Thursday, October 15, 2009

More tongue?

When I moved to Bakersfield 3 years ago, a lot of things took a lot of getting used to. One of the big things was the mid-west feel, from the politics to the small town mentality to the country music...but it's also introduced me to things I wouldn't have encountered otherwise. My Taylor Swift obsession, for example. Though really, how can I not be enamored with her? She's freaking adorable, tall like me, and her lyrics take me back to high school. Love.

But one of the most surprising things I discovered here is Basque food. The Basque people fascinate me. From what I understand (please don't reference me on Wiki), they are a community that live throughout the mountains between Spain and France, and therefore don't really claim a nationality. They like to herd sheep. They love wine. They eat a LOT of pickled tongue. And for some reason, they tend to take decorating advice from someone's 90 year old country grandma. I know all of this because the French Basque settled here many years ago, and have opened a handful of restaurants since.

Basque places are great for eating with a ton of people...the food is served family style, and it's course after course of food, intermixed with tons of red table wine.

I once asked the bartender at the most 'traditional' Basque place in town what their table wine was...he laughed and told me they just mix whatever Charles Shaw bottles they have around. Um, awesome.

So here's the normal rundown at pretty much any of the Basque places. You start with a 'set-up' of sides, which are brought out one or two at a time. And they'll bring you as much as you can eat.

First, you start with cabbage soup, beans, and salsa, which most people mix together and eat with crusty french bread (you can always tell when I've been to Basque food, cause I'm scratching myself for a week afterward. I can't help but cheat there. The bread is too good.) Then you get green salad, with an Italian-y dressing, followed by pickled tongue (the husband always has to order more, even though he eats my portion), marinated tomatoes or other veggie in the same dressing, french fries, and often some sort of pasta or warm veggie. The entree generally comes out somewhere between the fries and whatever else they decide to bring you that night.

I'd really be fine not ordering an entree at all, cause I'm always full by the time it comes out. Plus everything-from duck to shrimp to lamb- is usually served with butter and/or cream sauce, and that's not exactly what I need after a night of wine and french fries.

Which is of course why last night we ordered the calamari steaks with lemon caper butter cream sauce. We split it...if that helps.

I wanted to take pics, but Benji's (my fave of the Basque places, btw) is kinda dark, and we were with a big group of older people who gave me the distinct impression that the idea of a blog would need more explaining than I was in the mood to give. time, I promise.

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