Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Small Plates, Grande Flavors Abound at Tinto

I've enjoyed many terrific meals and fabulous wine during my seven years in the desert, but find myself often yearning for homecooking (especially Mom's meatballs) and a taste of my South Jersey/Philly roots.
Well, the next best thing to it has arrived in the form of Tinto (red wine in Spanish), which offers a modern approach to traditional pintxos (Peen-chos), or Basque tapas at The Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs.
The original Tinto is located in the City of Brotherly Love, where Iron Chef and James Beard Award-winner Jose Garces has created a restaurant empire of sorts with his modern take on traditional cuisines, prepared in refined, yet casual seettings.
At his latest outpost, there is an impressive selection of notable Basque wines and yummy native cocktails made with the freshest ingredients.
My first visit was a brunch for the ages. We started with a glass of Gurru Txaga, an incredible Rose from the Txakoli region.
On the nose, it had almost a fig and prune essence which made its stony minerality and cream sherry finish a nice surprise.
Gastronomic highlights included Pork Belly Montadito, a beautifully tender slice of Bershire pork belly lacquered in honey with shaved apples and paired with a chocolate and tobacco-inflected Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. This wine had nice tannins which tamed the pork fat.
We also dined on the Tinto Skillet, a signature Garces dish of short ribs, caramelized onion, bacon, and potato. Also paired with the Tempranillo, it was divinity in food form.
The Grilled Chicken Bocadillo (sandwich), was adorned with bacon, a tomato-based Basquaise sauce, and shaved Idiazabal, a sheep's cheese.
As a dessert, my dining partner Rene and I literally wolfed down the Torrijas, a citrus-vanilla French toast with fresh berries and whipped cream.
I had the pleasure of meeting Garces just after the opening of this Palm Springs outpost. He is impressed with the sophistication of Palm Springs, and optimistic about his latest venture.
Next up, I'll tell you about my memorable first dinner at Tinto, which involved some octopus, lamb, and a wine that was so tasty it made me wanna slap someone.
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