how to eat your way around Bilbao's food heaven, in spain
Updated: Aug 4
Bilbao is to lovers what melted chocolate is to fingers. The sight of my new lover feeding me mouth-watering Spanish crostinis, wearing his denim blue shirt and button-fly jeans, made my heart ping like a microwave.
I have eaten at the same pincho bar in Casco Viejo, Bilbao, with my lover and my husband. A year, a mistress and a divorce kept them apart. My lover sheltered me with his arm tightly around my waist and held an umbrella aloft to protect us from the rain, as we pincho-hopped around the gastro bars of Plaza Nuevo.
In this part of northern Spain, going from bar to bar to eat a small snack and have a glass of wine is known as pincho hopping or txiquiteo. Pronounce ‘Tx’ as ‘Ch’ and you sound like a local.
A grenade was to come in the form of a hairy-arm-pitted house-frua, with a penchant for older men
On my previous visit to Bilbao, I was with my husband, his grumpy face was sexy as a plate of panty liners. His manner should have warned me of the emotional grenade that was to come in the form of a hairy-arm-pitted house-frua, with a penchant for older men. We bickered about where to eat and when or what to do. He spent most of our weekend tapping on his phone.
At one of the best modern art gallery's in Europe, I overhead him mutter 'crap'. His demeanour suggested Bilbao sucks. We both wished he was at home, fiddling with his spanners in his man-shed.
We gazed at artworks in the Guggenheim between kisses and drank iced, red-wine-sangria in the museum cafe bar, holding hands under the table.
A year later, holding hands with a man 13 years younger than the ex, we gazed at artworks in the Guggenheim between kisses and drank iced, red-wine-sangria in the museum cafe bar. We held hands under the table.
At night we returned to photograph the Bilbao Guggenheim by the light of the stars. Followed by an evening of feeding each other pinchos and guzzling chilled Txcoli wine.
We shared pinchos and local wines at the food stalls on the ground floor of one of Europes best food markets, with lots of sexy banter and giggles.
The next day we marveled at the stained-glass fresco in the Abando railway station, before heading to Casco Viejo, the old town of Bilbao. We praised the modernisation of the Art Deco, in El Mercado de la Ribera food market.
We took photographs of the artistic displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, stacks of Basque cheeses, exotic mushrooms and mountains of iced fish and seafood. Then, brimming with satisfaction we shared pinchos and local wines at the food stalls on the ground floor of one of Europes best food markets. We had a side order of sexy banter and giggles.
We shared mini skewers of Iberico pork and caramelised vegetables drizzled in fig glaze. Next, we nibbled on prawns as fat as chicken wings wrapped in cured ham. Finally we ate grilled morcilla (sweet black pudding) layered with flat-cap garlic mushrooms on a thick sliver of caramelised potato.
The lover whispered words of endearment. I secretly wished our amorous food foreplay would lead to other more meaningful things later.
Bilbao is only a 15-minute coach-hop, direct from the airport. Gastro tapas bars, are elbow to elbow along the winding cobbled streets. Or tempt yourself to the pinchos in the food markets along with Basque wines.
It was difficult to choose from river walks, street markets, art, the old quarter, riverboat cruises, cycle paths, or vistas from the Funicular Artxanda railway that snakes up the mountain and overlooks the city. There is architecture galore to wallow in.
If it wasn't for the rain clouds 11 months of the year, I would live in Bilbao with my lover. The hairy goth had done me a favour.
Below is my quick pincho fix. They can be put together from leftovers and basic pantry staples in the time it takes to drink an appetiser.
I returned from Bilbao in a love daze and with a sheaf of ideas for pinchos. Yet those pesky appetizers can be take hours of preparation. Below is my quick pincho fix and they can be put together from leftovers and basic pantry staples in the time it takes to drink an appetiser.
If you want to replicate fingerlickin pinchos at home, but don't have time to create the overcomplicated Spanish stacks using skewers or kebab sticks with their complex list of ingredients, these will be ready in minutes. Be adventurous.
Take a Baguette and cut it into 2 " slices & toast on a baking tray in a 200 degree oven for 5 minutes. Or use gluten free French sticks, oat cakes or rice cakes or crackers.
First layer. Place on the toasted bread slice, one item from your cupboard or fridge, for example
Dairy: feta cheese (crumbled), grated cheese, cream cheese, fresh goat cheese, boiled egg slices or scrambled eggs
Spreads: pate, fish pastes, hummus, peanut butter, jam, coleslaw, mashed banana, egg mayonnaise, foie gras, or chutney
Misc: add a small lettuce leaf or baby leaves, a bacon slice, cooked spinach, slice of cold meat or filleted fish, slice of cooked apple, mayonnaise, slice of pineapple, melted chocolate, slice of cucumber or tomato, mash potato, thin slice of tortilla, slice of a beef, or a mini burger, left over grilled vegetables, asparagus
Second layer. Add a topping. Choose from
Slices of vegetables (roasted), or buy ready-made roasted vegetables in a jar: such as peppers, zuccini, asparagus, carrot; fresh slice tomato, sun-dried tomatoes,
Cooked prawns or sea food, boiled egg in slices or chopped, fine, slice of smoked salmon, tortilla or cold meats, pickles, cooked prunes, berries, thinly peeled courgette slice
Sprinkle, drizzle or top with
Pesto sauce, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, bacon bits, chopped or a whole walnut, chopped roasted red pepper, grated chocolate, chopped fresh herbs, chia seeds, sprouted seeds, chopped apple, whipped cream, thick curry sauce, crushed crisps, chopped pickles, chutney, honey, syrup or jam, watercress, sprouting seeds
Chefs tips and tricks:
Some of the best flavour combinations are created from a mixture of 50% sweet and 50% salty.
Favorites: Starting with a slice of toasted bread
A smear of Foie gras or pate, a smidgen of fig jam, a sprinkle of sprouted seeds
A slice of goats cheese, a smidgen of pesto sauce, grated chocolate
A smear of cherry jam, thinly sliced ham or Jamon Serrano, half an olive
A smear of hot chocolate sauce, a large cooked prawn, sprinkle of coconut flakes, sprinkle of chilli
Anchovy paste, a slice of beetroot, salted anchovy rolled and placed on top, drizzle of honey
Please leave a comment with your favorite mix of pinchos