Essential for enjoying Basque traditions and eating well, follow a Pintxos Route. Pintxos are a miniature form of cooking, a mouthful containing all the flavour of the great Basque cuisine. With or without bread, in the form of a croquette or even sweet, there are all types of Pintxos, even for vegetarians.
They are displayed on the bar counters in the bars and restaurants, within the customer's reach, normally eaten standing up. If they are served hot, you order them. And at the end you pay the waiter. This is the txikiteo ritual, that is, bar hopping with a group of friends drinking txikitos (cups of wine) or zuritos (small beers) and tasting different sorts of pintxos. There are competitions every year and the locals wait expectantly to taste the new creations.
The first Pintxos Route was in Donostia, but today they are springing up everywhere. A curious fact, the best-known Gilda in the Basque Country is not Rita Hayworth, but a pintxo with a thousand varieties always topped by a pickled pepper. The name however is a tribute to the most famous character played by the American actress, because the gilda is green, salty and a little spicy – all of which have sexual connotations – as described by the pintxo’s creator, Blas Vallés, owner of the rotisserie in Donostia, Casa Valles.
Want a tip? Don't stop in the first pintxos bar you come to. Part of the fun is to keep moving and discovering new gastronomic horizons until you find the pintxo of your dreams. Most likely is that there will be several.