Pavlov's Pintxos: La Maison du Pata Negra in Bordeaux's Marché de Capucines

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • La Maison du Pata Negra
  • Place des Capucins
  • 33800 Bordeaux, France

Tasting the 'Poultry Grail.' Le Poulet de Bresse at Le Coq Rico in Paris

Can a simple roast chicken be an “object of desire?”  Does the Appellation Controllee system in France mean as much for food as it does for wine?  On a blustery Parisian afternoon, at the ultra-modern Le Coq Rico, the answer became a resounding “YES!”  The restaurant was Le Coq Rico and the chicken was Le Poulet de Bresse A.O.P.

But first, a little history.  If you have basic familiarity with french wines, you’ve probably come across the Appellation Controllee system.  This series of governmental regulations codifies the regional specifications for wine.  Grape varieties, boundaries, processes, and often blends are all strictly controlled.  Technically, it only regulates the place of a wine, but it works as a reasonable indicator of basic quality.  Example: An area that is given specific Grand Cru designation will also have more rigorous production standards and thus higher average quality.

For a special kind of francophile, the discovery that the Appellation system is applied to food products, launches a kind of ‘food quest.’  I am unabashedly that kind francophile.  Le Poulet de Bresse (Chicken of Bresse) had become kind of a Poultry Grail quest. Learn about the Bresse Chicken.

The quest ended at Le Coq Rico which is located just two blocks west of the tourist center of Montmartre at 98 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris.  Their slogan is Le Bistrot des Belles Volailles (The Bistro of Beauty Poultry).  And that is not false advertising!

*Unknown to me at the time was that Le Coq Rico was a restaurant by Antoine Westermann, a chef with Three Michelin Stars (!) who opted to give them back in 2007.  

We arrived soaked from an unseasonably rainy and windy September day and stepped into the ultra modern decor.  In Paris, anything modern is a minor shock, but immediately our noses told us that we were in for something special.  Over in the open kitchen, whole chickens (and a couple ducks) rotated slowly.  Their fat dripped deliciously down onto roasting potatoes.  The aromas filled the room like an aromatic fog.

Without reservations for lunch, we took a seat at the bar.  It was quite warm as we faced the slowly roasting chicken, but that was an incredible experience watching bird and bird leave for other tables.  The entire staff moved with a seriousness and precision that was impressive.

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While our entire Poulet de Bresse was slow roasting for forty minutes, we shared a few entrees.  Pan-fried poultry livers & hearts, fried wings, spiced Cromesquis and Pan-fried duck foie gras with poppy seeds, grapes & nuts.

They were delicious as expected but nothing compared the Poulet de Bresse.  I’d expect a chicken as good as the best I’ve had before, but this was in another galaxy.  There was never a chicken that was so tender and so intensely flavorful.  Even an exceptional bottle of Burgundy was no match for the flavors of this incredible bird.

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We were stuffed like a goose destined for foie gras.  The richness of the entire chicken might have been a better option for four or five people.

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Paris doesn’t lack for incredible restaurants, but Le Coq Rico has secured a place at the top of my must-visit list.  I’d even fall back on an old cliche. “You haven’t really tasted chicken, until your had Le Poulet de Bresse at Le Coq Rico in Paris.”

Photo Credit: David Harper

Photo Credit: David Harper

  • Le Coq Rico
  • 98 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris
  • Telephone : +33 1 42 59 82 89