Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday night in Bilbao

First, just a quick note: I only recently discovered that I can use larger photographs in the blog and they display in a smaller size. To see the full size image, just click on it. DOH! Live and learn I guess.... So, on to the commentary ;-)

Just back from a fantastic evening with Naroa and her girlfriends. I don't think I've ever met a nicer or cooler bunch of ladies in my life. I fell in love with all of them. They genuinely made me feel like an old friend, part of their family, and I find myself humbled by their openness and readiness to befriend a stranger, especially one as different from them as I am. Here's a photo of Naroa and Fanny, who is actually French. After a visit to Bilbao, she liked it so much that she relocated here. She's been here for three years now and is on her way to becoming an honorary Basque.

We drank wine and ate pintxos all day, moving from bar to bar, from cafe to cafe, as is the custom here on the weekends especially, and had a fantastic time. These girls know how to live and how to show their lovely city to travelers in the best possible way. Of course there are seafood pintxos, mushroom pintxos, various other delectable combinations of veggies and meat, including one made with zucchini and squid ink, but the crowning achievement in the art of pintxo preparation IMHO is the one called Foie con manzana, shown below:

This sublime creation consists of thin slices of goose liver lightly sauteed with apples and topped with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The taste and texture of this morsel is like nothing I have ever experienced before. I almost lost control over these things but stopped at just two. My friend David Stutzer would rave about these too because, like me, he loves a good dinner based around some fresh deer or moose liver, except that these are so much more delicate, with the flavors of the apple and liver blending subtly, just so.

You can indulge in a plateful of luscious pintxos along with a glass of excellent vino tinto house wine in most of the places we stopped at for just a few euros. It has been said that "an army travels on its stomach", meaning that without food you really cannot fight, or even have an army. I also travel with food in mind. Naroa tells me it's good that I like to eat because this is the traditional Basque way to meet with friends and hang out. Enjoying a variety of excellent pintxos and red wine, having good conversations with your best friends and companions on a Friday night. Yep, that sounds like a helluva good way to live.

 Above is a photo I took in the cafe where we had the Foie con manzana. That's Naroa, Olaia, Marta (Naroa's flatmate) and Ainara. These are the fantastic ladies with whom I was lucky enough to spend the evening. This old guy feels a bit like he's died and gone to heaven.

Christmas is just around the corner and Bilbao, like cities and towns everywhere I've been so far, is getting all trimmed and decorated for the occasion.

Today we will drive to the coast to visit San Sebastian and see some of the Basque countryside.