Tag Archives: birthday dinner

Arrows: Ogunquit, Maine (Birthday Dinner… 3!)

15 Nov

As huge fans of Top Chef (especially Top Chef Masters), we were thrilled when not just one, but TWO chefs from Maine were featured last season. Chef Clark Frasier and Chef Mark Gaier are life partners and own the restaurant Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine which focuses on sustainable food. We decided we must make it a stop during our whirlwind tour of wedding venues in Maine. The fact that it was the day after my birthday (and after our amazing meals at Eventide and Hugo’s) was just icing on the cake.

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There are lovely gardens out back.

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And I just loved the inside. Exposed beams, trees, lanterns. I loved it. 

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I want to find those lanterns for the wedding!

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I loved the wood boxes and metal watering cans to hold the breadsticks. And the baskets to hold the bottles of water. Nice touches. All very rustic and my style.

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Here was the menu for that night:

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Of course, I tried the Blue Honeybee cocktail. Why “of course?” Two of my favorite things: honey and wild Maine blueberries.

This had blueberry infused vodka, fresh lime, Maine made mead and soda, and garnished with orange marinated blueberries.

Yum!

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They served 3 different homemade butters. I had trouble deciding which I loved most. They were all so good.

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We decided to continue our tasting menu adventure by going with the “Chef’s Collection” which was a 6 course menu of oysters, prosciutto, silver striper, duck, lamb, and dessert box.

We started with 3 different types of oysters.  Fried oysters with green goddess sauce, poached in cream with chives and shallots, and chilled with green garlic and chive vinaigrette.

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I loved the crispy of the fried oyster with the green goddess sauce.  Great compliment.

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The prosciutto was slightly smoky and salty.  The greens on top were a nice counter to the rich meat. 

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The silver striper was pan roasted with kohlrabi fondue, sweet garlic pickled collard greens, and shaved carrot and buttermilk cheese salad.  Great textures and flavors combining into a very nice dish.

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Our next dish was the duck, and it had a few different versions. The menu titled it as “Duck, strawberries, and rhubarb” and had 3 components:

1- Smoked duck breast with duck cracklings, rhubarb chips, and a microgreen salad (top left part of the picture below) served with a sparkling sake and strawberry mimosa (top right).  All components of this were well paired and tasty.

2- Duck confit “cube” with strawberry gelee and port wine sauce (bottom right). This was so rich and decadent. I LOVED this part of the dish.

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And 3- Duck saucisson with pickled rhubarb with rhubarb-tarragon mustard and potato pancake.  This is in a separate picture because it was the only component of the dish that had peppers, so it was on Mike’s plate and not mine. Mike enjoyed it.

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Next up was the lamb, which was also prepared in 3 ways:

1- Fried belly with tarragon vinegar (Umami, rich, and delicious)

2- Braised shank with fennel puree and fennel salad (I don’t love fennel, but it was the perfect foil for the shank)

3- Grilled lamb with huckleberry gastrique (My favorite! The slight sweetness from the huckleberry was great with the grilled flavors0

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It was a beautiful dish,

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And cooked perfectly with crispness in the right places.

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The entrees ended and Mike and I both noted how the meal just kept building and building on itself.  It was a solid, surprising, and delicious meal that we again said was even better than our impression leave Jean Georges just days before.

And then the dessert came out. To be honest, I have no idea what any of this was. We were in such blissful fullness and this wasn’t written on the menu I photographed, so I will say that everything was good but I don’t remember anything specifically standing out. I remember thinking that I was glad for the smaller portion sizes because it allowed me to sample without feeling like I was wasting food.

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And they were lovely enough to bring me out a birthday treat. 

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Which consisted of donuts in all different forms and a smoothie of sorts. Again, I remember it being good but not outstanding.

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Though you cant beat a whole cherry in a fried pastry!

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And then there was still a tower of cookies to come! I really enjoyed these last little nibbles as we headed out.

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Overall, we were really impressed with Arrrows. Sure, they relied on the trios and some food magic that has become in some ways “cliche” in fine dining lately. But I’m sorry, I love the cliche. I love when a chef can make my food taste great and look artistic. I love being able to sample small bites and I enjoy tasting menus like this. In fact, I would say I’m pretty much a sucker for it.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

PS- I cannot believe I got to go to Jean George’s, Eventide, Hugo’s, and Arrows within 4 days of each other, surrounding my birthday. Have I mentioned how gosh darn fortunate I am?  I am thankful every day for this life I get to live. It is fantastic!

