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Monday, April 20, 2015

XVII Semana del Pincho de Navarra

Synopsis: I run into a bar last week to grab a quick pintxo and I see a pamphlet on the counter for a festival of pintxo taste testing, happening all over Navarra, with most of the participants being in Pamplona, called Semana Del Pincho de Navarra. Along with my "Pintxo Pals" we hit the streets on a few different days, to try as many as we can of the 76 bars/restaurants participating. 

Below, I only describe the dish, but a lot of them have clever names in Spanish. For more information on the event, and the original names, check out their website. Three reviews. 

All dishes are rated using the Timchelin 5-star system.

Day 1: Three reviews. 

Pintxo Pals

Bar Otano: Roast beef with crunchy zucchini and a cheese and seafood (bacalao?) lasagna
3 stars

Bar Don Hilaríon: Bacalao on a green pepper, topped with onions; medium rare steak on a red pepper; walnuts on top of apple membrillo (like solid jelly) on top of sheep cheese
4 stars

Bar Gaucho: Fish eggs in some cream in a small crust; duck liver and artichoke heart in a cheese sauce
5 stars (Today's winner)
Thoughts: I really like the duck liver and cheese soup with artichoke. I was impressed with the food and it was all made to order, unlike the traditional pintxo sitting out getting cold all day.

Day 2: Six reviews.

Restaurante Ñam: Fluffy egg with potatoes, ham sprinkled on top, with tomato sauce
4 stars

We even got a bit of history about the Almuercico 6 de Julio

Bar Iru: Raw egg cocktail with ham and tomato 
3 stars

Bar Iru: Pig blood and rice with nuts and sheep cheese
3 stars

Cafe Iruña: Pig cheek in cheese sauce with garnish, pork rinds and tomato
5 stars

Casino Eslava: Carpaccio with pistachio garnish and mushrooms (ew)
2 stars

La Cocina de Alex Múgica: Three types of bean pastries
5 stars (Today's winner)

Pintxo Pals having a good time in Alex's Kitchen

Bar Txoko: Smoked bacalao with creamed avocado, coffee foam, and fish paste
1 star

Bar Kiosko: Wafers with white chocolate and mango filling, topped with pistachios
4 stars

Thoughts: Today we ate a lot and it was pretty good. La Cocina de  Alex Múgica was the nicest decorated restaurant I've seen in Pamplona, plus the food was great. Clearly, I did not like the pintxo at Bar Txoko (1 star); I didn't even finish the fish paste! The dessert pintxo at Bar Kiosko was a great finish for the day. It was tough picking today's winner, but La Cocina de Alex Múrgica edged out Cafe Iruña, based on better atmosphere and wine.

Day 3: Four reviews.

Infiltrating the mafia

Bar Restaurante La Mafia Se Siente a la Mesa: Warm risotto topped with chilled liver
5 stars (Today's winner)

Bar Restaurante La Mafia Se Siente a la Mesa: Chicken and basil samosas with tomato and bean sprouts
5 stars

Bar La Botería: Pig knuckle and pig cheek, wrapped in bacon, and topped with apple-garbanzo-liver sauce and dry-cured ham
2 stars

Bar Moka: Shredded pork with tomato sauce, rosemary, and fish eggs, with baked potatoes and  dill
4 stars

Bar Restaurante 99: Turkey and veggie egg roll on tomato sauce, topped with cheese
4 stars

Emilito literally finished his entire plate 3 seconds after this photo was taken

Thoughts: Due to schedule differences with my Pintxo Pals, I braved the first three tastings alone today, while waiting for Emilito to finish basketball practice. La Mafia Se Siente a la Mesa gave me a free wine with my meal, in addition to having the most delicious pintxo of the day. Then I took Emilito with me to the last bar, all the way in Noáin. I didn't realize it was so far away, but we committed and it was worth it.

Day 4: One review.

Bar Restaurante Le Mans: Five layers of sauce - olive oil and onion, cheese, mixed veggies, tapenade, and red peppers. Accompanied by a mushroom (ew) and cheese pastry
1 star

Made it a family affair. Again, Emilito finished his plate, plus two more in less than one minute

Thoughts: So, though I didn't realize at first, Bar Le Mans just so happens to be the bar where I first saw the pamphlet for the Semana del Pincho. Unfortunately I was not impressed with their entry this year. No winner today.

Day 5: Six reviews.

Bar Letyana: Cheese lasaña with spinach pasta, topped with honey and ham
5 stars 
(Today's winner)

Chez Evaristo: Chicken and egg with sprouts...

...add chicken broth, and now its a soup
4 stars

Pintxo Pals welcome their newest member, Ines

Bar Fitero: Toast topped with turkey, marmalade, and spinach
4 stars

Restaurante El Chupinazo: Grilled duck on a bed of cous cous, topped with cream of mushroom (ew)
4 stars

El Patio de Las Comedias: Turkey with hamhock meat, drizzled with gravy
4 stars

Bahía Food & Club: Bacalao, beef, cheese, and basil baked inside a bread boat. Served with a rosada wine
3 stars 

Thoughts: Today was a star-studded day! Many of the dishes were delightful, and with the added company of Ines, it was an enjoyable experience. The duck from El Chupinazo was absolutely delicious, and would have been my favorite were it not ruined by mushroom sauce. Bar Letyana's lasaña with honey takes home the gold!

Bonus: Greg's solo review.

Cafeteria Restaurante Obas
- Cheek of pig (iberico)
- Iberico ham - high quality pork meat
- Vegetables
- Bottom green drink: green peas with mint
Cubo de Pulpo (Octopus cube):
- Potato
- Gelatin made of pepper and tomato
- Mayonnaise with pepper
- Deep fried vegetable

Thoughts: Cone was rich deliciousness with a refreshing mint drink to follow it down. The octopus on the other hand was on the bland side of life, unique mainly for its shape, not flavour. Overall experience: 7.5/10

Final Thoughts: 
Tim - I was able to go to 20 places and try 28 pintxos, and I thoroughly enjoyed the event and the food. The best part of all of this is that most of the bars/restaurants were within walking distance of one another, but far enough that you can work up an appetite between tastings, so you could eat more! All of them were priced at 2,40€, and though only one came with a drink, it was still a nice and inexpensive way to partake in a myriad of local delicacies. 

From the website, there was only one pintxo that really I wanted to try that I didn't get to - "Orgasmitron: The sensual history of a Navarra steak touched by the flavors of the world" at La Sala Bar Restaurante. Any dish with a name like that has to be tried! If I had to pick the winner of Semana del Pincho, it was La Mafia Se Siente a la Mesa, with two delicious 5-star pintxos and a free wine, plus a nice atmosphere and decorum. (And I'm not saying that because I owe the mob money) 

Suzana - Visiting XVII Semana del Pincho de Navarra with Tim and Greg was very funny and exciting for me. Funny because of having a lot of laughs with these great guys, and exciting because of trying pinchos in a different way. Before I was always trying standard pinchos on Juevintxo or by the way in the bars, but this time was something special; sophisticated servings, new, different, rich flavors, colors and shapes that directly took over me. Worth doing! I hope we keep this as our tradition. My favorite was Bar Gaucho.

Greg - Once a year bars throughout Navarra take the delicacy of pintxos to the next level. Although always small, delicious snacks to go perfectly with a wine or beer, during this week bars compete and lift up the art of pintxo-making to the next level of taste, subtlety, presentation and, in rare cases, sophisticated perfection… Puts you in the shoes of what it would be like to be a high brow delicacy food connoisseur for a week - all for only 2.40€ a pop! The winner in my book was Bar Letyana.

Location: Pamplona, Navarre, Spain


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