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Sold for 1600€ to Rekondo restaurant in San Sebastian

This first specimen (lehenbiziko in Basque language) was caught in the Bidasoa river by a local fisherman and was bought as is tradition by the Rekondo restaurant in San Sebastian. The specimen weighed 4.4 kg and was caught by spoon at the Endarlatsa dam.

The Atlantic salmon fishing in the Basque Country is very restrictive and several permits are needed to fish. Salmon specie is in a recovery phase in our rivers, so its fishing is very limited. In the past, salmon fishing was a very important resource for the people in the Basque Country and northern Spain, but overfishing, river pollution and hydraulic dams made it disappear. Decades ago the government developed a very ambitious plan for its recovery.

Today the rivers are very clean thanks to the water purification plants, and the old dams that prevented the salmon from going up the rivers have been destroyed. Fishing quotations are very controlled and only 5% of the total number of fish returning from the sea for spawning are allowed to be caught. In my opinion, there is still a lot to be done to enjoy fishing in our rivers. We lack more ecological policies that educate the river populations on how to take care of the environment in order to enjoy it to the full. Still, unfortunately, it is normal to see children throwing plastic on the ground or plastic waste from an industrial park thrown all over the river bank. This makes my blood boil and these are very important issues that should be addressed.

On the other hand, we have to be happy about the current situation of our rivers. It is a situation with room for improvement but today it is very satisfactory for sport fishermen. Numerous catches of brown trout and sea trout can be made. The capture of salmon is always more complicated due to the limited number of specimens and their feeding habits.

The policy for trout and sea trout is catch and release, for salmon a special permit is needed and there is a limitation on the number of catches with death.

We will continue to fight to improve the quality of our rivers for us and for future generations and in my opinion education is a determining factor in this conservation process.

Traditional Basque sheep’s milk cheese

There are 3 types of Basque cheeses on both sides of the Pyrenees that are made from raw sheep’s milk.
On the Spanish Basque side we have the Idiazabal and Roncal cheeses. In both cases these cheeses obtain their milk from the Latxa sheep, a species of sheep from the Basque Country from which a very tasty milk is obtained largely due to the greenery of the pastures on which it feeds. The milk obtained is always used unpasteurized for the production of these cheeses.

On the French Basque side we have the Irati-Ossau cheese. In this case the sheep that produce this cheese are of the Manech and Béarnese Basque type. They feed in the summer in high altitude pastures in the Pyrenees. In order to obtain the denomination of origin, this cheese can only be produced in spring and summer to guarantee the maximum quality of the product.

Below we will describe the characteristics of each of the cheeses:

Irati-Ossau
The name comes from the area where it comes from, which is the Ossau Valley and the Irati Forest, the largest beech forest in Europe. As mentioned above, the sheep used in the production of this cheese are of the Manech and Vasco Bearnesa types. Its area of distribution is centered in the Pyrenees on the French side. These are areas ranging between 500 and 1500 meters above sea level. The cheese can only be made with milk from spring and summer. The cheese weighs between 3 and 5kg.

Idiazabal
It is a denomination of origin from the Basque Country and Navarra. The milk from Latxa and Carranzana sheep is used for the production of these cheeses. These cheeses weigh between 1 and 3kg.
There are two varieties of this cheese, it can be cured or cured and smoked. For me, the most delicious is the normal one, but there is nothing written about tastes.

Roncal
The Roncal Valley is located in Navarra, in the Pyrenean area from the border with France to the Bardenas Reales. In the summer the Latxas sheep feed on the high mountain pastures in areas up to 2000m altitude. Then in the winter they go south to feed. This has been the case since the time of King Sancho Garcia in the 9th century.

YouTube video

 

This is a recipe that first appeared in the recipe book of “La Nicolasa” in the 1920s. La Nicolasa was a cheff who had a restaurant in San Sebastian named after her. At home this book edited in the 1920’s is like a bible. It is a bit broken and out of its time but the content is very valuable. We can think of it as one of the pillars of Basque haute cuisine as some of the recipes are still valid today. Above all you can find recipes for traditional fish such as cod, sea bass, seafood and game meats such as quail, partridge, pheasant and deer. It is a very illustrative book about the origins of Basque cuisine.

