Spotlight on talent !Sunday 01 June 2003
Bar Iturrioz : passionately tapas, decidedly gourmet !
Since the opening of the Iturrioz bar in Saint-Sebastian in 1935, there is nary a celebrity from the world of sport, cinema or bull-fighting that has not crossed its threshold. Quoted in all the Spanish guide books for its famous “Pintxos”, it has succeeded in making its tapas into miniature gourmet masterpieces, combining Spanish traditions and borrowings from other, neighbouring cultures. Welcome to the paradise of Eduardo Bretón !The Iturrioz bars, of which one can be found at the foot of the cathedral, and the other, since 2001, in the heart of the old part of the town, a stone’s throw from the Concha beach, are both genuine local institutions. As from the end of the afternoon, a noisy and cheerful crowd starts flooding in, with regulars, staff from local shops, tourists from Spain and from the other side of the Pyrenees all rubbing shoulders. It was in 1988 that Eduardo Bretón took over the helm of the family flagship. “From the beginning, I wanted to rejuvenate the long-standing tradition of tapas, that we call here “Pintxos”. I must have done a good job, because I won the first prize for the most popular Pintxo and for the “best Pintxo in Saint Sebastian”. The menus of the Iturrioz bars carry all the mouth-watering flavours of Spain and Euskadi : stuffed octopus, squid in every shape and form, grilled king-size prawns, shellfish, tuna, bonitos, sardines, anchovies, fabulous spiced Iberian ham, diced tomatoes with garlic or peppers…But for Eduardo, there’s no question of leaving it at that. “My aim is always to raise my recipes to new heights but also to satisfy our customers’ taste for new ideas.
Thanks to Rougié, I was one of the first to introduce duck breast fillet, and Jean-Paul Chevré gave me a wonderful recipe for fresh foie gras escalope, that I cook “a la plancha”. Our customers are discerning connoisseurs and go wild for that sort of dish!”.
AT THE HEART OF A TRUE SOCIAL CULTURE
When Eduardo Breton is asked how he learned to prepare tapas, he immediately answers : “I learned “on the job”, like everybody else here, through hard work and watching what the others were doing. Tapas are a part of our history, our culture. They come from a very old custom, when in bars and taverns a little bit of food was served with the wine to prevent it from ”going straight to the head””. But the real pleasure lies elsewhere. The “tapeo” in Spain is a genuine social ritual, a form of expression for extroverted, welcoming people, who love talking about football, bull fighting, cycling and jai alai. Generally, the Spaniards get together for “tapeo” in groups of 3 or 4. The golden rule : leave your worries at home. “Tapeo”, that we call here “Txikiteo”, is the pleasure of wandering from bar to bar, making conversation with the people you meet, and tasting thousands of appetizing nibbles washed down with a glass of wine or beer. Tapas can be just as filling, delicious and varied as a traditional meal, which is why they are so extraordinarily popular in Spain, of course, but also throughout the world !”.
* Tapeo : eating tapas
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