A little more than six months ago, Alessandro Piliego opened a sleek, inviting tapas bar, and decked the walls with Botero paintings and high shelves teeming with sherry bottles. The hanging rustic chandeliers cast a warm glow along the bar and caress the tall tables and high-back stools where one sips and sups small plates of Spanish food. Located on the burgeoning end of Court Street in Brooklyn, near the now-famous Prime Meats and Buttermilk Channel, Alessandro named his place Palo Cortado, and I asked him what it meant. Something new to me, although I am an avid fan of fino sherry, palo cortado is a style of sherry, slightly richer than oloroso. To that end, he could have similarly named his tapas bar, Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Moscatel, or Pedro Ximenez, as each is a different type of sherry along the spectrum of very dry to very sweet. I was delighted to learn about this and even more delighted to drink it. These fortified wines deserve more respect. The varying descriptors of their flavor profile are rich and include, unlike wine, words like salty and nutty. They are great companions to authentic, and not-so-authentic, tapas — at once both piquant and lusty.
It was fun to share the night with the food maven, Arthur Schwartz, whose birthday we were celebrating, and Bob Harned, who had not been to Palo Cortado since it opened. They did, however, know Alessandro and had been to a tasting in the summer. If I could order 5 servings of the patatas bravas for myself, I would have. At $4 a plate, that would be bargain. They were exceptional: small cubes of perfectly fried potatoes laced with aioli and Rioja sauces. We had delicious octopus (pulpo a la gallega) served with small potato discs and a pimenton vinaigrette. Next came spiced lamb meatballs with mint-cucumber yogurt and preserved lemon, and piquillo rellenos — small roasted peppers stuffed with chicken and cheese, served with a white bean puree and pepitas. We enjoyed fabulous mixed olives and briny caperberries and acidic boquerones, which are marinated white anchovies with capers, garlic and parsley. These two palate openers went especially well with the super-dry, and slightly salty, mineral-y, manzanilla that we had. We moved on to a delicious full-bodied Rioja. Instead of birthday cake, Alessandro brought something brilliant to try: Medjool dates marinated in sherry with vanilla yogurt mousse and roasted almonds. Happy Birthday Arthur, and muchos gracias to Alessandro.
I offer you one of my most radically simple and delicious tapas to serve at home. Fatty and rich, these chorizos will taste wonderful with a glass of cellar-temperature Amontillado, or…Palo Cortado! (located at 520 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY. tel: (718) 407-0047).
Grilled Chorizos in Red Wine
In a shallow ovenproof dish (a small paella pan is great), slice 8 ounces chorizo or pepperoni 1/4-inch thick. Place flat-side down, 1/4-inch apart. Pour 1/2 cup red wine to come halfway up the sides of chorizo. Preheat broiler. Broil 6 to 8 minutes until crispy. Spoon pan juices on top. Sprinkle with finely slivered cilantro. Serves 4