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Birthday Dinner 2012: Jean Georges

6 Nov

Mike and I have a tradition for our birthdays that I absolutely love. Every year we surprise each other with a reservation at one of the best restaurants in Manhattan.  He has taken me to some amazing meals, including Daniel, Le Bernardin, and (our #1) WD-50.

(Have I mentioned recently that I am an incredibly lucky gal?)

This year, Mike surprised me with a reservation at the famous Jean Georges.  They have a few different Prix Fixe menus that change often. Here was our menu on August 15th, 2012:

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Mike chose the Summer menu. I went with the Jean Georges menu because they informed me that they could not do the Summer Menu without peppers.  They could make the necessary changes, however, to make sure I didn’t get any.

Our reservation was for 8:45pm and we sat right around that time.

They had a lot of options for bread, but I really loved the pretzel rolls they served.

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And it was a very good thing that I liked that bread so much, because it was a full 45 minutes before our amuse bouche arrived.

The amuse was a carrot suit with sesame and okra and sea urchin. The original had peppers in it, but I got a pepper-less version.  The soup, sesame, and okra was very good but the sea urchin had 0 flavor.

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For our next course, we sat, and sat, and sat. It was at this moment that my heart sank. I wanted SO badly to love Jean Georges. It’s a New York staple. And shouldn’t Jean Georges have great service?  We were so spoiled by our service at Le Bernardin, but this was getting really bad.

It was 55 minutes later that our 1st course came out. It was now almost 10:30pm and we were just starting our tasting menu… le sigh.

Our first course was the toasted egg yolk.  This was the one thing off the Summer Menu that I really wanted, so I was very pleased that I got it on my menu.  This was absolutely delicious. 

 

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It had the texture of grilled cheese with that salty caviar. It was a great combination and a great texture. I loved it and hoped that the whole meal would be this unique and delicious, to make up for the slow service.

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Mike’s next course was on the original menu: Foie gras and market strawberry terrine, bitter chocolate and brioche. They said this had peppers in it, but I took a little nibble and I didn’t detect any.  And then I took another nibble and another and another. Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of this so even if it did have peppers, I convinced myself it didn’t (if it did, it was barely a trace).  The bitter sweet chocolate with the strawberry and rich foie gras.  Boy oh boy. This is how foie gras was meant to be.

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I got scallops which were very nicely seared with a very slight crisp. The cauliflower added flavor without taking away from the delicate flavor of the scallop. Very nice.

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I was then served the following, which while I at first thought was some sort of rose petal soup, was merely a dipping bowl for ones hands.  Good thing they told me that before I sank my spoon in!  It was a very nice touch.

 

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Mike’s next course was charred corn ravioli with tomato salad and basil fondue.  It was a great combination of fresh flavors. Sweet and very nice, though Mike said he wanted more ravioli in the dish.

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My next course was garlic soup with frog legs.

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They instructed me to dip the legs into the soup.  It was actually a great combination of flavors and I really enjoyed the mild garlic soup with the salty legs.

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Mike’s next course was trout with charred eggplant and peppers sauce. I didn’t try this one, but Mike concluded that he doesn’t love red fish and this relied too much on the sauce for flavor.  There was really a need for crunch on the top because the fish was a bit mushy.

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My next course was turbo with wine sauce.  The sauce was absolutely incredible.  I really loved it.

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Next , Mike had the lobster in yuzu, chanterelles, and squash.  This was really delightful. Great flavors.

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My next course was lobster with tomato broth. It had a mild mint flavor to it.  My tail piece was a bit overcooked but my claw was perfectly cooked. It was nothing like Maine Lobster Pound lobster though (then again… what is?)

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There was quite a wait between each course even after the initial gaps, so at some point between course 5 and course 6, our waiter brought us a free wine pairing on the house for our next course. That was a very nice touch.

Mike’s next course was the lamb with a smoked chili glaze. It was absolutely perfectly cooked from the looks of it, but Mike said the chili sauce/rub was really overpowering to the flavor and the sides (new onion compote and pole beans) were just “meh.”

