First Date Advice: Read Wikipedia

Dish 38: Sopa de Castano at Tinto, 20th and Sansom,

For people looking for the perfect first date place, Tinto is the way to go. Fast facts: it’s Basque, so brush up on your Spanish and French to impress your date; and Wikipedia Basque culture that you can reference as you skim the menu. Example: “The wild mushrooms look good.” “Hmm, the potatoes must be a reference to Boise, one of the largest Basque communities in the United States.” “Wow, you are not only attractive but also well informed about Basque culture.”

The second advantage to Tinto on a first date, beyond demonstrating your knowledge of Basque culture and how it relates to the French, Spanish, and nobody at all, is that Tinto serves tapas-style. Yes, tapas are trendy. But tapas also give you the flexibility of finishing a date in forty minutes or pulling it out for two and a half hours. Now that’s power.

Simone and I opted for a quick dinner last night before I headed home to Jersey for the weekend. I cannot say enough positive about this restaurant. I love the semi-Regina Specter-ish music, I love the wine-bottle-holding wall that separates the bar from the entry dining room, I love the black and white scallop design on the tabletops. I love that the busboys can answer your questions about the ingredients in the smoked tomato crème fraiche; I love that the names of the servers and the waitresses and the dishwashers are on the menu. I want to high five Jose Garces for hitting the ball out of the park.

The kitchen sent out cheese pirouette-cookie-shaped wafers with smoked tomato crème fraiche. I believe it was Le Moulis cheese; and the wafers—I’m so sorry, I’m out of my element—but can you imagine an super-chic Cheez-It? I’m so sorry, Mr. Garces; each tube was buttery, eggy, and tart, and the crème fraiche was deep and smoky as if there was ham in it. Our server answered six of my questions before I stumped him with the tomato-smoking process. Riddle me that. How do you smoke a tomato?

The chestnut soup is presented dramatically, poured into the bowl from a tiny jug, and in the center of the bowl is a fried quail egg perched upon a tiny heap of duck and mushroom hash. The flavor is creamy and encompassing, entrancing, welcoming, intriguing, begging you to take another taste. Which I will; again and again, I assure you, the allure of Tinto will draw me back, whether on a first date or a fiftieth, it will draw me back.


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