Up with Pintxos! Down with Tapas!

Pintxos at Sagartoki, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
Pintxos at Bar Sagartoki in Vitoria-Gasteiz | Photo by Lauren Girardin

For a couple of former New Yorkers like Todd and myself, the letter pair “TX” can conjure up some very foreign images – of ten gallon hats, big steaks and even bigger hair, and soon-to-be ex-Presidents baling hay on their vacation ranch instead of running the country (into the ground).

Now, after visiting the Basque capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz, “TX” has an entirely new positive association for us: the paramount nosh, pintxos.

First, cozy up to the bar and ask for a txakoli, pronouncing the “tx” as a “ch” sound. Once your decisive power is fortified by a glass of the sparkling, slightly acidic white wine, it’s time to choose your pintxos from the bumper crop of choices covering the bar top.

The bartender may give you a plate to load up or you might have to point out the pintxos you want – either way, if there are toothpicks stuck in the food, hold on to them as they may be counted to figure out your bill at the end. Sometimes no toothpicks are needed if the bartender’s memory is good enough to remember pi to the thousandth digit.

Cigarette butt marred floor, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
Cigarette butt marred floor, Vitoria-Gasteiz | Photo by Lauren Girardin

The pintxos may be as simple as house-marinated anchovies wrapped around picked vegetables – much better than it sounds, sublime if done right – or as elaborate as lasaña de hongos y helado esporas at Bar Sagartoki, a hot-cold pairing of a spoonful of mushroom and cheese layered pasta with a spoonful of mushroom ice cream.

You can keep grazing on pintxos until you’re full or join the txikiteo and stroll down the street to the next bar.

On your way out, don’t forget to toss your napkins on the floor, where they belong.

Travel Photos from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

If you can’t see the photo slide show above, view the photo set on Flickr.