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I somehow forgot to photograph my last savory course, but it was squab. It had curry, which I’m typically not a fan of, but this one was very good.  It was a bit hard to cut but the corn cake with foie was quite good.  The lemon with it was too lemony and was pretty overpowering for the dish.

At this point, we were both pretty full (and tired), but our most anticipated courses were yet to come.

On to dessert!

Mike had the cherry dessert tasting which had a few variations of cherry desserts. Mike’s favorite was the cherry almond creme brulee. It also had cherry with champagne something-in-french-with-cherries in the jar and black forest cake with cherries.  These were very pretty, but really just okay in flavor.

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I got the chocolate tasting which included chocolate lava cake (fantastic), a candy bar (just ehh), apricot with mcadamia nuts and lavender (I thought it tasted like soap, but Mike liked it), and a lemon meringue like dessert (my fave).  None of it worked together, but it was a nice assortment.

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The candy bar, while so-so on flavor, was really beautiful.

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I was beyond stuffed at this point, but a very nice happy birthday present came out (filled with chocolate mousse).

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And then a guy came by and cut us some homemade marshmallows.

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Which were fluffy and perfect.

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And then out came a candy sampler (the wrapped ones had chipotle, but the rest were just okay).

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And then macarons, which had good flavor but were a bit too small to be texturally right.

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And then I got a goody bag to take home that had some candy “for the lady.” It was a nice treat the day after on our way up to Maine (more on that later)

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By the time we finished our meal it was after 1am.  Over 4.5 hours.  Ridiculous.  

And when we sat and thought about it, we realized that our meal was really, really good… but was it great? Was it even memorable? 

I couldn’t even put it in the top 10. Maybe not even the top 20. What a bummer.  It’s not that anything was bad… in fact, most of our dishes were far above average. But it just wasn’t what we expected from such a famous place.  And the service?  Way too slow. Ridiculously slow. Bummer. Bummer Bummer.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

 

 

Eataly: Manzo Ristorante

21 Feb

When Eataly first opened, I was excited, but it was SO crowded.  I had been to Birreria before for a client dinner, but that included a reservation. And I had gotten lucky finding a spot to sit at the Crudo bar.

But when That Lori (from Stuff I Ate) and I were looking for a place to celebrate our birthdays, we jumped at the chance to try Manzo, which is the only place that was accepting reservations.  Every restaurant at Eataly has  theme, and Manzo’s theme is MEAT.

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We started with a lovely looking basket of bread. The sourdough was awesome.

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We were torn on the menu. So many delicious sounding things. Our waiter advised that the plates were small, so we decided it was a sharing night.  (Though our arms never really needed to be twisted to share… one of many reasons I love dining with That Lori).

We started with the mozzarella with brown butter and guanciole. It was a lot softer than I was expecting, but the garlic toast that came with it really allowed us to sop up all the deliciousness.

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I liked the compliments of flavors very much.

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Our second dish was the Tajarin with Sugo d’Arrosto.  This was a pasta made with the drippings from a roast.

They very kindly split it for us, but even our half portions were quite substantial.

And this was SO. GOOD.  This is everything that is wonderful about pasta… a perfect compliment with the meaty flavored sauce.  Simple looking yet so complex.

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We also split the hay smoked veal chop.  This came with canneli beans and speck.  This was HUGE.  I have no idea how anything we got was considered a “small” portion.

And the meat? The hay smoking gave it this great grassy, earthy flavor.  It was delicious, and cooked perfectly.

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Since we split everything, we luckily had room for dessert.  We decided to split the chocolate crostada with plums and sliced almonds.  This was very rich (but I LOVE rich) and the ice cream and plums were great to make the flavors more complex.  Very enjoyable.

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Overall, Manzo was just a spectacular dining experience. I highly recommend sharing so you can experience much of what it has to offer.  We were so tickled by our experience there and we really loved all the food.  Every bite was fresh, complex, and bursting with flavor.  Exactly the way it should be.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Birthday Dinner 2011: Daniel

29 Aug

Mike and I have an awesome tradition where every year on our birthdays, the other brings the birthday child to one of the best restaurants in the city.  It’s always a surprise, and we don’t know where we are going until we get there.

