Spain: A Moveable Feast around the Basque Country

September, 2017 (9 days, 8 nights)

Basque cooking enjoys a reputation for being one of the best cuisines in the world.  It’s origins go back to the 17th century when men would participate in “gastronomic societies” (txokos), or supper clubs, where they would cook traditional dishes for each other and spend the evening talking and playing cards – unfortunately, leaving the women and children at home. Without the txokos however, it would be hard to explain the deep-rooted popularity and evolution of Basque cuisine.

Today, Basque chefs are hard at work creating new dishes and have raised the bar of European gastronomy.  There are 16 Michelin stars in San Sebastian alone (which is also the 2016 European City of Culture).  But authentic country experiences are never far away. The Basque have been making idiazabal cheese since neolithic times and their sparkling white txakoli wine is the perfect accompaniment with pinxtos, or Basque tapas.

Our journey includes a visit to the “Napa Valley” of the Basque region for private tastings at three vineyards, and it concludes with two days in Madrid where we tour the city and the Prado and enjoy a farewell dinner.

Delicious Highlights:

  • Enjoy a walking pintxos tour as you take in the sights and sounds of San Sebastian
  • Participate in a private pintxos master class, finishing with a lunch of pintoxs and delicious Basque wine
  • On a visit to Getaria, observe the traditional preparation of anchovies from the 17th century.
  • Experience a txakoli wine tasting at a family vineyard
  • Dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the Bay of Biscay where they prepare their own catch
  • Visits to a fish market with a chef to buy the best catch and then a class to learn to create a Basque menu at home
  • Visit to the Basque region’s own “Napa Valley” with tastings at three vineyards
  • Grand finale is a Basque dinner at a gastronomic society (txokos)
  • Dinner at Restaurant Piñera in Madrid

Sightseeing Highlights:

  • Walking tour of Bilbao and guided tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao
  • Exploration of the Sanctuary of Loyola, home of the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius
  • Walk through Azpeitia, a charming village close to Loyola Sanctuary
  • Visit to the town of Tolosa and the Gorrotxategi Patisserie Museum
  • City tour of Madrid and optional guided walk around the Prado

Included in your tour is:

  • 9-day (8-night) tour by luxury coach with an expert driver/guide
  • Full breakfast daily
  • 5 lunches and 5 dinners
  • 2 nights at Urso Hotel Madrid (on the Condé Nast Gold List, 2016)
  • 6 nights at Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian
  • Transfers by private coach

Day 1
After arriving in San Sebastian and checking in at the hotel, you will have time to relax before and evening city tour, complete with pintxo tastings as we go.

Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian

Day 2:
We will start in the late morning with our first cooking master class – “The Art of the Pintxos.” The class ends with a delicious lunch and wine, enjoying what we have prepared. Afterwards, we will depart for Getaria, a charming seaside village with a great fishing tradition. We will have a special experience observing how anchovies have been prepared for canning since the 17th century. From there we will drive to a winery for a tasting of unique Basque sparkling wine, “txakoli”.  We will finish the evening at a very special Michelin-reviewed restaurant with panoramic views of the bay.

Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian

Day 3:
After breakfast we will drive to Azpeitia to visit the Sanctuary of Loyola, the place where St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order, was born and had his transformation.  We will visit the Basilica and the tower house where he was born and lived.  The sanctuary is built around the tower house of the Loyola family. The house dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and is divided into the lower half built in stone, which recalls its past as a fortress, and the upper half built in brick that represents its evolution into a palatial house. Lunch at an authentic cider house in Azpeitia and a drive home through the mountains, stopping at the Antigua Hermitage on the way.

Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian

Day 4:
Another late morning masterclass – this time preparing typical Basque fish dishes. You will learn how to make many specialties from pil-pil to cooking with fresh squid ink.

After lunch, we will depart for Bilbao where we will have a guided tour of the Guggenheim museum and time to browse independently as well.  From there we will have a unique dinner at a restaurant that uses only the freshest of local and seasonal products from the nearby La Ribera market, which they affectionately call their “pantry”.

Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian

Day 5:
After breakfast we visit the Basque “Napa Valley”, starting with the 16th century town of Laguardia.  We will visit three vineyards in the Rioja region: Casa Primicia  Torre de Oña and Marqués de Riscal, famous for its Frank Ghery-designed hotel.  Each is highly unique and known for something different.  We will enjoy lunch at one of the vineyards.  Upon our return to San Sebastian, you will have the evening at leisure.

Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian

Day 6:
Morning at leisure.  In the afternoon, we will drive beautiful town of Tolosa and visit the Gorrotxategi Patisserie Museum. In the evening, we will visit an authentic gastronomic society for a cooking finale!  We will divide into two groups and prepare something that we have made during the week.  After the competition we will enjoy what we have made and celebrate our last night in the Basque Country.

Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, San Sebastian

Day 7:
After breakfast, we will depart for Madrid for our last two nights there.  Sit back and enjoy a guided tour of the city as you arrive.  The rest of the day will be at leisure.  Dinner at Restaurant Piñera.

Hotel Urso, Madrid

Day 8:
After breakfast enjoy a guided tour of the Prado.  The rest of the day and evening are at leisure to explore and enjoy Madrid.

Hotel Urso, Madrid

Day 9:
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight.

PANTXINETA

INGREDIENTS

2 puff pastry sheets
1 egg
chopped almonds (toasted)
pastry cream
For the pastry cream:
1 liter of milk
8 egg yolks
9 oz sugar
3 1/2 oz flour

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 350º.

Pastry cream: Heat the milk in a saucepan.  In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients and then pour 1/4 of the warm milk into the bowl, string continuously. After it is blended together, pour the rest of the mixture back into the saucepan and back on to the stove at low heat.  Stir continuously until thickened and then turn off the heat.  Pour it into a glass dish and cover it with plastic wrap.

Cut a round circle (about 10″) out of each sheet of puff pastry.  Cut a second circle out of the second sheet of puff pastry (about 11.5″ – 12″) Put the smaller circle in the oven for 10 min. Remove from oven and let it cool. Paint outside edges of the smaller circle with the egg yolk.  Fill the center of the circle with the pastry cream.  (Do not cover the egg yolk on the edge.)

Lay the second circle over the pastry cream and press the edges of the two circles together.  If you want, you can crimp the edges with a fork. Bake it in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and paint the top of the pastry with the rest of the egg yolk.  Sprinkle with almond slivers and dust with powdered sugar before putting it back in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes (until it turns golden brown).  Enjoy!

 

“For me, the Basque region is the most exciting culinary area in the world. It’s the center of Western gastronomy.

– Anthony Bourdain, November 2011

Click on the image
to download a printable PDF
version of this tour.

Spain Flyer

         Starting from $3,990 per person (land only) for group of 12;

independent traveler cost upon request.  Airfare estimate $900 roundtrip from Chicago (as of February 2019)                                  

QUESTIONS? Ask Us.

 

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