'Txotx': A Basque tradition in Philly
Philadelphians had the opportunity to experience a cultural and gastronomic tradition from the Basque Country in Spain, featuring traditional ciders and selected cuts of ham.
Tapas bar and restaurant Tinto hosted “¡Txotx!" (pronounced "Choach") a tradition celebrated in “Sadartodegis” or cider houses upon the tapping of a fresh barrel of cider.
"'Txotx' in itself takes place at the end of the harvest season for cider. This is a big festival with suckling pig, ham and just ‘throwing’ ciders all night long," said Natasha Mtshali-Biron, general manager at Tinto. "It’s the end of the fall and we want to get ready for the winter, it is kind of a nice way to tie the ribbon at the end of the season. And because we are Basque we want to celebrate that too."
Mtshali-Biron said that although this is the first year the restaurant hosts this event, she hopes it will become an annual tradition in Philadelphia.
"Basque cuisine is such a passionate and intimate cuisine. The way the cider is made, not many Americans appreciate it and this event is a great way to educate our guests while they enjoy it as well," Mtshali-Biron said.
“Tinto” currently offers five types of cider in its menu. For the tasting event, people enjoyed ciders from the region of Asturias, in Spain, starting with "Trabanco" Cosecha Propia — made from native Asturian apples and indigenous yeasts.
Among the Basque ciders was "Isastegi Sagardo Naturala,” traditionally fermented in “kupelas” (large, old, oak cider barrels) boasting malted apple notes and a crisp finish.
The restaurant doesn’t only features Basque ciders from Spain. Not too sweet but still fun to pour in the glass, "Txopinondo" cider comes from the Basque Country in France, offering a moderate farmhouse character, with a dry and fruity taste.
To accompany the cider-tasting, Tinto chefs provided an array of cheeses, ‘pinchos’ and traditional tapas.
The main course of the night were two suckling pigs and the tasting of a Jamón Ibérico de Bellota provided by Cinco Jotas (5J), one of the most storied hams in the world. This distinctive ham is produced from only pure bred Ibérico acorn-fed pork raised in ideal, free-range conditions earning the official designation of Bellota (Spanish for acorn).
What is the Txotx?
A real ritual — and also a community celebration — “Txotx” is technically the action of tapping the ‘kupela’ (barrel) and letting out a stream of cider for people to approach and fill their glasses.
It is said that the tradition originated in the ancient traditions of buyers, who tasted the cider directly from the “kupela” (barrel), choosing the ones they liked to purchase.
"This private act eventually became what it is today (in Spain), an event that begins in January and ends in May," Directoalpaladar.com reported.