So let’s start with ‘chocolate con churros’. This is the ultimate comfort food, the national sugary fatty vice: a glass of thick, thick, hot chocolate served with deep-fried batter-sticks – a bit like crunchy pancakes. Apparently usually eaten for breakfast or late at night, but patently ideal for any time of day when you might be feeling peckish and/or bedraggled. (Note the picture below in which the cafe proudly announces that it is available all day - 'todo el dia'.)We have found it particularly good on the way home from some expedition on a damp autumn or winter evening, (or even summer, for that matter: we have yet to test the spring).
- The ‘carolina’ is particular to Bilbao, apparently. It’s a cone-shaped soft meringue with a chocolate and egg coating on a pastry base:
- Jesuita cakes (below left) are not local to here but are very popular: puff pastry and meringue... and various other puff-pastry type things like this apple tart - 'tarta de manzana' (below left):
The most famous one is ‘turron’ – which we might call nougat or nut crunch or nut paste, depending on what kind of ‘turron’ it is. Turron is big at Christmas – you eat it after the big Christmas meal, which takes place on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. Round the corner from us is a quaint old ‘turroneria’ which sells it – Turroneria Ivanez:
Of the three, the most extraordinary one – apparently generally seen as the best in Bilbao – is called ‘Nossi-Be’, and it is extraordinary because in addition to all the normal flavours, you can have ‘bacalao al pil-pil’ (salted cod) ice cream and ‘txipirones en su tinta’ (squid in its black ink) ice cream. This is Heston Blumenthal territory, methinks. But I have never seen anyone eating either of them.
I can, however, recommend their ‘chocolate and chilli’ ice cream, and their ‘Idiazabal cheese with membrillo and walnuts’.