Cork, New Bedford

Eggplant roulade and sauteed shrimp

Eggplant roulade and sauteed shrimp

We just discovered the best dining deal in the Southcoast region in one of the most unlikely places.

Cork, on New Bedford’s historic waterfront, has started offering a special called “Tuesday Tastings.”  On the first Tuesday of each month, Cork is offering five tapas selections paired with five unusual wines for just $30 per person. Yes, that Cork, where a dinner for two with wine can easily set you back a hundred bucks under normal circumstances (mostly because you’re afraid of the word “tapas” and will order way too much food).

The premise with this Tuesday thing is that they’re tastes — the servings of both wine and food are small.  But these are extremely generous tastes, and unless your standard serving involves the word “bottomless,” you’ll like this.

The Big Dog suggested that four friends join us, and those two other couples slid into their seats in the cozily refurbished historic building just as Sally from MS Walker Inc. started waving around a bottle of Espelt Vailet, a crisp white blend from Spain that for several of us was our favorite wine of the night.  An equally crisp pinot grigio from Italy quickly followed, and Sally explained that while the Spanish blend was paired with the eggplant roulade and the pinot with the sauteed shrimp, we should mix and match.

The two tastes arrived side by side on rectangular plates and got rave reviews from our party.  The grilled eggplant slices were artfully wrapped around chunky tomato slices (which Gina thought would have been better in the summer), goat cheese, and arrugula, and topped with a balsamic glaze that was thick and dark as chocolate sauce.

Sauteed shrimp was a buttery melange of pancetta cubes and cherry tomato halves, made fiery — too hot for the Big Dog, who thought the heat detracted from the dish’s flavor — by sliced hot peppers.

Next came two red wines, a tempranillo from Spain and a montepulciano, which like the pinot grigio was from Cantina Zaccagnini of Abruzzo, Italy. Both bottles came adorned with a sprig of grapevine that Sally said was affixed by the ladies of the village.  The ladies of our village liked the montepulciano, despite the winemaker’s promise that it would taste like “a mouthful of leather” (and other things — you know how they are).

The Spanish Vina Zaco was paired with a dish that was innocuously described as slow braised beef crostini with Great Hill blue cheese and chive oil. It was nothing to look at: two blobs of beef on toast.

But its intoxicating scent preceded it, and the taste was pure heaven, its homey texture made rich with exotic spices.  We tried in vain to identify the spice until finally, one of the waitstaff told us it was an Asian five-spice powder plus curry. We’re pretty sure the mention of curry was intended to throw us off course and prevent us from trying to make it at home.

Lost in the furor over the braised beef was another dish that was pretty good. They called it a raviolone, which is apparently different from a raviolo (the singular of ravioli, of course) because it’s bigger. It was stuffed with an excellent sausage mixture and fried with panko.

We ended with a painfully sweet pink sparkler, also from Italy, and a ball of chocolate chevre, probably excellent if you like that sort of thing, served with a little crostini over honey with sea salt.

We enjoyed good company, five delicious dishes we might not ordinarily have tried, and tasty wines that were expertly paired with the food, all at an amazingly good price.  The unobtrusive wine talk made it educational.  If Tuesday nights depress you, as they certainly do us, we would encourage you to visit Cork for their Tuesday Tastings.

Cork Wine and Tapas
90 Front Street, New Bedford
www.corkwineandtapas.com

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