San Sebastian, near the start of the Camino del Norte, was established in the Middle Ages and pilgrims would have passed near here on their way to the shrine of St. James. They would surely be surprised, however, by the food served today in its pintxos bars, restaurants, and gastronomy clubs. Here, chefs create award-winning dishes that embody the best of Basque cuisine, a combination of the freshest ingredients from the mountains and the sea—local produce, lamb and beef from nearby farms, and clams and crabs, anchovies and tuna from the Bay of Biscay. You’ll need an invitation to dine at the private gastronomy clubs, but the pintxo bars are open to everyone. Calle 31 de Agosto in the old town has some of the most popular bars and is a good place to start your culinary tour of this gastronomic capital.
The cuisine of the Basque country is just one that you’ll sample on your journey across northern Spain. As you move west, you’ll pass through Cantabria, famous for the quality of the milk from its cows; cheese, from sharp cured ones to the mild queso de nata, is viewed with an almost religious intensity here. Asturias is next heading west, and is known for its slow cooked stews with sparkling cider. Finally you’ll arrive in Galicia, where empanadas and caldo gallego are among the dishes celebrated in some 300 gastronomic festivals held each year. Fortunately, when you are spending your days hiking or biking the Camino, you don’t need to worry about counting calories.
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