Tag Archives: tasting menu

The New Champion: Eleven Madison Park- Part 2

13 Dec

Welcome back to our incredible meal at Eleven Madison Park. If you haven’t read Part 1 of our number one meal of all time, please go back there and come back here when you’re done!

So where were we?

Oh yes… we had just had some salsify and realized our cocktails were, sadly, empty.  So it was time for wine (while I was tempted by the wine pairing, I was nervous that I would be too drunk at the end to really enjoy and remember the meal… so we went for a bottle instead).  We told the sommelier that our favorite white wines were Vouvray and Russian River Chardonnay.  He mentioned that we had diverse flavors and we discussed trying something that was interesting. He recommended we try a WHITE Rioja. I hadn’t heard of a white Rioja, but we were game.  It came in netting. How fun!  

The wine tasted great and complimented the whole meal well. Must keep white Rioja in mind!

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But now… back to the meat grinder!

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We were soon given a tray of a whole bunch of mini bowls.  From left to right and top to bottom, there was an apple mustard, sunflower seeds, quail egg, dried blue fish, chives, whole grain mustard, horse radish, apple, and salt (the same special salt as before). In the little squeeze bottles were an apple oil and the other was a horse radish oil of some kind.

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It was also served with slices of rye bread.

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But what was going into the meat grinder?  Never would have expected this…

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Fresh New York carrots were ground for us right at the table into “carrot tartare.”

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It made a great consistency that was neither mushy nor crunchy, but exactly the same texture as tartare. How interesting!

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You then mix in however much of anything you want and enjoy.

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I really enjoyed the taste of the quail egg with the carrot.

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Our next course was one of my absolute favorites. It was lobster with poached leeks, black onion, and a shellfish bisque. I also think one of the waiters mentioned it had black garlic in it (one of my favorite flavors). This was everything right.  The leeks had a delicious char flavor and the lobster was so sweet and flavorful.  It all went so well together and I couldn’t believe how elevated this dish was. (Come on! How do you possibly elevate LOBSTER?! Amazing!)

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As we were finishing up, we were presented with our 140 day aged beef.

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And we saw the duck (that we didn’t choose) presented to the table next door. It was lavender and honey coated.

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While we awaited our beef, we were presented with a roasted parsnip with sesame, parsley, and dijon.  It had a parsnip chip on top.  I am not a huge parsnip fan, but this was a really fantastic presentation and all the textures made it very interesting. I was impressed that a parsnip could be made to taste this good.

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Once we finished our parsnip, a bowl of magic was put in front of us.  I cannot do justice to the smell (and taste) that came from this bowl. It was an introduction to the flavors we would be having next, a beef broth made with the same seasonings as our next course. It was a nostalgic flavor that brought me immediately back to my Great Grandmother’s kitchen. It was a memory I didn’t even know I had. Smell is a magical thing.

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After our incredible broth, we were given our beef course.  It was grilled with mushrooms (the likes of which was a variety I have never seen), amaranth, and arugula.  The amaranth is a tiny North American grain that was toasted and added a perfect little crispiness to this dish.  It was served with a sauce with the same flavors as the broth.

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On the side was a braised oxtail with foie gras and potato.  The oxtail was the texture of short ribs and incredibly rich in flavor.  The foie gras and the potato had such a great flavor, and it was all a bit reminiscent of a (brilliant) shepherds pie with that potato/meaty combo.

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The rib eye steak itself was absolutely incredible.  Charred and perfectly cooked, with an amazing sauce.  Every bite made me do the “happy belly dance.”

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What came next was one of my favorite parts of the whole meal. It started with a porcelain plate that perfectly resembled a paper plate.

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And then out came a mystery basket they called a “Greensward.”  

They said everything we would need was in the basket, except we may need a bottle opener, which they provided.

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We took a peak

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Inside was a beer, a soft pretzel, cheese, grapes, and plum mustard.  

I commented that the restaurant was like Christmas, because you just got to keep opening up presents.

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The beer was a special brew from Ithaca Beer Co. and we really enjoyed it. It was perfect with everything.

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I went to Ithaca College and always liked this brewery. I’m so glad it’s growing and now showing up all over the place in NYC!

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The plum mustard was a bit much for me (not a mustard fan), but Mike liked it.

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The cheese was served inside a mystery box…

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… and the cheese smell when you opened it was awesome.

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The grapes and pretzel went perfectly with the cheese and beer.  It was just a perfect picnic basket and totally FUN!

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After we were done with our picnic, they wheeled over a cart and started mixing up their take on the egg cream.  It was made with vanilla malt and fresh seltzer right in front of us.

