Category Archives: Food

Berriak for February, 2015

Here is a round-up of a few items I thought were notable.

463858986Inaki Williams became the first black player to score a goal for Athletic Bilbao in their 117 year history. You may know that Athletic Bilbao only recruits Basque players, players from the Basque Country. Inaki was born in Bilbao to parents from Ghana and Liberia. Clearly his parents have pride in their new home, as they named their son Inaki.

basque-soccer-friendly2Keeping with the soccer theme, there is an update on the effort to bring Basque soccer to Boise. The effort, lead by Argia Beristain, has secured participation by both sides. The teams have not been finalized, though it is likely to be the same Athletic Bilbao against a MLS team from the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver). And, a date has been set: July 29! More details can be found here.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 2.42.25 PMIrene Peralta of Munchies magazine has a five-part series on the food of the Basque Country. In 5 roughly 15 minute videos, she covers the txokos of San Sebastian, the markets, and some of the best restaurants in the world. A great introduction to Basque cuisine.

51ERBzMF2ULBegoña Echeverria is a professor at the University of California, Riverside, who has had a long interest in Basque culture and, more specifically, the world of Basque witches. Her researches led her down a path that has culminated in a novel, The Hammer of Witches. Inspired in part by songs she heard as a child, the novel explores the life of a young woman in a small Basque town that has its share of mystery.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 3.02.06 PMCanoe.ca has a series of photos of the ancient carnival of Ituren, in which men dress up as bears and other mystical creatures, a carnival centered on sheepherding. Some anthropologists argue that it is the oldest pre-Indo-European carnival still being practiced in Europe. Regardless of the origins, the photos are simply fantastic. Taking place at the end of every January, this looks like something to make a trip for.

musean.jpgThe site fivethirtyeight has an interesting article about games for kids, with the main point that a lot of kids’ games (think Candyland) do not really challenge kids in any real way. Interestingly, they highlight the Basque card game Mus as a game that does challenge kids and is highly rated precisely for the way it encourages critical thinking and mental skills.

Inside the kitchen of Elena Arzak

In 2012, Elena Arzak was named the Best Female Chef in the world. Arzak, the restaurant she runs with her father, was named the 8th best restaurant in the world in 2014 by Restaurant Magazine. The New York Times took a brief look into her world and this video provides a glimpse inside the kitchen of renowned chef, Elena Arzak.

http://nyti.ms/Qc8OSi

Mark Bieter visits Arzak and makes me want to too

A few days ago, I wrote about the latest edition of the top 50 restaurants in the world, and how the Basque Country had 5 of those restaurants.

At number 8 sits Arzak. Mark Bieter, who I’ve frequently linked to because of his wonderful way with words, has had the pleasure of dining at Arzak. In an article he wrote in 2012, he describes his experience: It’s just a restaurant, I thought, nothing to be afraid of.  And yet standing across the street from it, I was a little afraid. 

I’m not a foodie, as Mark also claims, but his description of his time at Arzak makes me think that even I might appreciate the wonders of a place like that.

Basque Country has 5 of the top 50 Restaurants in the World

I’m a man of simple tastes, seemingly from a long line of Uberuagas with similar levels of refinement. My dad would rather make sure he get his dollar’s worth at an all-you-can-eat buffet. And when I took my aunts, who grew up in rural Bizkaia, to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and I asked them what their favorite thing was in the museum, they said “The frames (on the paintings) were nice.”top-50-2014

That said, even I can recognize the singular place that food holds in the Basque Country. I easily gain 15 pounds whenever I visit, partially because my family won’t stop shoving full plates of food in front of me every 15 minutes, but also because the food is simply so wonderful.

But there is food, and then there is food, and the Basque County excels at food in a way that few other regions in the world can boast. David Cox alerted me to the fact that Restaurant Magazine just released their 2014 list of the top 50 restaurants in the world, and the Basque Country has 5 restaurants on the list, 3 in Gipuzkoa and 2 in Bizkaia (Real fans, at least you win this one).

I’ve never eaten at any of these places, and don’t know when I will, but it is simply amazing to me that a region of the world that has less than 0.03% of the world’s population can have 10% of the world’s top restaurants.

In case some of you are looking for a gastronomical oasis for your next adventure, the Basque restaurants on the list are:

If anyone has had the pleasure of dining at one of these restaurants, please share your experience!

Some food and wine to get you through

I ran across a few articles dealing with food and wine in the Basque Country that I thought were particularly interesting.

pintxo-passportFirst, in this article at Financial Times, Paul Richardson describes his adventures in San Sebastián’s Old Town, the Parte Vieja. The interesting spin here is a so-called pintxos passport. A company, San Sebastián Food, run by Englishman Jon Warren, provides, for the cost of €75, a “passport” pointing to a selection of pintxo bars in the Parte Vieja and wooden tokens that can be used to pay for the pintxos. The passport not only points you to the bars, but gives a write up both of the bar and the pintxos they recommend you order. You get your pintxo, hand over your token, and move on your merry way. It seems that drink is included in this. This might not be the most adventurous way of experiencing the Parte Vieja and the pintxo scene in Donostia, but it might give the solitary tourist enough motivation to explore what might otherwise prove a daunting facet of the Basque culture.

ancient-vineyard-617x416Next, archeologists in the Basque Country have excavated what appears to be a 10th century vineyard in the now-deserted village of Zaballa (incidentally, the surname of my grandmother, though it is a pretty common Basque surname). These two articles describe the discovery. The research was published in the journal Quaternary International. The study author, Juan Antonio Quirós-Castillo, describes the importance of this, and a related finding, in terms of the socio-economic history of the region. In particular, he says that understanding how the peasants of the region responded to regional economic changes provides a better understanding of the history of the region. It further sheds light into the economic conditions of the time, which have tended to be viewed as rather simple. These findings suggest that significant economic development, by way of vineyards and cereal fields, were occurring during this time. Because of their historical importance, the researchers are pushing for this and the sister-site to be named World Heritage Sites.

Basque News Roundup

Here are some recent stories I found particularly interesting.

elhuyarIn September, Elhuyar will publish the 300th issue of its science journal, Elhuyar Zientzia eta TeknologiaThe journal was created in 1974 to promote the use of Basque in technical and scientific fields. More info here.

Elhuyar is an organization named after the Basque Elhuyar brothers, who in 1783 isolated the element tungsten for the first time.

 

alonso_cycling-300x304

The Basque cycling team, Euskadi-Euskaltel, was in danger of loosing its sponsor, Euskaltel, the Basque telecommunications company. You might recognize the bright orange jersey the Euskaltel riders wear. Fernando Alonso, a formula one race car driver (who is currently second in the F1 world championship race), has agreed to take over the team. Alonso is also a past winner of the F1 championships. His involvement provides some assurance that the Basque riding team will continue on. More info here.

 

biarritz-pier_1809855cIf you are planning a trip to the Basque Country any time soon, these two articles might give some inspiration. First, Alice Short writes in the LA Times about her adventure in the food of the Basque Country, from the now famous Arzak to a few random and pleasant discoveries.  Then, Fiona Duncan describes her discovery of Biarritz, now a thriving surfing city, and the rest of the Côte Basque.

MARIA-NEWPORT-SHIPDendrochronology is the study of the age of wood and is used to both identify the age and origin of wood, for example used to make boats. Dendrochronology has been used to identify the origins of a ship found in the bay of Newport, in the United Kingdom and it has been determined that the ship, indeed, had origins in the Basque Country. More info here.