A traveler friend had told me about these ‘bruschetta-style tapas with toothpicks stuck in them’ that I just had to try in Spain. She said, “I think they are called peen-chows or pint-oxe or pin-tox, something like that.” Huh? Luckily, a Google search for Spanish ‘pin-tox’ was enough of a clue to find the information I needed.

Pintxos (or pinchos) are small snacks typically served in Spanish bars, particularly popular in Basque country. These finger foods have an array of toppings placed on crunchy bread, spiked with a toothpick and displayed buffet style.

We were strolling through the charming beach town of Sitges when I peeked my head into Lizarran, a pintxos bar. Before deciding to enter for my very first pintxos experience, I watched others partake in order to familiarize myself with the system. I didn’t want to be the one to screw with the system.

It looked easy enough, even for me; grab a plate, pick the snacks you would like to indulge in and return your barren toothpicks to be counted. You are then charged by the number of fruitless skewers you surrender at the register.

I can do this. I am good at choosing…eating…and even counting. Give me a plate.

We started with four snacks, one sangria and a beer. I could have stopped right then, with a mere 4 toothpicks, but what fun would that be? I decided to turn my Spanish “happy hour” into dinner.

I sensibly grabbed course two of my pintxos dinner, a cheese stuffed pimento pepper. As if adding just one more pintxo would complete my full supper quest.

5 Toothpicks down. Over half-way there.

The third course, which would lead to my 8th toothpick, featured chorizo, cured meat and baby eel.

Of course, with my strange food obsession I couldn’t pass up nibbling on a little eel.

Even though eight toothpicks would have indicated the finish line for most people, I went back to pick out a second of my favorite pintxo.

Jam with cheese, pepper with anchovy and chorizo with a padron were all contenders. Actually, if I were being honest, the anchovy one was really not a contestant, it was just a pretty good photo.

In the end the slightly spicy chorizo with charred padron pepper won a second visit to my mouth. Definitely worthy of being toothpick number nine.

Take note of the half eaten baby eel pintxo in the background. Not a fan.

For the record, this experience would have been a ten toothpick venture at the end if the Oreo cookie pintxos weren’t sold out by the time I was ready for dessert. Damn.

9 pintxos. 2 cocktails. 1 memorable new adventure (& bucket list check). €17,90.

Have you had pintxos in Spain before? How many toothpicks did you rack up?