Page 0142

140 | squaremeal.co.uk

B

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.

Club talk

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

JOIN

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.

Culinary tradition

"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 ož 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

ež 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 ož 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

THIS QUESTION:

In which Spanish city were

txoko clubs established?

Email yoberonia@squaremeal.co.uke

and address and a daytime telephone

number to: beronia@squaremeal.co.uk

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

our club

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