Our first Tapa, according to the locals of San Sebastian Spain was the first original prototype for all other tapas to follow. It helped to create a new way to dine-the culture of standing and snacking while drinking and meeting with friends and loved ones. This is a tradition that is alive and well today. Tapas in the Basque cultural region of northern Spain are referred to by the Basque word Pintcho. The original Tapa or Pincho is a remarkably simple snack and wonderfully appropriate for the standing/drinking culture that grew up around it. It is pickled peppers, an anchovy and an olive on a toothpick. This noble bar snack is perfectly accompanied by the local Txakolina (pronounced Chalk-o-lina) wine poured is small servings from way up high into a giant Collins glass or Basque cider (pronounced cee-der).
This tempting little skewer was served at Bar Nestor, a little restaurant and Amanda and I’s first stop shortly after arriving in San Sebastain. We were advised to get to Bar Nestor not a minute after 11AM. The family who runs Bar Nestor opens the restaurant every morning and immediately sells out their specialty; Spanish Tortilla. For the uninitiated, Spanish tortilla has nothing to do with Mexican tortillas. This is a dish made from common, simple ingredients and, when crafted by master hands, is sublime. Onion, garlic, egg, olive oil, and potato coaxed into a creamy, fragrant, wholesome meal that is delicious, uncomplicated, and unforgettable.
In a small kitchen tucked behind the bar we watched our lady patron labor over two tiny burners, creating two egg and potato tortillas as locals and tourists like ourselves trickled into the narrow restaurant. We observed the locals ordering glasses of Txakolina or cider from the bar and did the same. It was our first taste of simple, drinkable Txakolina wine which is now a dear favorite. Also this was our first encounter with the funky basque cider, effervescent and dry.
The tortilla cook worked her spatula around the edge her large pan to loosen the egg and added olive oil into the space created. When time to flip the tortilla, she topped her big saute pan with another and fluidly heaved the lot up and over landing gently back onto the burner. Both sides cooked, she slid the tortilla onto a big round plate and finished with olive oil. She stepped from her little kitchen to the bar and, with a butter knife, cut uneven but equal sized portions of the great tortilla, sliding them into little plates and passing them to us and the others in the bar. Everyone was soon fed, and the tortilla consumed. The egg on the outside of the tortilla was cooked, nearly crisp. The center was creamy, just verging on runny and bursting with soft onion and potato. Olive oil lightened and enriched the tortilla. The effect was wholly satisfying. The portion, not large in size, managed to satiate our appetites. It was as if the tortilla fed something in our souls as well as our stomachs.
As a chef, I believe that Spanish tortilla is an extremely difficult to cook well. This lady deserves great respect; she has special abilities and at Bar Nestor, this was her dish. There was another dish served at bar nestor which was the domain of the gentleman owner-Beef and Tomatoes.
Upon ordering the beef and tomatoes, the man owner, also the bartender and biggest personalty of Bar Nestor presents you with a giant, thick rib chop of bright red Spanish beef. After inspection, the meat is grilled, served with sliced tomatoes, olive oil, salt. Another perfect dish. Time for Siesta!