140 | squaremeal.co.uk
ehind an unmarked door on a quiet
street in Spain's San Sebastián lies
a world of great food, great wine
and great conversation. And it's not
just one door: all over the city, these
gastronomic societies - or txokos
(pronounced "chock-ohs") - play host to
members and their friends who want to come
together to cook, eat, drink and be merry.
On the way to their San Sebastián club,
members might wander through the city's
vibrant marketplace, picking up seasonal
vegetables from stalls groaning with a
kaleidoscope of local produce, the freshest
seafood and dangling legs of Ibérico ham.
At the club, they'll cook alongside members
while enjoying a glass or two of wine.
Txokos came about in the mid-19th century
as a way for men to escape the control of
women, who traditionally ran the households
in Basque society. Even now, most members
of the 119 societies throughout San Sebastián
are men who like to socialise and exchange
news while they enjoy food and drink. There's
only one rule: no talk of politics or religion,
though talk of shared interests and passions
is of course a given.
In fact, it's how one of Spain's favourite
Rioja wines was born. In the 1970s, Basque
families holidayed in La Rioja and a group
of men took time out from the family to get
together in the Riojan town of Ollauri. As
wine fuelled their talk, conversation naturally
turned to the beverage - instead of buying
it from other wineries, what if they bought
some vineyards and made it themselves? And
so Bodegas Beronia was born. Fast forward
to 2015 and some of the original founders are
still involved with the company and still meet
to enjoy txoko in Rioja.
Now, Beronia is working with restaurants
In San Sebastián, people have gathered together in
secret gastronomic societies since the 19th century.
Now these supper clubs have arrived in the UK -
and Beronia Rioja wants you to get involved
across the UK to bring this unique culinary
experience to you, recently taking a group
of restaurateurs to San Sebastián in search
of inspiration. Cristina Garcia Catala, from
Clapham's Lola Rojo and Rosita restaurants,
loved the idea of taking diners to farmers'
markets before returning to the restaurant
to cook. "I didn't realise Beronia was created
in a txoko; people can cook and at the same
time, enjoy some great wines," she says.
"Txokos are a great way for us to connect
with our customers as they are an interactive
experience. As a Spanish restaurant in
London it's always great to see people getting
involved in a long-standing culinary tradition,"
says John Scott of Boqueria in Brixton. "Txoko
is all about great food, great wines, good
company and community. Who doesn't like
showing o their creativity in the kitchen?"
Meanwhile, Bar 44 in Wales has also hosted
a few txokos. Co-owner Owen Morgan says
attendees are now booking them for birthday
celebrations. "We had done gourmet nights
but we wanted to do something with a social,
family-style dining aspect. Beronia told us
about txokos and people love them."
Bar 44 hosts just 20 guests in an
e ort to preserve the essence of
a txoko. Interaction comes in the
form of sharing dishes, carving and
family-style service. Among Morgan's
favourite pairings is braised ox cheek
with Beronia's fruity red Crianza
or Reserva - not forgetting a side of fresh,
homemade bread to mop up the sauce.
The heart of Beronia was born in a txoko
and now Beronia is set to be at the heart of
many txokos across the UK.
"IT'S ALWAYS GREAT TO SEE PEOPLE
GETTING INVOLVED WITH A LONG�
STANDING CULINARY TRADITION"
BE A WINNER WITH BERONIA RIOJA
For a taste of the txokos in your own home, Beronia Rioja is o ering
one lucky reader the chance to win a mixed case of 12 bottles of
Beronia wines, including Viura, Rueda Verdejo, Rosado, Beronia Crianza,
Beronia Reserva and Beronia Gran Reserva. The winner will also receive
a hamper of Spanish treats from specialist supplier San Sebastián Food.
"Both San Sebastián Food and Beronia are committed to the good life:
good friends, good food, and good wine. Together we have brought
this to life in the San Sebastián Food Cooking school and Beronia
Txoko," says Jon Warren at San Sebastián Food.
TO WIN SIMPLY ANSWER
In which Spanish city were
txoko clubs established?
and address and a daytime telephone
number to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for entries: Friday 28 August
Book Basque Country culinary experiences and cooking classes at San Sebastián Food's new cooking school at sansebastianfood.com