I had avoided dining at Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf's new Mediterranean tapas restaurant simply because it has become the hottest destination in Baltimore, apparently drawing a noisy, hip crowd. Since I kept hearing the food was very Mediterranean as well as well-prepared, I decided to finally visit the restaurant, but I went early before all the youngsters showed up. It is a strikingly beautiful venue which leads diners to think they are sitting in a seaside restaurant in Barcelona or North Africa. I loved the assortment or tapas we were served. There were almost too many to list, but the fire-roasted almonds, manchego, manzana (cheese, apples, and walnuts), the quality of the mixed olives, the eggplant dip, bruschetta, calamari fritti, and empanadas (spiced veal and pork in pastry with a salsa verde) were all superb. The pizza with buffalo mozzarella and tomato sauce was delicious, perhaps the best pizza in Baltimore. Unfortunately, we it was the only type we tried as we soon realized we had ordered way too much food. All of the breads and pizza dough are baked in their own wood-fired oven. We finished with a stunning dish of wood-fire grilled guinea hens with Spanish rice and chorizio. On this first visit, I quickly learned I need to take it more slowly on the great selection of small courses so I can enjoy more of the main course.

Pazo has a fabulously inexpensive, well thought out wine list, which is nothing more than I would expect from Tony Foreman, Baltimore's leading wine guru. We enjoyed a 2002 Marcassin Chardonnay Three Sisters, and the Châteauneuf du Papes were stunning. As I have written in The Wine Advocate, the difference between Pégaü's 2003 Cuvée Réservée and a $250 bottle of 2003 Cuvée da Capo isn't all that great. In fact, it's pretty insignificant based on the three occasions where I have had them together. Both bottles of the 2003 Cuvée Réservée were outrageously good. This vintage of Cuvée Réservée appears to be the finest Pégaü has yet produced, even eclipsing their 1989 and 1990. We consumed those wines so quickly (a problem with great wine) that we had a bottle of 2003 Mon Aïeul, which never disappoints, from its garrigue notes to blueberry liqueur, raspberries, and blacker fruits. It suffered no let down next to the Pégaü - two gorgeous traditional Châteauneuf du Papes.

Although I am not a vegetarian, those who are can eat exceptionally well at Pazo as there are many superb dishes based around vegetables. To reiterate, I loved this gorgeous, hip restaurant. It is an innovative, even revolutionary idea for a conservative town like Baltimore. Kudos to the husband and wife team of Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf.

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