In addition to our privileged restaurant experience (see previous post), the Basque Country provided us with many other tasting opportunities. From Bayonne we drove deeper and deeper into the wild countryside, the mountains providing a dramatic background. We arrived in Saint Pée sur Nivelle, a tiny town made up of a few stereotypically Basque houses (their Red and Green nationalist colours on display from all angles) which was an official AOC town of the Basque Piment d’Espelette… A local speciality perfectly fitting for the region due to its deep red colour. This Basque delicacy has gradually replaced black pepper on tables of the region and it has certainly cropped up in many of the dishes we have tasted on our trip, especially in the North of Spain! We bought a jar each to take home to add an extra kick to our recipes back in England.
The following day took us back up to the bourgeois seaside town of Biarritz with a simultaneous upmarket and surfer vibe, a balance hard to come across! After strolling along the peaceful promenade in the setting sun, playing out ‘Stand by Me’ and subtly singing along; we stopped in Patisserie Parie where we purchased a Gateau Basque. I must admit that we only bought this because friends had recommended it and because it was a regional speciality, yet we were rather sceptic as to whether we would enjoy it. To say we were ‘scared’ of trying a cake is complètement fou (crazy) yet we did not know what texture or consistency to expect. After leaving it for a couple of hours we decided to brave it with a cup of tea (adding an English touch!) and we were very pleasantly surprised. We came to the conclusion that it was similar to a scone with cherry jam and we enjoyed it so much that we bought another one on the next stop!
Back to Bayonne for our final Basque stop where we stumbled upon a Bayonne Ham talk and tasting. The little workshop attached to the Charcutier was full of old French folk in berets, highlighting the rareness of two girls of our age travelling in this nature. We subtly slipped in and listened to the very interesting talk which unfortunately ended promptly. However, upon discovering that we were English, the owner decided that we couldn’t come all that way without receiving a private tour of the salting and drying rooms. Wonderful! Hard to beat the Spanish Jamon Iberico that we were accustomed to in Spain (expensive tastes!) but this French equivalent was a good attempt.
Before heading back to the car we went in search of a hot chocolate: Bayonne is the acclaimed French capital of chocolate after all! We entered Atelier du Chocolat, a boutique chocolatier with stores all over France, but with its source in Bayonne, and asked for two chocolats chauds. The lady whipped them up (I say this yet it was a rather lengthy and delicate process) and asked us to choose a type of chocolate to melt in. We chose piment d’Espelette as we were in the Basque Country and it added a perfect kick to the silky smooth chocolate drink.
A region packed full of goodness, on to Toulouse!