It’s pincho time again! Every year just before Christmas, bars and restaurants in the local town of Laredo hold a competition to create the best tapas (called pinchos). It’s one of my favorite events of the year for reasons I described here. Unfortunately, this year the weather has been absolutely terrible. Last weekend, when it started, we had steady downpours with heavy winds that kept us at home all weekend. Of the eighteen pinchos competing, I was only able to sample six this year. For that, I apologize, dear readers. I’ll try to do better next year.
The full brochure.
The first pincho we tried was at La Marina Company. It was by far the most elaborate and special in a “you’re not going to ever make this at home” sort of way.
La Marina Company: Panacota de frambuesa con anchoas – That’s a cooked cream of raspberries with anchovies.
The presentation was gorgeous, but the combination of flavors was a little too bizarre for our philistine tastes. It came with a little dropper of Modena olive oil. There were too many flavors for my wife’s expertise in anchovy quality to gain any purchase.
A close-up of La Marina Company’s pincho. In general we were pretty displeased not only with the pincho, but also by the service. It took about ten minutes for the pincho to make its way down from the upstairs kitchen. By that time, we’d almost finished our wines.
La Casona: Suprema de buey – This “Ox Supreme” was described in the brochure as “Hamburger of ox meat with onion, egg and cheese”. After La Marina Company, our eyes were immensely disappointed when the tiny little burger rolls were plopped down before us. But wow, had hour eyes deceived us! The first bite had us both moaning with pleasure. The grainy bread, the tender meat, the sweet caramelized onions and the cheese made an excellent combination. Supreme, indeed!
It’s really not much to look at, but I could happily eat a dozen of these little treats.
Cafetería Colón: Hamburguesa de potro a la barbacoa – “What’s potro?”, I asked my wife. “Baby horse”, she replied. Whoa! Well, this is the place that had kangaroo meat in 2009. The ingredients listed were: sweet roll, colt meat, tomato, onion, garlic, pepper, parsley and barbecue sauce.
Like most foods with barbecue sauce, the sauce completely overwhelmed any other flavors, making this a very boring pincho to eat. The potato chips on the side did little to make it any more special. I’d certainly never have guessed that it was foal meat. It was a big let down after the previous hamburger in La Casona.
La Abadía: Destinos Pejinos – Apparently pejino is a local word meaning “a humble resident of coastal Cantabria”, so the title translates to “humble Cantabrian destinations”. Indeed, the primary ingredient was respigos, a local winter delicacy. The ingredients were listed as: pastry toast with cumin and respigos.
Visually, it looks like something your sick cat might leave on the carpet, but it was quite tasty in a humble, healthy sort of way. I didn’t care much for the “pastry toast” on the bottom; it reminded me of a bland granola bar.
The second night, we went to El Concept, but they were out of pinchos, and had enough business so that they didn’t really give a damn. Boo!
El Somera: Guiso de jabalí al chocolate – The name means “wild boar stew with chocolate”, and sure enough, that’s what it was. Unfortunately, for cost saving motives, there were a lot of potatoes, and very few chunks of boar meat. I must say, however, that I was impressed.
The little bowls were lovely. It definitely took second place away from La Albadía’s respigos.
A bore eating boar.
El Guti: Hamburguesita de ternera con salsa de queso y su guarnición – The title means “Little beef hamburger with cheese sauce and garnish”. The meat was fantastic, and the potatoes were fresh out of the frying pan.
The little burger looks insignificant, but the taste was powerful. I think it just barely edged out El Somera for second place.
Of the six pinchos we tried, I would rank them as follows:
- La Casona – Definitely the best tasting pincho of all, despite presentation.
- El Guti – Excellent flavor, though simple presentation.
- El Somera – Wonderfully warm stew, with a slightly sweet chocolate tone.
- La Albadía – Very hearty and healthy, but nothing spectacular.
- Cafetería Colón – Too much sauce, but a decent snack.
- La Marina Company – A lot of work put into preparation, but a very eccentric taste.
So concludes this year’s Pincho Week. I hope to do much better than a 33.3% sample size next year. ¡Hasta entonces! Until then!