- body. This is a vermouth with some heft. Not the syrupyness of Martini Rosso, but with more body than a lighter artisanal vermouth. The end sensation is silky and smooth.
- taste. Spices predominate the second this vermouth hits your mouth. Cinnamon and licorice are the ones that stick out most to me. But the most important thing is this vermouth is dangerously drinkable.
Tolosa — that small town where a good steak is not hard to find.
It's my home away from my home away from home. And any excuse I can grab to visit it, I do. Only 30 minutes by train, a train that stops practically on my doorstep, it's easy enough to pop over for a meeting, a lunch, a stop at the market, or just a drink.
And then, they have restaurants like this one, restaurants that look like garages from the outside, and fairy tales on the inside.
Restaurants that, as soon as you sit down, swoop in with a plate of cured chorizo.
Burruntzi is an asador, one of those hallowed institutions that devotes nearly all their attention to grilling animals and fish. This precise attention means that they often reach levels of perfection that a restaurant with a more ample selection doesn't. And, seriously, just take a look at the raw material.
That other steakhouse in Tolosa is without a doubt the reigning king. But Burruntzi has an amazing price to quality ratio, as well as being just utterly authentically taska.
When in Tolosa, eat steak, with confit piquillo peppers (Basque version of ketchup), and a simple onion-lettuce salad, dressed with apple cider vinegar.
It's simplicity, it's perfection. Depending on who you ask, the secret of these peppers is the liquid they were preserved in, or a splash of rum, a pinch of sugar, or some flakes of garlic....and, of course, time.
Depending on who you ask, the secret to the txuleta steak is the grill. Some say it's the cow, citing the bovine's first name to show you how humane of a life they lived.
And then there's no discounting the all-important green salad. Often overlooked but often the crowning counterpoint in a steak dinner, its vinegar-y bite is the perfect contrast to the yellow cow fat.
Tolosa...so many steaks, so little time.
It seems like every European city has some sort of open-air market. Some are seasonal, some are for tourists, and some are stacked high with Idiazabal cheese, freshly gathered walnuts, shelled legumes, and green garlic, like the one in the old part of San Sebastián.
Lunes Lekuak is the weekly post where I explore my favorite spots to just be in San Sebastián. Last week's is here, if you are new to the series and care to check it out.
It's morning. The sun is shining. Get out of bed, hop on the bike, and ride a few blocks over to the spot where the river Urumea spills out into the sea. Grab a coffee and a friend on the way, and just sit, staring.
Lunes Lekuak is the weekly post where I explore my favorite spots to just be in San Sebastián. Last week was a bit more...bouncy, if you are new to the series and care to check it out.
Is it Mexico? Is it Halloween? Nope, it's Mardi Gras season in the Basque Country.
And that means our annual venture on our friends' float in Tolosa, always filled with kalimotxo, rain and fun.
In fact, looking ahead at blogposts I have waiting to be published, it is looking like it is going to be a Tolosa month. So sit back, pour yourself a bowl of beans, and relax as I take you on a tour of one of my favorite villages in the world, Tolosa, Goierri, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain.
Starting with the timely, or the Carnival/Mardi Gras celebration that for some reason has an outsized tradition in this town in the interior, about thirty minutes from San Sebastián. I don't know how I ended up in the New Orleans of Basque Country, celebrating the same holiday that used to see nine-year-old Marti perched on wooden ladders, waving for beads on the banks of a canal.
Well, actually, I do....whatever version of fate you subscribe to had me meet a Tolosarra on vacation here who turned out to become a great, lasting friend, inviting us on his cuadrilla's float four years ago. We've been smurfs, we've been legos, and this year we were mariachis.
The town of Tolosa explodes with activity the weekend before Mardi Gras, and each day has a different vibe. Sunday is the Day of the Friends, where groups of lifelong friends mount their floats and parade through the city. Monday is the Day of the Bands, where makeshift musicians march around. And Tuesday is the big day, more popular with the general public, where the friends hit the street again with their floats.
What makes Tolosa Mardi Gras special? One thing that I find especially ingratiating is the total lack of sexy. Halloween in the States has been sexi-fied and commercialized beyond recognition....you buy costumes and you often buy them with exaggeratedly short hemlines. In Tolosa, however, the population takes pride in crafting their own costumes, placing the emphasis on wit instead of seduction. Take this group of friends, dressed as the famed market of Tolosa.
This year, we went South of the Border, wei, because what is funnier than dressing up, talking and dancing like people who are like you but with funnier accents and facial hair?
A day in the life of Carnaval in Tolosa looks like this:
- wake up to rain
- drink a colacao
- at 9 or 10am (if you skipped out on the diana, or official opening ceremony where pajamas are de rigueur) get on the float and pour yourself a beer
- parade through the streets, dancing, drinking, talking, waving, and just being until around 3pm...lunchtime!
- back on the float for 7pm...that's right, a 4-hour lunch....and do it all again, but by nightfall!
So long, my mariachi friends. Until next year, Carnaval.