Quails in Spanish sauce

The Spanish sauce is an onion-based sauce so we will need 1 onion for every 2 quails. 2 tablespoons of olive oil for each quail. 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar for each quail. 1 glass of white and red wine (50/50) per each quail. We will also add spices such as a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, black pepper, a sprig of parsley, a bay leaf (it is important to remove the bay leaf before crushing the sauce) and 1 clove per quail.

Cut the onion into more or less thick rings and place in a deep pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Season the outside and inside of the quails with salt and pepper and place on top of the casserole dish. Then cover the top of the casserole. Start to cook over low heat and the quails will cook with the aromatic vapors of the sauce. Let it cook over low heat. Always in the upper part of the casserole without submerging or mixing with the onions. After 1 hour they are usually ready to be removed to a plate. You can check by pulling one of the thighs. If it is tender and can be released, they are ready.

When we remove the quails to a plate we continue cooking the sauce over low heat. It can be another 3 hours until the sauce is reduced and takes a brown tone.

When the sauce is ready we remove the bay leaf and grind it. After passing the sauce we add the quails and let them rest in the sauce. It is best to leave them like this all night to eat them the next day.

 

Palacio de Aiete hotel

The Hotel Palacio de Aiete is located on one of the hills of the city in front of La Concha Bay. It is a very quiet residential area, perfect for those clients who are looking for a relaxing time at the hotel and do not want to hear disturbing noises at night. It is an ideal place to relax and rest whether you come on vacation or for work.

It is a 4 star hotel and its rooms and facilities are brand new. Modern and pleasant designs for the comfort of the client. The mattresses are of the highest quality and even have a cart with different pillows.

One of the things that attracts the most attention is the amount of services offered. For example, the jakuzzi located on the upper terrace where you can relax and enjoy a drink while you enjoy the view. Also, they have a masseur service for total relaxation.

Another free service is the fitness room, where customers can maintain their workout routine. Exercise bikes, treadmills, rowing machines will test the most demanding athletes.

Free parking for all your customers. Yes, that’s right, the hotel has the courtesy to offer the client parking for the entire duration of his stay in San Sebastian.

It also has a lounge club and a convention room, both of which have been completely renovated to offer maximum comfort.

Bera Bera Restaurant

The hotel’s restaurant is inspired by traditional Basque cuisine so the quality is guaranteed. Always fresh products of the highest quality to satisfy the most demanding palates.

In short, the Palacio de Aiete hotel is the perfect place to spend a few days in San Sebastian. In addition, they give you a 15% discount if you book through the website. I leave here the link for those who may be interested.

https://hotelpalaciodeaiete.com/es/

 

Xoldokogaina mountain is located in the border between France and Spain. This location can be considered like the heart of the Basque Country. It is 15 minutes from San Sebastian and 15 minutes from Biarritz. From the summit is possible to see both cities and the Pyrenees mountains. There is a fantastic view over Larrhune mountain wich is one of the icons at the French Basque. If you want to get to the top of this fantastic mountain there is an old train from the XIX centuries that goes to the top. The train station is located in litlle village called Sare wich is worth visiting.

The hike starts at the little village called Biriatou located in the french side of the Basque Country at the top of the hill and above the Bidasoa river.

Biriatou is a very charming village with a long basque tradition. It is a good example of the Labortan arquitecture. The Labortan style is one of the aesthetic characteristics that makes the French Basque country so picturesque and unique. You will also be able to find local cheese makers at the farms. They produce a type of seep chease called “Irati Ossau”. It is a world class chease and you have to taste it.

Close to the “fronton” and the unique church there is also a historical hotel and restaurant called “Pakea” where you can have a very good lunch. This restaurant is recomended by Michelin and it has a very good reputation.

I will post some videos of the hike so you can make an idea.

YouTube video