I’m visiting my family in New York this week, which of course means that I’m indulging in lots of good food and wine. My first meal upon arrival was grilled lobster and potato gratin, something that I look forward to every summer when I make the trip back East. And no trip would be complete without a BBQ on my parents deck; burgers, hot dogs, caprese pasta, potato salad, watermelon, key lime pie… the works. But my favorite meal thus far on this trip took place in Manhattan – Chelsea, to be exact.
An antique map of Spanish wine regions, including in the Tia Pol wine menu
For a year my brother has been raving about a tapas place in Chelsea called Tía Pol. He found it by doing a search for “best tapas in New York”. My brother studied abroad in Barcelona and has spent much time in Basque country, so he has very high expectations when it comes to tapas – and Tía Pol certainly delivers!
We went for a late lunch in the middle of the week and stayed for about two hours. At my brother’s suggestion, we started off with some Rose Cava from Covides. Dark ruby in color, and perfectly dry, it went down very smoothly (and quickly!). The Cava also paired excellently with some chicken liver mousse that we ordered, with the crisp bubbles cutting through the savory fat. My brother and I agreed that the chicken liver was the best we had ever tasted; perfectly smooth and slightly sweet with a hint of smoke. We would have ordered more if it wasn’t so rich, and we were trying to save room for the rest of our meal to come!
Crema de Higado de Pollo – Chicken Liver Mousse with Pedro Ximenez
Since my brother knows far more about Spanish wine than I do (though, I’m working on it!), I encouraged him to continue making all the selections for our meal. For our next wine he ordered a couple glasses of Penedés, a dry, crisp white with floral aromas and citrus flavors, with a hint of effervescence on the front of the palate. I was happy to learn that it’s actually available at my local wine shop, K&L! The wine went very well with our other two cold dishes: boquerones en vinagre and ensaladita de pulpo. The boquerones are one of my brother’s favorite dishes, and I love anchovies so that was a no brainer. The olives in the dish were so flavorful and matched perfectly with the salty fish. I love octopus salads, and fortunately for me, my brother is also an adventurous eater. We both really enjoyed the pairing of the octopus with white beans, which is something that I see often in that kind of salad. The two foods go well together because they coexist without overwhelming, both in flavor and in texture.
Boquerones en vinagre – marinated white anchovies with Caspe olives
Ensaladita de pulpo – octopus salad with white beans and romesco
My brother suggested ordering a bottle of red to pair with out next round of tapas, as a way to prolong the meal and because, why not? He selected the Joan d’Anguera Planella 2011 from the Montsant region in Tarragona, just south of Barcelona. It’s similar in style to the famed Priorat region, but less expensive and harder to find, making it attractive for restaurant wine lists. This wine is a red blend of 45% Carinyena (Carignan), 45% Syrah, and 10% Garnatxa (Grenache). On the nose were flavors of ripe, dense cherry, while the palate was rich and plush with a fruity and spicy finish. This is a great food wine for flavorful dishes because it’s big with a lot of licorice and dark fruit, but is soft enough to stand up to more delicate flavors, such as cheese.
I suggested we order trucha a la navarra, Navarran-style trout with Serrano ham. My brother agreed because it was something new on the menu that he hadn’t tried yet. At first bite, I tasted the fish without any of the other components and found it to be a little dry. But my second bite was comprised of all the layers – fish, ham, arugula – and was much better! It’s important with a dish like this to taste all the elements in one bite because each one supports the other.
Trucha a la Navarra – trout with Serrano ham, arugula and pickled onions
Before we even arrived at Tía Pol, my brother demanded that we order the txipirones en su tinta (squid in ink with rice) – to which I agreed, though I’m not sure if I had a choice. When our waiter set it down on the table, my brother immediately mixed the squid and ink with the rice and asked for some bread. My first bite was delicious, and it only got better. The flavors were smokey and salty, and cooked perfectly so as not to be too chewy. I couldn’t get enough, but used most of the bread to scoop out the excess ink. This dish is certainly a MUST for anyone dining at Tía Pol!
Txipirones en su tinta – squid in ink with rice
I had mentioned to the manager, Keith, how much I loved Serrano ham. To our surprise, he brought us a plate of paquetitos de jamon – on the house! It was three Serrano ham triangles stuffed with artichokes and manchego cheese, served hot. YUM! I’m so glad we got to try these little bites of salty goodness.
Paquetitos de jamon – Serrano triangles with artichoke and manchego cheese
At Keith’s suggestion, we finished off our meal with a cheese plate and a taste of single vineyard Dry Sherry: Palo Cortado Viejo C.P.
“Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry that is initially aged under flor to become a fino or amontillado, but inexplicably loses its veil of flor and begins aging oxidatively as an oloroso. The result is a wine with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado. Only about 1-2% of the grapes pressed for sherry naturally develop into palo cortado.” -Wikipedia
As you can see, Keith really hooked it up for us! The wine had a very sweet nose of maple syrup but was surprisingly tart. It went great with the cheese, but was versatile enough to even have been paired with the boquerones. Sherry is making a big comeback, so keep your eye out for it in Spanish restaurants, and ask the sommelier which is best to taste for an overall impression. Or be sure to ask for Keith when you go to Tía Pol!
This meal was perfect from beginning to end, in quality and diversity. The staff was so friendly and helpful, and my brother and I very much enjoyed talking to Keith about Spanish wines and the wine industry in general. I suggest going here with a small group and taking your time, starting with cold plates and moving into the hot dishes. Be sure to take advantage of their extensive wine list, and I absolutely recommend starting with some Cava!