and have a glass of tinto and a plate of something delicious in her memory.

So the GEO and I did just that.  As we solved the geocache, we dropped into a nearby pintxos bar and raised our glasses to drink to friendship, good food and Antonia.  Thank you for the wonderful time. Topa!

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