American in Spain

Semana del Pincho – Laredo

December 22, 2008
NIKOS1: Nikos

This past week saw the First Annual Tapa Week held in the nearby town of Laredo. Ten restaurants agreed to create one or two unique tapa dishes and serve them all week long for 2€ with young wine, grape juice, or small beer, or 2.50€ for a better wine or larger beer. I am very much in favor of these organized events. It seems to me like a win-win situation for the restaurants, the citizens, and even the local government. It gets people out of their houses and spending money in the local economy. Starting on Friday, I made it our mission to visit, sample, and photograph as many of the entries as we possibly could. It took us all three days, but we ended up sampling eight of the fourteen pinchos available. Semana del Pincho

This is a scan of the front and back of the brochure that lived through three days of partying.

Semana del Pincho

The ten bars and the SMS codes to send to vote.

First we went to a restaurant called El Guti, which is run by one of our friends from salsa dancing. It's good to know the boss at one of the best restaurants in town.

GUTI1: Hamburguesitas de Pescado

GUTI1: El Guti's Hamburguesa de Merluza (Monkfish Hamburger) was very good. Strong fish flavors and a sauce that required bread mopping.

GUTI2: Pimiento Relleno de Zancarrón napado con salsa de verduras

GUTI2: El Guti's stuffed pepper jumped strongly into the lead with an amazing sauce. Stuffed with what, you ask? With zancarrón, of course! That apparently translates to "shank". It's all beef to me.

From El Guti, we went to El Emperador, but they had just sold their last pincho. But we still had a drink there. From there, we went to a new bar called El Sinfo, where we were given the last two pinchos they had prepared that day.

SINFO: Pincho del Sinfo

SINFO: A pretty weak ham + egg + mayo salad open-faced sandwich on oil-drenched fried bread. Disappointing.

On Saturday, we headed out for a night of pinchos, first to El Emperador, where we had been denied the night before. I accidentally ordered "two pinchos" rather than "one of each", because I hadn't noticed that they had two available. While we were getting served, we got a phone call inviting us to a friend's house for dinner, so we only got in one pincho on Saturday.

EMPERADOR1: Tartaleta Emperador

EMPERADOR1: A tasty, if sweet and fatty, entry from El Emperador: foie with an apple puree and vermouth sauce.

On Sunday, the last day of the festival, we made it to four more bars and five more pinchos. First, we went to a restaurant we like called El Curro. The name of this bar is clever because it is a slang word for "work", kind of like "salt mines" is in English. So when your wife asks you, "¿Qué tal en el curro?", or when you say, "Lo siento, cariño, pero tengo que irme al curro.", you can cheekily be referring to the bar.

CURRO1: Navidad

CURRO1: The entry from El Curro was a layered pastry filled with foie, in a port sauce with raisins, drizzled with caramel and dusted with powdered sugar. This was by far the best pincho we tried.

Caramel curls

I loved the pattern of caramel drizzle on my plate.

Two doors down from El Curro is El Charles. The former is very elegant and cleanly decorated. The latter is quite dingy and makes you wonder if they've cleaned the tables lately.

CHARLES: Pimiento de Piquillo Relleno de Brandada de Bacalao

CHARLES: The entry from El Charles was a dish of peppers stuffed with cod fish with a little caviar on top. Very fishy. It was better than we expected from the environment, but still one of the lower contenders in the competition.

Finally we walked across town to Cafeterí­a Nikos for their two pinchos.

NIKOS1: Nikos

NIKOS1: Toasted bread topped with smoked salmon, faux angula eels, a cherry tomato, and caviar. The spices (basil and oregano?) on the tomatoes were lovely, and the fishy middle was very good.

NIKOS2: El De Toda La Vida

NIKOS2: A pastry cup filled with crab, tuna, onion, and pink sauce. Good, but nothing special.

Later, we went to Cafeterí­a Berna, but they were serving their last pinchos when we arrived, so we ordered a plate of calamari to share, thus removing any need for lunch upon returning home. The calamari was excellent and the pinchos we saw had an excellent presentation, so Cafeterí­a Berna might have ranked highly.

Wine Shadows

That's it. The party's over.

Our official awards are as follows:

Bronze metal: NIKOS1 Silver metal: GUTI2 Gold metal: CURRO1

You can follow the official voting on the Semana del Pincho website. We had a great time and are looking forward to participating next year. Hopefully everyone will do a better job of estimating demand and will prepare enough to last each day. It's very disappointing to hear that you just missed the last one.