On my birthday last week, I was thrilled when I stepped out of the taxi to see that we were at Daniel.  Daniel has been on the top of my list for a long time.  It has been a NYC staple of excellence for years and I have enjoyed dining at Daniel Boulud’s other restaurants, including Cafe Boulud and Bar Boulud. I’ve also had great meals at DB Bistro and can’t wait to try DBGB and the new Boulud Sud.  Daniel has 3 Michelin Stars, making it my second 3 Michelin Star Birthday in a row, with Le Bernardin last year.

Daniel offers a 3 course menu, where you can choose a la carte for $108 or do a full 6 course tasting menu for $195.  It’s definitely a special occasion meal! We went for the 6 course menu, which allowed us to choose 1 of 2 from each of 6 sections.  Since there were 2 of us… we just said to bring us one of everything.  (I always wanted to say that).  We didn’t go for the wine pairing (which was anotehr $105) because I had work the following day and didn’t want to have to weave out of there the way I did Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  We did a themed order of wine and got a bottle of Russian River Chardonnay followed by a Russian River Pinot Noir (big fan of those Russian River wines).

(They also have a 3 course meal with wine pairings as a theater prix fixe for $105 from 5:30-6pm Monday-Thursday.  Not a bad deal with wine!)

Here is a gallery of the menu, since it changes seasonally:

The restaurant is impressively beautiful.  It FEELS like a special occasion place.  We were sat in a corner booth that was a bit private behind screens.  It was nice to be tucked away, however, I like to people watch and this actually made it a bit detached.  Our little round booth was insanely comfortable, however, and if I ever have the opportunity to design a corner sitting area, I will think of the perfect leaning pillow that was in our booth.

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We started with an amuse bouche, and I cannot recall much about it besides the fact that mine didn’t have peppers.

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I recall something about smoked salmon and melon.  I recall enjoying it.  I recall thinking it was all fresh and summary. That’s about it…

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There was a noticeable delay in service as we waited for our first course.  This happened a few times between courses, creating very strange pacing.  This was the only dark spot on an otherwise fantastic service.  Ok… well not entirely spotless… read on…

Our first course started with duck terrine with sauternes.  It was perfectly divided between the richness and sweet when combined with the apricot.  Delicious and full of flavor.

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For this same course, we received a pressed squab terrine with turnips, bok choy, and chamomile gelee.  This was a great balance, again, with  great richness, balance, and flavor.

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Our next course started with Snapper Ceviche with celery vinaigrette. I believe this one was supposed to be served with a pepper oil, but they kindly left that off.  This was delicious, fresh, and I even enjoyed it (I am a certified celery hater).

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With this course, we were served peekytoe crab in an heirloom tomato gelee with avocado, thai basil, lilliput capers, and olive bread tuile.  The crab was sensational.  Enhanced by the multitude of fresh (though mostly unidentifiable) pretty things on the plate.

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Course three was a Maine sea scallop rosette with lovage.  It was supposed to come with Hawaiian hearts of palm, avocado-tomato coulis, and pickled fresno peppers.  This was probably the best dish on the menu, EXCEPT, one bite in I know I was in trouble.  There were even tiny red flakes that were visible (I call it the “trouble color” because very few things except peppers are that burnt red color).  We asked the waitress and she INSISTED there were no peppers.  She went to the kitchen and came back to tell us that they were red celery.  Hmmm… I would hate to disparage a restaurant like Daniel… but my mouth was instantly swollen and itchy. And just on the side where I took the bite. It took me a good 4 ounces of milk to even take down the itching.   Hmmmm.

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Paired with this course was artichoke and squid ink ravioli.  This came with littleneck clams, ruby red shrimp, razor clams, sea beans, saffron cream and opal basil.  If that sounds like a lot of ingredients, it was. And they all blended beautifully.  It was as visually stunning as it was delicious.

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Our next course was Atlantic flaked cod with tarbais beans, wild lamb squarequarters, chorizo, purslane, and marcona almonds emulsion.  I couldd not have this one, so I will default to Mike for a review: “From what I remember, it was good, but oddly… starchy? pasty? But it was decent.”

