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SAN SEBASTIAN/DONOSTIA, SPAIN: A FOODIE VACATION (TRIGGER WARNING: FOOD PORN)

The desire to travel in Europe during our active retirement years partly drove our decision to live here in the south of France. Mystery Vacations are a novel way that we have devised to fulfill that desire. Each year, I choose a place to go, make all of the arrangements, and only tell Cathey what the weather will be like at our destination and the type of attire that might be appropriate. Amazingly, she trusts me.

Last year. we spent a long weekend attending the International White Truffle Festival in Alba, Italy. This year, we dove into the distinctive culinary delights of San Sebastian/Donostia, Spain. Given Cathey's pleased expressions, I guess that the planning and execution of the two trips were worth the effort.

Below find a few pics and some commentary concerning our four days and three nights on the Spanish Coast. If I were to pick favorites, I would recommend Hidalgo 56 in Donostia for a pinxtos luncheon and Gandarias in San Sebastian's Old Town for supper. But there's so much good food in those towns, it's hard to pick a loser. And everyone that's been there has their own favorites. Here's a tip. Go early for lunch to avoid crowds at the best pinxtos bars. And you had better believe that dinner restaurants require reservations.

Donostia taken from the San Seabastian side...

View form the balcony of our rental in Donostia...

Cathey's Pinxtos from Hidalgo 56. Just walk down the bar - see below - and pick what looks tasty. Well, they ALL look tasty.

My choices at Hidalgo 56.

The secret is to go early, as they are setting up for lunch. We arrived at one popular place at 1pm and there wasn't a seat to be had, inside or out. But at 11:30...

The anchovies at Gandarias were divine as was the spider crab salad, the roast suckling pig, the lamb, and the tart below..

Cathey's perfectly constructed salad.

Roast piglet complete with cracklin', fork tender.

Lamb sliced thin and seared hot and fast.

Unbelievable chocolate tart...

Separatists marching in sympathy to the Catalans.They beat their pots and pans, blew their whistles, and, for a brief moment, blocked traffic...and our taxi. But the full-gear riot police talked and persuaded instead of being hostile. All good.

The fare at Bodega Donostiarra was more like tapas than pinxtos.

What follows is the fare at two white tablecloth, sparkling silver and crystal restaurants. The food was fresh, respected, and interestingly prepared. The two restaurants were Ikaitz Restaurant in Donostia and Astelena 1997 in Old Town.

Ikaitz Restaurant anchovies with interesting dots of sauces to swab.

Tower of slices of duck breast with roasted leeks

I think that the fish was hake.

Fish soup that Cathey says was closer to bouillabaisse than the shellfish-broth based soup that we get in the south.

Menu said Black Pudding. I asked if that was boudin. The waitress acted surprised, I think because she may not have expected an American to use that term.

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