Travel souvenirs, hmmmm? How about an “I heart (insert destination here)” tee shirt , a keychain, snow globe, bumper sticker, or even better… shot glasses with the name of the restaurant or town to add to that collection? These kinds of souvenirs can all be fun reminders of the vacation of a lifetime, but instead of trolling the souvenir shops I hit the markets. I am looking for unique food items mostly produced in the region I am visiting and when it comes to Spanish food, I’m like a crazed person on a mission to get the best quality I can find. After all, if I love it and am darn sure I can’t get something comparable at home, I’m not leaving without it. And you think I’m kidding…
La Bretxa is the market to go to when in San Sebastián. Here, you will find the freshest seafood (unless you are pulling fish from the ocean yourself), an array of high quality meats, cheeses, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried goods, pickled condiments, and the list goes on. As an added bonus, the vendors are very knowledgeable and helpful. Just ask nicely and try to speak Spanish, however feeble.
I went to Bretxa with specific items on my list that included a jar of bonito in olive oil. Last time we were in SS, I regretted not bringing any home. After all, I was eating an ample amount of it at the tapas bars and what better way to savor the flavors of vacation while at home?
As it turned out, we met a very nice man while I was in the midst of grilling the vendor on the difference between brands and quality and whether or not they needed refrigeration, blah blah blah. And do you know what? In a few minutes of conversation with him, we found out how to make the bonito ourselves at home. Priceless information that I plan on putting to use soon.
I want to remember this trip for as long as possible and treat my palate to the flavors I love. *This is just a fraction of what I hauled home:
Larte Idiazabal cheese (smoked): Number one on our must get list. I’ve written briefly about this cheese here but it really is the best tasting and does not get more local than a family farm on the outskirts of town where this artisanal cheese is produced. A superb Basque country cheese. Stay tuned for the Larte post and video which is in the works.
Sherry Vinegar: Although not a product produced near San Sebastián, sherry vinegar is a true Spanish pantry staple and good ones are difficult to come by at home.
Piquillo Peppers (from Lodosa): Roasted red pepper with mild smoky flavor, not at all spicy.
Guindilla Peppers: Curvy, green, and elongated, this pepper is a touch spicy and sweet. They are served as pintxos, called the Gilda, usually with anchovies and a green olive.
Pimentón: Powdered version of one each, sweet and spicy.
*Not pictured here is more cheese, chorizo, and a sizable hunk of 5J jamón. Thanks to US customs, we were relieved of the excess baggage of meats. In the coldest and rudest way possible at the Philadelphia airport, our vacuum sealed meats that we took such care to refrigerate throughout the trip and pack for the journey home were simply tossed in the trash. Just like that. And the rude little man just walked away after an over-the-shoulder remark, “no meats allowed”. Funny that “no meats are allowed” because I saw a lot of jamón packed the exact same way as ours was in the Duty Free shops at the airport. You know, the shops where they diligently package the liquids separately and every purchase has a sealed bag and receipt and it all looks so official. Well, think twice about forking over a bundle of money for that superior jamón because it just might not make it out of the airport.