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My dish was grilled Alaskan King Salmon with black musto oil.  I guess the sides listed wouldn’t work, so I was served some peas, zucchini spears, and broccoflower.  I am not a salmon fan. In fact, I thought for years that I hated fish, but turns out I just hated salmon.  This, however, was very tasty.  And those were some of the best peas I have ever had.

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Our last savory courses were listed as a “Duoof Beef” and a “Tasting of Veal.”   Neither dish came out the way it was intended, I assume due to the allergy.   The beef was supposed to be black angus short ribs with cauliflower mouselline, seared wagyu tenderloin, chanterelles, crispy potatoes, and poached bone marrow.  Reading back over that description, we definitely got shafted.  We only got the seared tenderloin.  The short ribs,  chanterelles, crispy potatoes, and poached bone marrow were all missing!  But at the time, we didn’t notice.  The tenderloin was perfection.

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The veal also wound up not being as described.  The 3 selections was supposed to be roasted tenderloin with eggplant puree, braised cheeks with glazed zucchini, and crispy sweetbreads with caper coponata.  It came out with 2 pieces of tenderloin and a crispy sweetbread, no sauces/toppings.  I was a bit bummed because I was looking forward to those cheeks, but this was still excellent.

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Daniel does a really lovely job of celebrating birthdays, with a lovely complimentary cake and candle (and thankfully no singing).  It was tasteful and delicious.

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Our desserts then came out from the menu, with a warm guanaja chocolate coulant with liquid caramel, fleur de sel, and milk sorbet.  This was insanely rich (without being overdone) and had AMAZING flavor.

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They even went the extra mile with the pretty gold flake on top.  This was perfection in chocolate.  I didn’t think the world could get any more divine than this cake… and then…

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…I tasted this. Lemongrass poached pineapple with coconut meringue, lime-rum gelee, and pina colada sorbet.  I never would have ordered this after reading it on the menu.  While I love coconut, I’m always worried it would taste like sunscreen.  Pina coladas are good, but they can taste really cheap as a flavor.  Meringue is one of my favorite things in the world, but it’s usually not done well.  But this… this was everything that is right with the world.  This was heaven.  This was vacation in my mouth.  This was probably one of the best desserts I have ever had in my life.  And you know I love desserts!

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Along with these desserts, we received a basket of fresh, still warm madelleines.  Mike had never tasted a madelleine before.  I have, but not anything like this.  These were fluffy and light and nearly melted in my mouth.  Sensational.

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Just when I was debating if I would manage to roll myself home, a number of dainty bite sized desserts came out.  Beautifully prepared.  I was getting ready to loudly profess my love to the pastry chef at this point.  Or perhaps write them a love letter to tuck into a check.

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And then came a tray of delicate mini chocolates.  And this is where I cracked our servers shell.  I asked her to please pause for just a moment to take a picture.  Normally I would never have asked, but it was my birthday and we were drinking… so I went for it.  She put on the face and smiled, but you could tell that she was not happy to be doing it.  Hence… my shot was blurry and I didn’t retake.  (I can’t say I blame her.)

And it was a delicious exclamation mark on the meal.

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Overall, our meal here was stunning and delicious.  It had some highlights (the scallops, even though there were peppers… the tenderloin… the DESSERTS!) and some so-so things.  I can’t say there was any one savory meal that was mind-blowing, but it was a fantastic meal.  The pacing was off, the peppers things were still questionable, but service was obviously a refined art form in this restaurant.  It’s funny to be in a point in our dining history where while this was an amazing meal, and it still ranked at about #7 on the overall list.  But it was still #6. And it will remain hard to beat.

And I really hope they serve just desserts.  Because I want to go back for just that.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

More Birthday Catch-up: Ma Peche

22 Nov

Lori and I come within 2 days of sharing a birthday.  We have made a tradition out of going out to celebrate each other each year since our fateful meeting.  (In fact, it was one of those birthday celebrations where I met Mike… and the rest was history).  This year we decided to try the new David Chang‘s new midtown restaurant: Ma Peche (on 56th Street between 5th and 6th Aves).

The restaurant is in the Chambers Hotel (and you have to kind of walk through the lobby to get to it).  The room has very high ceilings with an huge space and what appears to be a very small kitchen.  You can see the kitchen area below, lit up towards the right of the picture.

The drink menu didn’t leap out at me, but I eventually chose the Ampersand and Lori chose the Moscow Mule.

