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Is Basque wine and food the next big thing in Twin Cities dining?

"Pintxo," Spanish for "spike," gets its name from the toothpick that's commonly stabbed through the small snack.

"Pintxo," Spanish for "spike," gets its name from the toothpick that's commonly stabbed through the small snack.

It’s tough keeping up with trends around here these days.

Ramen is trending. No, BBQ is trending. No, tacos are trending! Well, actually, they’re all trending. And here’s another trend to put on your watch list: Basque wine and food.

I might be going out on a bit of a limb by saying so, as this one has just begun peeking around corners, but I really, really love this one, so I don’t mind going out on a limb for it.

It could be argued that the Basque region of Spain takes its food more seriously than any other. That northernmost region also tends to be one of the more unexplored areas of the country. This is not the home of bullfighting and flamenco. It’s the home of txakoli and pintxos.

Txakoli is a wine that’s all but impossible not to like. It’s a little bit effervescent with sparkle, dry as a bone, and fruity but not sweet. It’s also reasonably priced at around $20 retail a bottle, sometimes less.

It’s traditionally poured from a height to aerate the wine, but possibly not as high as the kids at Hola Arepa chose to pour it at their recent celebration of Basque wine and pintxos (see photo).

Rooftop party: Hola Arepa displays the tradition of pouring Txakolina from up high.

Rooftop party: Hola Arepa displays the tradition of pouring Txakolina from up high. Mecca Bos

Pintxos are the Basque answer to tapas, little two-or-three bite delights that you can stand around and eat while sipping txakoli. Hola Arepa’s owners Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem recently returned from a tour of the area and said they visited 15 to 20 establishments daily that specialized in this style of eating. If only we had half that many. 

Typical pintxos ingredients include salt cod, the spanish tortilla omelet, squid ink, sheep’s milk cheeses, asparagus, and jamon. We were recently delighted to find Costa Blanca doing a really stand-up, straight-up Spanish menu (Hector Ruiz' Rincon 38 also takes much of its influence from Spain) including some Txakoli wines. 

Want some? Watch for influences from the area at Costa Blanca, Rincon 38, Gyst Fermentation Bar, Bar La Grassa, Piccolo, and we predict (and hope!) more restaurants coming our way sometime soon. 

Find Txakoli on the wine lists at the Commodore, Corner Table, Costa Blanca, Eastside, Fresca, Sea Change, Meritage, Revival, Saffron, Spoon & Stable, Tilia, Troubadour, Wise Acre, and Monello.