Food: The town of Tolosa is famous for their beans
Address: Paseo San Francisco 4 (1st Floor), 20400 Tolosa [Guipúzcoa], Spain
Phone Number: +34 943 652 941
What I paid: xx € (tasting menu, including water and wine)
Visited: June 5, 2014
Tolosa is a town situated on the bank of the river Oria that has a great historical importance.
The urban center is situated on a plateau formed in union by the rivers Oria, Araxes and Berastegi, and can be divided in to two main areas; the medieval center and the new “ensanche”. Narrow streets, separated by many squares make up the old quarters. The parish church of Santa María, dating back to the 17th century, is one of the main samples of the Basque Gothic.
Babarrunak is Basque for beans, and nowhere are beans more adored for than in the town of Tolosa. Tolosa beans (Alubias de Tolosa or Tolosako Babarrunak in Basque) have been famous for many hundred years and also been traded on a weekly market in the town since 1,256 AD. The former capital of Gipuzkoa was an important passage for traders and travelers from neighboring provinces heading for the ports of the Bay of Biscay (including France) and the reputation of the high quality beans spread.
Alubias de Tolosa is a small-refined bean where the color can range from dark purple to black. The Tolosa bean originates from the Phaseolus Volubilis species. The bean is oval shaped, very soft and pulpy, and its color is dark purple, almost black. Its diameter varies between 0.5 and 1.5 cm, depending on the variety. The Tolosa bean has a light skin and is buttery on the palate. The Tolosa bean was in 1999 granted the Kalitatea mark (Basque Food Quality Label) and this in regards to both its quality and its cultivation method (maintaining ancestral techniques and respect for the natural environment) . On the markets it is offered in canvas sacks or as pre-cooked in glass jars.
Restaurant Frontón is the mecca of beans in Tolosa and was also my reason for visiting the town. The restaurant is located close to a timeworn Basque pelota (pilota) court. Pelota is the name of a court sport played with a ball using one’s hand, a racket, a wooden bat or a basket, against a wall. This wall is called Fronton (Spanish: frontón) and is also what has given name to the restaurant.
I had ate and drank a lot on my Basque and Rioja trip before I came to Frontón so I was already before the first food item already quite full… That said, I nevertheless wanted to try as many regional products as possible.
The bigger menu was definitely not an option this lunch (I also had dinner at Elkano scheduled the same day). A smaller menu named “The Menu of Frontón de Tolosa” was my choice this lunch. However, the “main attraction”, namely the beans, were not on this menu so I asked to have the fish substituted against the beans.
But the language barrier resulted in that I instead got the sautéed spring vegetables from the Zerkausi market substituted, a dish I really wanted to have…
Anyway, this is what I ended up eating:
Anchovy, tomato, and herb salad:
The traditional Tolosa black beans, served with cabbage, pickled guindilla peppers from Ibarra, pork-belly fat, and traditional black pudding from Beasain:
Fried cod with caramelized onions:
Goya-label steak with Tolosa-style peppers:
Idiazabal sheep’s milk cheese from Martín-Txiki farmhouse in Montezuke (no picture).
Traditional Tolosa sweets: almond and butter cookies, egg yolk and sugar cake (no picture).
In summary: All beans are not equal, and it applies to both its appearance but mainly its taste. If you like beans, or think you do not like it … this is the place for you!