Both were quite good, but nothing to write home about.

I was VERY excited about the men, however.  The Prix Fixe wasn’t that enticing…

But I couldn’t wait to try the pork & duck terrine or the crispy pig’s head or the pork ribs or the striped bass or the steak frites or the cavalo nero…

I honestly didn’t know how I was going to decide.  And then… the bomb hit.  The waitress informed me that 99% of the menu had peppers in it that couldn’t be changed.  Now… I didn’t have this problem even at Ko where they make the menu for you and serve whatever they have that day… but here at Ma Peche, I was SOL.  We kept asking for certain dishes and basically were told over and over again that it would kill me.  DAMN.

I couldn’t stand the idea of Lori missing out because of me, however, so I encouraged her to get the crispy pig’s head.  I actually risked it and took a little bite. It was delicious, but definitely something I couldn’t eat without pain.  It was worth it though.

We split the scallops with papaya, soy beans, and poppy seeds.  It was a beautiful plate and we thoroughly enjoyed.  The parts apart were good, but once you combined it all together into one mouthful, it was fantastic. There was also a hint of salt that brought it to a new level.  I do have to say, however, that I definitely prefer my scallops seared.

To give me an entree option, they actually had to go off the menu and gave us a crispy rice noodle with vegetables.

The noodles were cool spirals and weren’t so much crispy as they were chewy.  But in an AWESOME way.  The sweet potato was pretty bland (which was sad since I LOVE sweet potatoes), however, the corn in this was SO. FREAKING. GOOD.  I actually would go back here JUST for this.  I find myself craving them now.

The steak with rice fries was a fantastic dish.  The fries were more like flash fried rice balls and I LOVED them.  I thought they tasted like popcorn and I couldn’t get enough.  The beef was also fantastic and had the perfect flavor.

For dessert, we went to the offshoot of Momofuku Milk Bar.  It’s a carry out dessert place and we decided we would grab a bite and eat it in the hotel lobby.  They had a large assortment of delicious look cakes and we couldn’t wait to try a piece.  Lori blogged about our visit as well.

I was especially excited to try the Apple Pie Cake… I was just curious how you could make a pie into a cake.

What we didn’t know, however, is that they don’t sell these cakes by the slice.  Only complete.  Le sigh.

Luckily, all was not lost.  They also sold cake balls!  They basically enrobed those cakes in chocolate shell.  Nom Nom Nom.

I also couldn’t resist trying the soft serve.  It was salty pistacchio caramel and that sounded just too good.  I expected more, but I liked the kinda of sweet, kinda salty flavor.  Lori wasn’t a huge fan.  It was definitely polarizing.

The cake balls were good, but not as good as I had hoped.

The apple pie was certainly my favorite though!

Overall, the food was innovative and fun to eat.  I wish I could have tried more, however, what I did get to try was fantastic.  I was not impressed with Milk Bar, but it was satisfying.

Ma Peche Overall Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Milk Bar Overall Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Lincoln Ristorante

3 Nov

When browsing for a great place to take Mike for his birthday, I was debating between an old NYC classic or something completely new.  And by completely new, I mean opened less than 2 weeks prior.  I decided to take the risk.

I had heard about Lincoln Ristorante across the foodie blogosphere as it was being opened by Jonathan Benno, the former Per Se chef.

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It is located in an absolutely beautiful location at Lincoln Center in a fully glass walled space with sloping wood ceilings.

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I loved the space.

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The entire kitchen is visible behind a glass wall as you walk into the dining room.

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You can even take a peak around the glass wall (making it more of a decoration and less like a fish bowl).

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It even looks out on the beautiful new Julliard School.

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I was even impressed with the candles which were plain on the outside but revealed a very pretty tree and bird design on the inside.  I want these!

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The bread that came out was 2 different variations of a flat bread that was crispy (and just so so) and some yummy, buttery breadsticks.

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The menu changes regularly, so I’ll give you a glance of the menu for the night we were there.

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I was sad that there wasn’t a tasting menu, but the a la carte options sounded great anyway.

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And we were very torn on what to order.

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But in the end, Mike decided he wanted to try the beef (which I had read explained as “if we are going to put steak on the menu, it had better be the best steak we can find.”)

