I used to be a fennel/anise/black licorice-hater, too. I say “too” because I know that it’s impossible to bring the flavor up without at least someone in the room saying “ew.” Like beets in anything or nuts in cookies, its presence is a deal breaker for a surprising number of people.
Ever since we had dinner at Tia Pol for the first time six months ago, I have been bitten by the tapas bug, and with little warning this wee hallway of a restaurant on 10th Avenue replaced Tabla as my favorite in all of New York City.
I didn’t know that there were any higher small-plate callings than the Floyd Cardoz’s boondhi raita, that is until I tried Alex Raij’s garbanzos fritos, and though it makes me sad to have evolved beyond my Bread Bar obsession, I feel strongly enough about these chickpeas that if you haven’t had them yet, you should close your browser, turn off your computer, get on a plane if you must, wait patiently through the forty minutes it will take just to sit at the bar because these babies will leave your up-to-then favorite bar snack in the dust so quickly, its tasty little head will spin. Be prepared for a fast and fierce addiction.
Some people are chef-chasers, meal-collectors. Being at the right restaurant exactly when it’s the newest thing so they can say they ate there first, or knew so-and-so would be the next Top Chef long before anyone else is where it’s at. Some want to be the first in line for Chef’s take on ramps, rhubarb, some adored garlic chive tangle and five different soft-shell crab specials each spring. Some people rank bathrooms (no really, they do) at the city’s best eateries. The thing is, I don’t know these people, and secretly, I’m kind of relieved.