08.31.2009 - 08.31.2009
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Take advantage of opportunities. So when five friends invaded my hostel room and invited me to join them for a dinner experience at a local San Sebastian cider house, I was all in.
Two cabs took us out of town and into the winding hills. We pulled up to a three-story residential homestead with an elderly woman hanging out of the front window. Cab one collected his money and was off. Cab two motioned that the cider house was actually the next property up. It was closed. Uh-oh. We were a long way from town, a cab short and had no clue of what to do.
Cab driver number two came to the rescue. Instead of leaving us for the birds, he turned to me (the group translator) and discussed our options. We needed another cider house. So he turned and called the elderly woman back to her window, like a twisted moment from a Shakespeare saga, and got the scoop. There was another one 10 minutes away.
But one cab could only fit four of our six. No worries. This cabbie was all about improvisation. The trunk opened and one Aussie and one Swede voluntarily made the comfort sacrifice. Unbelievable.
And just like the old lady had advised, the next cider house was open. A few smokers lingered outside the door as we rescued the boys from the back of the cab. We had arrived in style. High fives all around for our cabbie and his dedication to see that we got to our destination - safe and sound. It was still early, but the laughs were already in full effect. Cider time.
As the hostess/waitress showed us to our table, she made sure we each grabbed our own drinking vessel from the crate near the kitchen. This was a home-style kind of place. A do-it-yourself establishment. Options were limited. Menus nowhere to be seen. Plates non-existent. And if you were thirsty, you just made your way to the back with glass in hand.
We struggled at first with the language barrier (my Spanish only got us so far), but after the set-menu was set, we moseyed on into the cider rooms, thirsty as can be. Three temperature controlled holding cells contained 40 or so vats fermenting to maturity. We bounced from one room to the next, sampling different ciders as our personal vat 'pour-er' shot streams of alcoholic apple juice into our glasses. This was an art form. A technique that needed perfecting.
There was plenty of time, and cider, for practicing. One after another, we caught the cider from just above the epoxied green floor and walked it up, filling our glasses to about half full. The angle of the glass was key, we learned, allowing the cider to hit the inside of the glass flat and hard, causing a spray of juice up your arm along with adding a refreshing fizz to your drink. In between 'practice' rounds, we found time to eat.
Bread and chorizo came first, followed by catfish omelets, baked catfish and half of a cow (still mooing). It was served family-style and we shared it straight from the serving plates with knife and fork in hand. It got messy and good. Then, to finish it off, whole walnuts (still needing cracked), chunks of Parmesan cheese and slices of a thick cranberry gelatin went down the hatch.
We mingled with local cider goers, befriended our 'pour-er', demolished our meal and closed the place down. It was an interactive dinner that had an unusual start and a rousing end. Another well-worth-it experience to behold and a must-do in Basque country.