Home to one of Europe's oldest, most mysterious peoples, the Basque country spans across the southwestern corner of France and a broad portion of northern Spain. For years, many Basques immigrated to the New World, usually claiming the lonely, nomadic existence of sheepherders, tending massive flocks across the frigid mountains and windswept plains of the American West.
Today, throughout the West, a smattering of restaurants keeps frontier Basque food culture alive—primarily, in northern Nevada, southern Idaho, and California's Central Valley. Establishments such as The Star Hotel in Elko, Nev., and the Martin Hotel in Winnemucca, Nev., continue to serve classic Basque fare after a century or more of operation.
Basque food in America remains hearty and traditional, a testament to the difficult times new immigrants faced. Even now, Basque-American restaurants typically seat diners at long tables, often with people they don't know, while heaping portions are served family-style, course after satisfying course. Whether it's Boise or Bilbao, one thing's for certain: When Basque food is served, generosity at the table knows no bounds.
By Charles Smothermon. Recipes by Tara McElhose-Eiguren of the Basque Market in Boise, Idaho, and Charles Smothermon.