Friday, October 31, 2008
Further explorations in New York City; dinner at Tia Pol
New York City is one of those rare places on this earth that I will never tire of visiting. While I have never lived there, outside of a few months one summer while in college, I have come to take a certain ownership and pride in this most American of cities. My visits there have taken me from the brunch spots on the good old upper west side (them's my people, after all), to the foodie and hipster strongholds of the east village and Williamsburg, back up to mid-town during the uber consumerist holiday shopping season, further uptown to the contrasting botanical gardens and cement in the Bronx. Down to neighborhoods in various states of gentrification in Brooklyn. From Fort Greene to Greenpoint, Queensbridge to Jamaica, Queens, all the way east to Sir Coxsone Dodd's record shop in East New York, Brooklyn. I've seen a lot, and still feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of the diversity the city has to offer.
This time around, the trip was short, sweet, and centered on the island of Manhattan. A few hours viewing early near eastern and Chinese art at the Met, followed by a stroll down 5th Ave to my mid-town hotel, and another walk over to Chelsea to meet my friend Cam for drinks and tapas at Tia Pol. Co-Owners Heather Belz and Mani Dawes (daughter of noted Spanish wine and food expert Gerry Dawes, as well as owner of the all Spanish wine boutique Tinto Fino) have put together quite an authentic and convincing list of tapas, complemented by a solid all Spanish wine list, with highlights including older 80's vintages of La Rioja Alta's reservas and gran reservas. As it was not to be a splurge type of night, I chose to start off with another highlight of Tia Pol: their sherry list. If you like sherry, or are just curious about tasting a variety of some of the best examples, then you need to head to Tia Pol. Three finos, two manzanilla pasadas (longer aged, richer manzanilla), two manzanillas, amontillados, three (yes, 3!) types of palo cortado. I started with the Maestro Sierra fino, which I have heard a lot about and had not yet tasted. I immediately noticed the extra richness and texture from the older solera the bodega boasts. Probably amongst the best fino sherries I have tasted, full of extra broad mid-palate fruit, complexity and savor, though a bit lacking in the salty tang you might expect. With the tapas, we ordered a bottle of '97 LdH Vina Tondonia Rosado. It's in a great place right now, very bright and red fruited, showing the subtle american oak spice tones which define the best Rioja. While I have gotten used to the taste of wines with an extended aging in older oak, Cam commented on the 'sherry like' flavors she tasted. She loved the wine, but noted the oxidation more than I did. The wine paired well enough with everything, though it seems to have more of an affinity for foods of land rather than those of the sea, at least of the types we were eating. Some of the standout tapas included txipirones en su tinta (meaty, savory squid cooked in their own ink) montaditos de crema de habitas con beyos(little open-faced sandwiches with a spread of fava bean puree and beyos cheese) and navajas y almejas(cockles and razor clams, simmered in a white wine, fish stock and garlic flavored broth).
It was a short, but fun and rewarding trip. I encourage anyone spending time in New York to visit Tia Pol (again, they're in Chelsea, on 205 10th ave betw 22nd + 23rd), as well as to explore part of the city you have not yet visited. In The City, that's the only way to roll.