Grazing in Donostia-San Sebastián

Written by Katie Parla on July 7, 2011

Beef cheeks are delicious. Fact. They are tender and fatty and meaty and great reader advice led us to a perfect pair in Donostia-San Sebastián on our first night in town. Maria and Jimmy Howlin directed us to La Cuchara di San Telmo in the Parte Vieja. Each dish we tried was incredible and we were lucky to snag a table outside on the street which was way cooler and far less chaotic than the inside. We washed down the cheeks, grilled goat cheese, seared foie gras, scallops wrapped in bacon, and steak with the local txacoli. La Cuchara was the perfect introduction to Euskadi’s most famous food city.

Unfortunately my poor planning and inadequate map reading skills meant that we didn’t even scratch the surface of Donostia’s dining options. But sometimes that led to welcome surprises. As we were wandering around the Ondarreta district, we stumbled upon a square where stacks of pork ribs were being cooked on a massive charcoal grill. Obviously, a snack was in order.

I felt a little naughty following this up with pulpo a la gallega (boiled octopus and potatoes with paprika), since in Italy meat and seafood are rarely consumed at the same meal, particularly in huge quantities (the land and sea combo is thought to bring on cataclysmic digestive reactions). As it turns out, we survived! Then we trekked across the bay to the Parte Vieja for some cheesecake at La Viña, which had been recommended to us by Kitty Travers. This led to a long siesta followed by a return to the Parte Vieja for an evening pintxos crawl.

Our first stop was Ganbara, where we provided endless entertainment to the everyone in the bar by attempting to eat percebes (goose barnacles) gracefully, but instead only succeeded in squirting barnacle juice all over ourselves.

Next, we popped into La Viña again for a few bites–there tapas aren’t amazing but you can’t beat the atmosphere–then we backtracked to Fugeo Negro. By this time the Parte Vieja was packed so we crossed the river to the quieter Gros district.

We had a gorgeous heaping pile of mudbugs and a few glasses of txakoli and before we knew it every bar in the neighborhood was shut. Oops! So we hustled back over to the Parte Vieja and the other places we planned to visit were closing. Parla planning fail. So while the pintxos crawl wasn’t perfectly executed and we clearly missed a ton of important places and dishes, we did our best and had a great time doing it. I think it’s safe to say it is impossible not to have a good time in Donostia.

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