It is pintxos of foie gras, seared duck breast, and jamon iberico at an amazing market stall in Bordeaux.
When the bell chimed, the frenchmen moved quickly. The petite glasses of Bordeaux Clairet dropped to the table, conversation stopped, and the tiny market restaurant was filled with sounds of chairs being pushed backwards. The bell meant that the methodical chefs of La Maison du Pata Negra were releasing their newest hot Pintxos. Foie Gras or seared Duck Breast?
Either way, I was scrambling to that counter as well.
You may not immediately know why I say "Pintxos" instead of the more common "Tapas." Other than the obvious joke with alliteration, pintxo (the basque word) means a tapas held in place with a toothpick. Which is, I will agree, a very handy way to present these - sometimes messy - bites of deliciousness. While you won't see toothpick in most of the pictures, rest assured that they were present.
La Maison du Pata Negra - named for the superb Jamon Iberico of Spain - pulsates with energy that surpasses that of the surrounding Marché des Capucins in Bordeaux, France. You could probably guess that a food market in a southern french city would have a selection of amazing stalls to eat at, as is indeed the case, but this place stood out.
For one thing, there was a line for the few small tables on offer. Many people were eating while standing up, something that should have been 'interdit' for the French. The faces were lit with a kind of radiant excitement that the French reserve for beautiful women, and exceptional meals.
The game here is simple. The pintxos are laid out on little plates and you select what you want, taking it directly with the colored toothpicks. Each color represents a different price ranging from approx 2-5 euros each. At the end of the meal, what you pay is based on the number of sticks you have collected. It is easy to feast here for about the same price as a 'menu du jour' in a mediocre tourist restaurant elsewhere.
An award on the wall - easy to miss in the excitement - shows that La Maison du Pata Negra has received honors by the French government for their support and protection of the Jamon Iberico. That Pata Negra does influence most of the pintxos that are available, but there are other options available. However, I wouldn't come to a place called the House of Famous Ham, if I didn't want to eat said Ham.
There is perhaps no better place than France to sit for a leisurely lunch. I recommend that experience whole-heartedly, but a loud, chaotic, market stall has its own set of pleasures. The flavors, the aromas, the decadence of La Maison du Pata Negra make this a hidden gem that is far from the tourist trail.
La Maison du Pata Negra
Place des Capucins
33800 Bordeaux, France