Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bar Pintxo, June 6, 2010

Summer weather turns a Girl's fancy to cold soups, especially one of my all time favorites, gazpacho. Like a V8 with bits of salad floating in it, nothing beats the heat - and gives you one of your eight-a-day - like a nice bowl of gazpacho.

The choice of gazpacho had a two-fold purpose: I had asked my friend Shiho, a talented illustrator and watercolorist, for special artwork for GMS. So we needed a colorful and textural dish for her to depict in her inimitable style.

Shiho and I started with some very flavorful olives. She drew them, I inhaled them.

I remembered that i had seen a tapas place on the Santa Monica Promenade, but could not remember the name of it. I called Shiho, who started looking up places on Yelp where we could have the chilly concoction, but none of them had the all-important "stroll factor," the better to have that post-dinner constitutional by. So I talked her into this unknown place, remembering that it was on Santa Monica Boulevard near 4th Street.

I met here there and the recognized the storefront, with the sign for Bar Pintxo. When we were seated, we immediately asked what the soup of the day was, ever hopeful for the long-awaited gazpacho. But it was lentil with chorizo, which was fine with me. The afternoon swelter had given way to a cool marine layer and suddenly warm soup sounded good. It was. The smokiness of the sausage was a great counterpoint to the homey-ness of the lentil soup, which despite the pork product, was not at all salty. But that was only the beginning.

A hearty soup like this one can be a meal in itself, but not when you can have all kinds of unusual little dishes alongside it. Upon exploring the menu, we found a number of enticements and succumbed to temptation. So distracted were we by these delights that I forgot to take a photo of the soup. But since the point of the exercise was Shiho's sketch, we were covered there.

Shiho's masterpiece - talk about multitasking... I don't think I can eat and paint at the same time!

We happily obeyed the axiom, "Eat dessert first" with a "pintxo" or "small bite" of dates wrapped in bacon and filled with valdeon cheese. I can't even begin to describe how good this was. Salt is the new sugar, and this celebrated the pairing of both with great flair.

Next up was the ensaladilla rusa or Russian salad. This consisted of a potato salad with house-conserved tuna in a light, non-greasy mayonnaise. A taste revealed the fact that a) the peas and diced carrot were fresh, not frozen as I had surmised and b) tuna is pretty darned good in potato salad.

Not your mom's potato salad - unless your mom happens to be from Barcelona!

For dessert we hemmed and hawed about the churros. In America, churros are foot-long tubes of tasteless dough coated with a fur of sugar that you buy at the movies or a fair. Bar Pintxo's version was what I've always imagined authentic churros to be: yeasty but dainty blips of dough served with a cup of bittersweet, cinnamon-laced chocolate for dipping.

This beats Krispy Kreme.

For more of Shiho's work or to subscribe to her newsletter, click here. She's a Scorpio, her favorite color is everything, and she digs long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, and guys who are willing to go to museums, change a flat tire, and check her dim sum selections for hidden shrimp: she's allergic to shellfish.

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