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We were first served with a chick pea cake with a puree that I recall being delicious, but not delicious enough to commit to memory exactly what it was.

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We started with the foie gras, sweet bread, and rabbit terrine.  It was good, but honestly, this was my least favorite part of the meal. I expected it to be a bit more flavorful.  It tasted earthy, but lacking in depth.

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And then the steak came… it was presented to us beautifully until it was whisked away to be carved.

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And it came back perfectly plated for each of us.  It was probably the softest steak I have ever eaten.  You could probably have cut most of it with a butter knife.  And it had delicious char.  The cipollini onions were so sweet and so delicious.  A perfect pair for the meat.  The greens (which may have been spinach) were forgettable and obviously there just for color.  The marrow, however, was insanely delicious and  buttery.  Mike went so far as to describe it as “the creamiest cream you could ever cream.”  I promised him I would quote him on that and wrote it down.

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We ordered a side of gnocchi and it was the best gnocchi I have ever had.  It was pillowy and buttery and cheesy and everything you could want.

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The dessert menu came and and we opted to also do after-dinner drinks.

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I chose the amaretto, and it was the best damn amaretto I have ever had.  Commit this brand to memory if you like Amaretto:  Luxardo.  As someone who only usually drinks DiSaronno (which is good, don’t get me wrong), this was eye opening.  I will find this again and drink it forever.

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Here is where things get fuzzy.  I have no idea why I took a picture of a fork on a glass of water.  Perhaps I liked the vantage point with the glasses behind?  One can only wonder now.

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The birthday boy ordered the trio of gelati: milk chocolate, caramel, and fior di latte.  They were nice enough to light a candle, write a birthday message, and not sing.  Perfect.

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I chose the Monte Bianco.  The chestnut sorbetto just sounded too good to pass up.  When it came, it looked like a Tartufo.

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And it had a pretty center.  The chestnut was good, but I wanted more chestnut flavor.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, however, and eagerly cleaned my plate and wished I could pick it up and lick it.

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We received a final plate of mini cookies.  I was especially pleased as they served 2 of everything, so as to avoid any uncomfortable “who gets which cookie” scenarios.

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Overall, Lincoln was a fantastic choice and I’m so glad we went.  The food was fantastic and the atmosphere and appearance of the restaurant was some of the best I’ve ever seen.  The service was impeccable and I was especially impressed that they asked about food allergies when I made the reservation and paid close attention to it throughout the meal.  I was impressed with how reasonable the prices were, especially from the chef who came from Per Se (the still-out-of-reach restaurant in NY that I’m dying to try but cannot rationalize spending the $ for).  I highly recommend it for special occasions.  It was definitely in the top 10, if not top 5.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

My Birthday Dinner- Home Cooked by Mike

29 Oct

I’m still catching up on posts from far too long ago.  I cannot believe that it has already been more than 2 months since this meal.  So today I wanted to show off the incredible dinner that Mike made me for my birthday.

He started with a duo of scallops.  One was wrapped in bacon and the other was with avocado.

And the bacon was CRISPY.  Just the way I like it. 🙂  Both were great.

For the main course, Mike made pork with a mushroom wine sauce and our new classic brussels sprouts with pancetta.

The pork was delicious.

And the brussels sprouts were as delicious as ever.

I thought he had already outdone himself, and then he uncovered this beauty!

Graham cracker crust, whipped cream, strawberries, and graham cracker crumbs.

DELICIOUS!!!

Thanks again, Mike.  You are a fantastic boyfriend and a fantastic chef!

Birthday Dinner at Le Bernardin

6 Sep

Continuing the amazing tradition of treating each other to fantastic birthday dinners, Mike surprised me this year with a meal at Le Bernardin(on 51st Street near 7th Ave).  Le Bernardin is famous for having 3 Michelin Stars and a famous chef, Eric Ripert, who did not disappoint (and was also present that night!)

It is designed simply yet elegantly, with beautiful tall flowers that filled the large space.  The bar was nice, yet really seemed to be more of a quick waiting area than a destination place to drink.

The thing that struck me all night was the incredible service.  They even gave me a stool for my purse! (Sorry for the terrible shot)

I was especially enamoured with the candle center pieces which were simply wire, water, and a floating candle.

