The first leg of my journey to Vermont started with a mad dash from a Midtown office to the subway to the AirTrain to JetBlue’s new(ish) Terminal 5 at JFK. After painlessly checking in and practically floating through the security queue—par for the course, if my experience with the airline (at JFK, anyhow) is anything to go by—I had enough time to peruse the bright-and-shiny terminal’s updated dining options. (A brief disclaimer: I’m in the midst of a serious love affair with JetBlue. I do not own stock in the company, nor do I get any sort of kickbacks; I wouldn’t turn either one down, though, if any execs happen to be reading.)
Anyway. It will surprise no one to learn that I went with Piquillo. As you may recall, I have a slight thing for tapas, and this spot, billed by JetBlue as the first tapas restaurant in a U.S. airport, seemed the perfect choice for a quick snack (and glass of wine, naturally) before boarding.
What I haven’t gotten around to mentioning yet is another (albeit related) addiction: the ensaladilla rusa, otherwise known as cooked-vegetable–studded Russian potato salad. Popular, as noted in The New Spanish Table, in cuisines as varied as Korean and Turkish, the Spanish make the dish their own with the addition of hard-boiled eggs, good-quality tuna, roasted red peppers and, often, green or black olives, in various incarnations. (One such version can be found at my favorite tapas place in New York, which conflates two standards by stuffing those ever-present piquillos with the potato salad and topping it with a few flakes of bonito.) Now, I’m fussy about my potato salad (no crunchy bits for me, please), but this one hits all the right notes.
Piquillo’s version is a bit richer than I’m used to, courtesy of both the pool of olive oil at the bottom of the plate and the mayonnaise-dressed salad. The olives, had they been a bit more sharply flavored, would have tempered the heaviness nicely; instead, I had to rely on a lovely glass of albariño to do the job. A lighter hand could have been used with the sea salt sprinkled on top, but, all in all, I was one happy customer—this was the single best thing I’ve ever consumed in an airport, no doubt about it.
Sbarro, eat your heart out.
John F. Kennedy International Airport