Bay Area native Ian Begg has traveled around the world, cooking in countries across Europe. Now, he has brought those experiences back with him, in his dishes at Txoko.

Since taking over the venerable former Enrico’s space in North Beach, Begg has has helped build a casual dining atmosphere with his sophisticated menu featuring influences from Basque and Spanish cooking.

“A lot of the cooking in that area of Spain is based on pintxos – which are like personalized tapas. Rather than something that is a full dish, they are bite-sized items that are served in restaurants,” Begg said. “I wanted the menu to match some of what I have experienced in Europe, mixing in some of the ingredients from the Bay Area.”

Begg and co-owner Ryan Maxey were looking to create more than just another North Beach restaurant. “When we visited Spain, there were so many great restaurants in small, concentrated areas. But we also saw a lot of similarities to the Bay Area. So at Txoko, we have spots at the bar and on the patio that are a bit more casual, or tables in the dining room where guests can sit and have a nice, relaxed meal. It’s also a spot where we’ve incorporated music and a great bar program. Guests can come in just for a quick bite and drink. It really has a lot of European sensibilities to it.”

Although not all the seafood is the same that can be found in Basque regions, Begg said much of the produce, hams, cheeses and meats are readily accessible here in the Bay Area. The menu rarely goes through a major overhaul; usually, one or two dishes may change a week, depending on what is available at local markets. “We always want to create interesting and approachable feed that is affordable as well. Staples on the menu include the bone-in ribeye, mushroom empanada and boquerones. Those items will probably never change.”

Begg said for the fall and winter, he’s especially excited about working with apples, creating Basque ciders to pair with the menu, Nantucket scallops and mushrooms and other foraged products. Expect more creative goodness from Begg at Txoko throughout the holiday season.

And here’s the recipe for one of his staple dishes:

Bocadillo de Boquerones Recipe

1t. extra virgin olive oil

2 slices pain de mie (3/8″)

1 quail egg

1 T. fresh goat’s cheese

3 slices mutsu apple

1t. minced fin herbs (tarragon, chive, parsley, & chervil)

4-6 fillets of boquerones (marinated white anchovies)

salt & piment de espelette

Method:  Using a bottle cap or a 3/4″ ring cutter, punch out the center of one of the slices of pain de mie.  In a large nonstick saute pan, over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and begin to toast the first sides of the pain de mie slices.  When golden brown flip over and add the cracked quail egg to the 3/4″ hole.  Season the egg with salt and piment de espelette.   Add the fresh goat’s cheese to the other slice and begin layering the rest of the ingredients on top of the cheese.  When the cheese is warm and the quail egg white is set remove the two slices and assemble the sandwich with the quail egg on top.  Serve warm.

Txoko is located at 504 Broadway Street in San Francisco.



Photo Credit (Main): Heather McAlister, Txoko