For example, in northern Spain, it’s a cliché that San Sebastian has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other city in the world. Scoring a reservation at one of these is a highlight for many visitors.
“But these experiences do little to engage travelers with Basque residents or foster a deeper understanding of their culture,” suggests Jim Kane, owner/founder of Culture Xplorers (http://www.culturexplorers.com/
Here are Kane’s five favorite transformative food experiences in Basque Country (http://www.culturexplorers.com/
#5 Basque Market Delights
Weekly Basque markets are reason enough to visit Northern Spain. Iconic cheeses such as the smoky, nutty Idiazabel are on fragrant display as are flowers, fresh baked breads and other regional and seasonal specialties. Alubias (beans) hold a special place in the pantheon of fresh produce which overflows Basque market stalls. Tradition runs deep at these weekly market gatherings which in Ordizia have taken place continuously for over 500 years and in Tolosa are accompanied by local residents who stroll the old town singing Basque language songs the last Saturday of each month.
#4 Cider House Rules
Locals gather at traditional Basque cider houses (sidrería) where they enthusiastically line up with their glasses when the patron yells “txotx” indicating that a stream of effervescent cider is to be released fresh from the barrel. Visitors may even see some traditionalists stand through their meal of “tortilla with bacalao’, dinosaur-sized portions of rib-eye steak, plus Idiazabel cheese and membrillo (quince paste, all served family-style. The key at these cider houses is the natural socialization fostered by frequent rounds to the common cider barrel, each time a great excuse to strike up a conversation with another new friend.
#3 Pintxo Prodigy
Pintxos are Northern Spain's answer to tapas. In Basque Country, there is pride and fierce debate as to which chefs make the most savory and creative pintxos. Of course, you can get a taste of this by wandering amongst the plentiful pintxo bars in the old town of both Bilbao and San Sebastian. However, a favorite way to connect with the pintxo culture is to savor them at the side of a prize-winning pintxo chef as he crafts miniature masterpieces during a private master class.
#2 Savory Society
Private gastronomic societies called txokos in the Basque language are integral to Basque culture. Men argue about the finer points of marmitako seasoningas fiercely as they do about politics and soccer. There are over 200 txokos in San Sebastian alone and an invitation inside one of these private gastronomic societies -- where guests cook, drink and chat the afternoon away with members -- is an unforgettable, transformative and deeply personal culinary experience.
#1 Heritage Mountain
History comes with a home-hosted afternoon with a former Basque engineer who, after learning that his family’s pig-farming roots date back to at least 1575, re-dedicated his life to developing a market for the region’s last remaining heritage breed. Fair warning: the warmth of Pello's stone hearth, the genuine welcome of three generations of his family, the mouth-watering, home-cooked meal and sumptuous wine enjoyed there together make leaving the biggest challenge!
Between four and 10 travelers may join eight-day Culture Xplorers trips departing May 25, June 22 and Sept. 7, 2014, or private, custom departures can be arranged at any time. Accommodations are selected to represent the culture of the regions guests visit. Along with food, guests also sate their appetites on lore and history. The rate starts at $3,090 per person, double. See: http://www.culturexplorers.com/
About Culture Xplorers
Culture Xplorers (http://www.culturexplorers.com/)
Culture Xplorers trips are created from the ground up, built on three founding pillars: people, traditions and impact. Their travelers meet the people of the places they visit, engaging in the living traditions that make each destination unique, and in doing so, create a lasting, positive impact through tourism. Genuine connections with people and place are formed farm-to-fork and around the table, via participation in local celebrations and through authentic exchange with community leaders and members.
Countries where cultural exchanges are fostered are Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and Cuba (in 2014). The Culture Xplorers Foundation was founded in 2007 to help foster the sustainability of local culture in at risk communities worldwide. Its positive impact partnerships focus on sustaining endangered traditions, strengthening education, fostering community-based travel and breaking the cycle of poverty through the support of comprehensive micro-loan and education programs. See: http://www.culturexplorers.com/
For 2013-2014 season information, tours, availability and reservations contact Culture Xplorers at (215) 870-3585 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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