Savory Basque Country – France / Spain

One of the best cuisines in the world

2019 Dates TBD

Basque cooking enjoys a reputation for being one of the best cuisines in the world. Please join me in May for this extraordinary culinary and cultural trip to the Basque region and dive into the flavors that will speak to your palette. Indulge in Basque charcuterie, farmstead sheep’s milk cheese, as well as the many outstanding wines of the region. Picnicking on a mountain top and cooking in one of the world’s most reputable cooking schools will be part of your dream come true.

The land of the ancient, free-spirited Basques straddles two nations on the Atlantic Coast — stretching about 100 miles from Bilbao, Spain, north to Bayonne, France. The Basque Country is famous for its food, beaches and modern architecture…and for its feisty, industrious people. It’s also simply beautiful: Bright white chalet-style homes with deep-red and green shutters scatter across lush, rolling hills; the Pyrenees Mountains soar high above the Atlantic and are breathtaking. We will visit both the French and Spanish side some with modern flair other areas so very traditional. The entire region is colorful, fun and welcoming and demands the exploration we will give it.

In the seventies, after researching, innovating and extending the repertoire of traditional Basque cooking and after a first contact with French cuisine, a group of young chefs came up with the idea of the so-called New Basque Cuisine, and today some of the leading chefs create new ways of preparing food, new aromas and combinations, creating an exquisite and creative cuisine. So today, Basque cooking enjoys a reputation for being one of the best cuisines in the world.

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in the charming fishing port of St. Jean De Luz on the French Basque coast by train (Gare St. Jean de Luz) or plane (Biarritz or San Sebastian airports). Check in to the centrally located Hotel La Deviniere, a most elegant and charming Private Hotel owned by the president of the Slow Food Movement in the Basque area. After a walk along the historic port, we’ll dine tonight at a favorite tapas spot featuring fresh locally caught seafood, charcuterie, and local Basque wines.

Day 2 Our private coach picks us up for a full day in the bright green hills of the western Pyrenees, the picturesque Basque Country farms and the villages of Espelette, Ainhoa, Banka, Les Aldudes, and St Jean Pied de Port. This is the Pilgrim’s route that people walk across the mountains and on to Western Spain along le chemin de Saint Jacques. We’ll visit some of the top food producers of the area: Truita de Banka for smoked trout, Pierre Oteiza’s Basque Pig charcuterie, Arda Gasna farmstead sheep’s milk cheese makers and Brana’s Distilleries as well as the Iroulequy Vineyards. Picnic lunch on a mountain top and a wonderful dinner before returning to the coast.

Day 3 What better way to discover an area than by its food? Discover the Basque Country at the Market Hall. Our morning destination where we will shop for a lunch along the seaside. Gateau Basque sheep’s cheese, jambone de Bayonne, farm cider and Txacoli white wines. We’ll explore the historic monuments built for the marriage of Louis the Fourteenth to the Infanta of Spain, Maria Theresa including the beautiful Baroque Church in the heart of St. Jean de Luz. Our afternoon will be free for shopping, a beach visit or wine at a small sidewalk café. We will enjoy a fabulous dinner filled with the freshest seafood of the region. San Sebastian/Donostia

Day 4 This morning we will have a private bus from our accommodation in St Jean de Luz to the 5 Star Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian. Welcome to San Sebastian and the Southern Basque Countries! Voted European Cultural Capital of the year, Donostia (San Sebastian’s Basque name) is a beautiful small city wrapped around the shell shaped bay called La Concha. From our centrally located luxury hotel, you can explore on foot, by bike or taxi to all of the city’s great shopping. If food is the way to the heart, then the kitchen is the way to the soul. We will do it like the Basque.

Our local guides from San Sebastian Food lead us on a morning tour of shopping the markets, which overflow with ripe, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and freshly caught fish. We will stop in on our favorite gourmet shops to taste and select the best San Sebastian has to offer. Then, with baskets full, enter the holy grail, a private Basque Dining Society. Here we will share an aperitif with one of our Basque chefs, speak about the Basque food movement, before heading to a local restaurant to enjoy lunch.

Tonight we will enjoy a Pintxo tasting tour. Pintxos (Basque tapas) line every bar in San Sebastian’s famed Old Town, but knowing where to find the best ones is an art. While it’s hard to have a bad meal in town, knowing exactly where to go for the best, freshest, and most exciting pintxos takes local, insider knowledge. We dive straight into the culinary heart of the city for a night of eating and drinking unlike any you’ve ever experienced.

Day 5 Enjoy the quiet of a Sunday morning and a stroll along la Concha.

We’ll leave for a special lunch in Getaria, south along the picturesque coast and in the afternoon visit the Balenciaga Museum and one of the seaside vineyards that make Txacoli wine. Our lunch will be at one of my favorite restaurants, Kaia Kaipe. The coastal drive is breathtaking as we return to San Sabestian. Our evening will be a stroll across the river to Gros and enjoy drinks and pintxos at Kursaal.

Day 6 Our morning will feature an exciting and educational cooking class at the famous San Sebastian Food Kitchens with a Basque Cooking Class. The sea and the mountains surrounding the Basque capitals are rife with ancient traditions and the freshest of ingredients. In this culinary class journey, you will learn to prepare the famous Basque dishes from both the coastal fishing villages and the mountains. We will bring the history and traditions of Basque Country to life in this hands-on cooking class. Class ends with a full and delicious lunch. Late afternoon is free for shopping or exploring the town. In the evening we will enjoy Cocktails and Tapas at the Maria Christina Bette Davis Bar.

Day 7

Departure at your leisure before checkout. Those wishing to visit the Rioja region and Bilbao will want to stay and make arrangements with Janice for an extended tour.

Janice Thomas

Chef JaniceJanice owns the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay WI, established in 2004, and is known for her personal approach to cooking, creating memories with every recipe. She is the primary cooking instructor at the Savory Spoon and a Culinary Guide in Mexico, France, Italy and China. Traveling with her students gives her creative and imaginative cultural ideas to share with her students year after year. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and Women Chefs of America and has over 25 years of experience in the culinary world. Janice invites you to join her and indulge yourself in an unforgettable experience.

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