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Boqueria Market and Bar Pinotxo

08.01.2012

Generally speaking, there is a method to my madness. Why did I wait until my last hours in Barcelona to visit the famed Boqueria Market? I know, I probably should have sprinted there straight from the airport. But I’d read that Mondays are the quietest days at the market, and I wanted to wander around at my leisure, taking in the sights, and snapping photos. I also wanted to stop by Bar Pinotxo and eat garbanzos, which are supposedly THE thing to get when you go there.

gorgeous produce

Uncle Ross met up with me Monday and I told him my plan. Ross is generally game for anything, particularly anything involving food (except bananas!), and that afternoon was no exception. We made our way there, and true to what I’d heard, the market was not packed. Busy, yes, but hardly packed. Pinotxo, however, was a different story. The 14-seat bar that comprises the restaurant was stacked two deep when we got there, so we decided to wander around first.

some very expensive ham

We admired rows of hung ham and sausages, tasted chocolate-covered almonds, and ogled produce like teenage boys outside a Victoria’s Secret. I bought a length of smoked cod rod and fresh figs, hard to find delicacies that I adore. I saw tuna cured to an almost jerky-like substance, strange mollusks that looked like alien fingers, and whole sheep heads, skinned, with grotesquely protruding eyeballs. I learned that one could, potentially, go broke buying ham (€190 a kilo roughly equals $115 per pound), and that particularly fine jamón ibéricos are sliced by hand into paper-thin crimson sheets that made run of the mill prosciutto look positively anemic.

what are ewe looking at?/ cod roe

Soon, we decided to have another go at Pinotxo. We arrived just in time to snag the last two seats before the place closed for siesta. Triumph, sort of. Proprietor Juanito Bayen greeted us warmly, dressed up in a bow tie and vest just like in all the photos I’d seen on the internet. “No tengo pescado,” he told us. I have no fish. “Quieren tripa o mejilla?” he asked, pinching his cheeks. Do you want tripe or jowl? We were a bit confused by this encounter. Being Americans, accustomed to getting exactly what we want when we want it, our thick heads couldn’t wrap around the fact that the restaurant was out of fish.

Tiene gambas?” we asked, thinking that perhaps the word fish didn’t extend to shrimp. “No. No tengo nada pescado.”

“Tiene garbanzos?” I asked hopefully. “No,” he said patiently. “Tengo tripa o mejilla.” 

Suddenly we understood. Tripe and jowl weren’t some kind of daily special. They were all the restaurant had left. We chose jowl.

Truth be told, the jowl was unexpectedly good. It came in a rich tomato sauce, studded with raisins and pine nuts and bits of zucchini. Mercifully, the restaurant had bread, and we used bits of it to sop up the sauce. The place was ready to shut down by the time we finished eating, but Bayen offered us the last piece of cheesecake flan, and made us amazing cafe con leches with steamed milk floating on top of the espresso.

I was a bit sad not to get to try the razor clams, garbanzos, and baby squids that the bar is famous for, but I’d had an experience I never would have had otherwise. And when I got home, I discovered that several bloggers have recreated/ printed Bayen’s garbanzo recipe. Perhaps I’ll get to try them after all.

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