We chose the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu + wine pairings, which in addition to the listed 7 course meal included an amuse bouche of watermelon soup and something I just cannot remember.

But it was such a great little touch to have mini watermelon slices.

Our first course was layers of thinly pounded tuna; foie gras and toasted baguette with shaved chives and extra virgin olive oil.  The wine was Bontani Moscatel Seco, Sierras de Malaga, Spain 2009.  You’re impressed with my memory?  Ha!  (They were nice enough to give me a printed menu as we left… like I said… SERVICE!)  This was absolutely delicious.  All of the flavors and textures just perfectly fit together. And the wine was a great compliment.  We started off impressed.

Next up was charred octopus – fermented black bean, white peach sauce vierge, ink- miso vinaigrette, purple basil.  The wine was a Savignon Blanc, Paul Cluver, Elgin, South Africa 2008.  Mike said that this was sensational.  Unfortunately, this had peppers, so they gave me the choice of an alternative.

I chose the stuffed zucchini flower with peekytoe and king grab; “Fine Herbs – Lemon” Mousseline Sauce (from the Four Course Tasting Menu).  Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the wine that went with this one… but it was actually my least favorite of the bunch.  Great on their own, but just took something away when they were together.  The individual pieces were so good that I had trouble determining which was better.  I think the Peekytoe just barely won out though.  Delish!

Our next course was great.  Warm Lobster Carpaccio; Hearts of Palm; Orange Vinaigrette.  And the wine was so good that I am currently asking my mom to go out of her way to pick us up some in NJ (the closest place I could find it to NYC).  It was a Chardonnay (we loved a chardonnay!)- Patz and Hall Russian River, 2008.  This was the best chardonnay I have ever had. Hands down.  I was scared it would retail for a few hundo, but I found it for an average of about $50 and on sale for about $35 at this place in NJ.  A little more than we’d usually spend, but totally worth it!  The dish was perfectly rich with the citrus being a great acid balance.

Next up was a baked wild striped bass with corn “cannelloni,” light Perigord Sauce.  It was paired with Rioja, Reserva, Vina Bosconia, Lopez de Heredia, Spain 2001.  This wine was also great.  And the striped bass was such a perfectly cooked piece of fish.  Absolutely fantastic.

It was at this point of the meal that I realized it was more than half over… bummer.  Next up was Escolar and Seared Nebraska Wagyu Beef with Sea bean Salad and Eggplant Fries with Mr. Kaufman’s pesto and red wine sauce.  The wine was La Croix de Beaucaillou, Saint Julien, Bordeaux 2004.  Now that description doesn’t even sound remotely familiar, nor does the picture really match.  The escolar and seared beef was definitely there (and WOW was it good… I must remember to order Escolar whenever possible), but the little accompanying items were more like light, flavorful, cheesy curds.  I guess it could have been bean salad with eggplant, however, all I know is that it was delicious.

We moved into the the dessert course next.  The description sounded quite risky: Basil Ice Cream with Peach Broth plus a tomato and a blackberry.  I wasn’t too sure, but it was GREAT. The wine that went with it was a Torrontez Sparkling – Deseado Familia Schroeder, Patagonia.  It was sweet and desserty without being sacarin.  Delicious!

Our last scheduled course was pistachio mousse, roastted white chocolate, lemon, and cherry.  The wine was Chateau La Rame – Reserve, Saint Croix du mont 1999.

The cherries were beautiful.

I always think it’s fun when they have a stuffed dessert.  It’s like a little surprise inside.  It tasted great, though I can’t say it blew me away.

They were incredibly sweet and quickly realized that it was my birthday.  They brought me this.

Which, as you can tell by the next picture, was inedible.  (Ha!)  I have NO idea what it was. But it was gooooood.

I was a bit bummed, however, that there was no chocolate.  But not to be faulted in any way, a miniature dessert course came out right before the check.

A fantastic assortment of teeny pastries.


Overall, this was absolutely a top 5 meal.  Nothing completely took our breath away, but the meal was fantastic from start to finish.  This was the first time we ever did a wine pairing with our dinner and I was VERY happy we did.  The pours were almost full glasses, so we left the dinner QUITE happy.  We also got to try many different wines along the way and came out loving almost all of them, with one incredible gem.  Well done Mike… well done!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10