Thursday, August 30, 2007

Our first trip to Tia Pol (205 Tenth Ave, near 23rd street)

Sometimes I wonder how it is that I spend the majority of my waking hours thinking about my next meal- where I will eat, what I will eat, who I will eat it with, that it sometimes amazes me that I can manage to put one foot in front of the other. Most of the time, of course, it is on my way to the next meal. I often take a moment to be so thankful that there are at least three in a day, so that there are at least that many opportunities to focus on the next one…

On one of my most stressful work-days in the last several months, I kept focusing on the meal I could have with my boyfriend after the dreadful day came to a close. As I often do, I obsessively looked at all of the websites that would deem whether they thought Tia Pol was worth the “trek” to Tenth Ave. in 20 degree weather, and indeed they thought it was. A relatively small, regional Spanish tapas bar, Tia Pol is consistently ranked as one of the better places for tapas in NYC. It was good enough for me, and the lure of the artichokes and Manchego cheese wrapped in Serrano ham had been tempting me all day. After almost losing my (already limited) breath to whether or not we wouldget there in time for a seat at the bar, we arrived without drama to be one of the first ones in the restaurant. We decided to try one white wine and one red wine and became incredibly enamored with the red (a spicy Rioja) as the night went on. My boyfriend adores seafood, particularly clams, so we decided to go with the steamed cockles and razor clams (navajas y almejas, $7). They were luscious—sautéed in garlic, olive oil, white wine, and parsley – the razor clams were amazingly tender and brought to mind the wonderful experiences that I have had lately with grilled octopus—really tender and flavorful—and it made me wonder whether razor clams would be as good with the same charred flavor. Perhaps if I am ever lucky enough to have a Hibatchi (I am working on it), I will marinate some razor clams, quickly grill them and serve them with some crusty bread and olive oil.

I digress.

Back to our night at Tia Pol—at the same time that the clams were served with crusty bread (which went magnificently with the broth from the clams) our order of patatas braves ($5) with spicy aioli also arrived. I am normally not a big fan of potatoes, with the exception of French fries, and my mother’s mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. The patatas braves were small, diced irregularly, golden, and crispy, but drenched in the aioli. The aioli had the perfect balance of tartness and spice to offset its richness, but we would have preferred it on the side. I never like to deter from the crispiness of the potatoes (and these actually bordered on amber-hued perfection). I generally feel overwhelmed by too many potatoes, so this is really an ideal dish for parties of three or more people. Unfortunately, the potatoes filled us up, so I was not able to dabble in as many dishes as I would have liked, but we did move on tothe artichokes and Manchego cheese wrapped in Serrano ham ($9) that I had been dreaming about. After the potatoes, I had to be sure that I would have room for this tantalizing dish. Unfortunately, the dish was not as balanced as I had hoped. As great as the Serrano ham was (just the right amount of salt and smokiness), the filling was too thickly wrapped in ham—I could not taste the artichoke and Manchego, and quite frankly it made me sad. I love artichoke, more than I probably should, and Manchego is right up there in thetop ten of cheeses (I love that it comes from La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote.) With the right ratio of meat to filling, this could have been a great dish, but that will just give me another excuse to come back and try the dish one more time.

After the patatas bravas, we only had room for one more taste. I decided on the chorizo and melted chocolate on crusty bread ($3.50/7). I somehow just cannot resist the lure of chocolate and cured meats together. Actually, I don’t think I have ever tasted that pairing and much to my detriment! The combination of the salty paprika-spiced chorizo with the bittersweet melted chocolate underneath is something I can still taste more than a week later. The warmth of the creamy chocolate tinged with the salt from the chorizo reminded me of how much I love dark chocolate caramels with sea salt (my favorite being Christopher Elbow’s artisan caramels: www.elbowchocolates.com). As with most of the foods I find most exciting, they taste somehow both like nothing else I have ever had and yet still echo something treasured and familiar. After we finished the last dish, we turned around to notice that the restaurant had become packed with people itching to take our place. As much I love restaurants teeming with energy, I am generally ready to leave when places become wall to wall with people. We gratefully slipped out into the frigid night, where I noticed that my breath had become slow and deep— thanks to the small wonders of Tia Pol.

1 comment:

blair said...

Dearest Crumbcatcher:

Congratulations on invading the world of semi-professional blogging! Despite your Herculaian efforts my plans remain unchanged. I invite you to find my next fendish clue before Gotham crumbles.

The Joker