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a real egg cream, but I can tell you that I never have had, nor probably will ever have again, an egg cream as good as this. It was a little glass of heaven.

It was a great conversion from our savory courses to our desserts. 

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Our first dessert came out and looked like autumn on a plate. It was poached pear with honey and acorn. (Acorn?) I don’t know what acorn tastes like, but if that was what we ate, I think I want to be a squirrel.

This was perfect. Everything I could possibly want. Totally my kind of dessert. I absolutely loved this combination.

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And then we had some excellent coffee.

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And started our last course: sheep’s milk cheesecake and port with walnut ice cream. I really loved the walnut ice cream. It was very mildly walnut flavored, but identifiable so.  The port and the cheesecake mixed so well with everything.

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And then Mike cheated.

He noticed that the plate below his dessert was moving around and he lifted it to find a little chocolate in a dish below.

At which point our poor waitress (noticing he made this discovery) ran over (with grace) and asked us to cut a deck of cards. She spread them out and then did some magic and gave us each a card.

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Mike’s card was blackberry… 

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…which was MYSTERIOUSLY the chocolate he had discovered.

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Mine was espresso…

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…which was my chocolate (surprise!)  What a novel and fun way to end such a novel and fun meal!

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And then our meal ended just how it began… with a perfect little pastry box all tied up.

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And inside was another set of black and white cookies, but these were of the sweet variety.  They were apricot and something else, but Mike’s handwriting (he was the note taker for this meal while I photographed) is unreadable at this point (I’m blaming the booze!)

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But then… there was one more.

It started with this homemade apple brandy being placed on our table, with the comment that we could drink as much of it as we wanted… I really enjoyed it, but damn was it STRONG! I only had a couple sips, but I enjoyed it.

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And then out came two perfect chocolate covered pretzels to end the meal.

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We marveled over the incredible adventure of a meal we just had. It was such a journey filled with fun surprises and every single bite was fantastic.  Usually tasting menus are filled with a few memorable bites and some other things you don’t remember.  Even the best ones.  Even a couple days later, we still have moments where we recall a whole bunch of courses from the meal and marvel at how amazing they were.

When the bill came, our server informed us that they had taken the drinks off the bill because they were late. I was really impressed that they went to this level of service to remove the cocktails.  But upon reflect, I think they might have taken the cocktails AND the bottle of wine off the bill.  I almost feel bad about it, because I’m not sure if they meant to do that. I have no idea! 

The service from start to finish was fantastic. There was only the 2 little blips with the cocktails being delayed a bit and then the one egg dish coming out without a description, but I can hardly remember those when put in light of the rest of the meal. Our server, specifically, was impeccable in every way.

As we stood up to go, we were given two cute little boxes to take home.

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In our little boxes was a sweet note for a Happy Anniversary.

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And 2 chocolates to take home. (We ate these a few days later and HOLY CRAP! They were so insanely good. It was like a spark of the meal we had and brought back all those awesome memories).

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Then a final bag with a jar of the chef’s favorite breakfast granola for the next morning.  (It is probably the best granola I’ve ever had and I just love when a restaurant sends me home with something awesome for the morning)

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What an amazing meal! I don’t know if I could say it enough. It was just freakin’ fantastic.

And we had no doubt as we left that it was the best meal we’ve ever had.

WD-50 has been our Number One restaurant for 4.5 years (even after a 2nd try!) and I really didn’t think anything could possibly top that.

But Eleven Madison Park topped them all.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go immediately to Eleven Madison Park for the meal of a lifetime. (Okay… maybe save it for a special occasion, but GO!)

And I am giving it a perfect 10.

Total Nom Points:  10 out of 10

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The New Champion: Eleven Madison Park- Part 1

11 Dec

I really love the tradition that Mike and I have of treating each other to really awesome dinners for special occasions.  I took on our anniversary this year and made sure to get a reservation 30 days in advance (I set my alarm for midnight to do it) at Eleven Madison Park. I took the day off of work (and Mike a half day) to be able to have a 16-course, 4 hour lunch here.  (Yes! 16-courses!)

Mike had no idea where we were going until we pulled up in front of the restaurant. 

I had been wanting to visit Eleven Madison Park for a long time, having read about the amazing meals there. I was hoping it would be in the top 10, but I didn’t expect what we got… the new NUMBER ONE. This was the meal of a lifetime. The best meal of my lifetime.  In fact, it was so grand, it wouldn’t fit in 1 post. So I had to split it into two parts.

We arrived to greetings by name and a warm wish for a Happy Anniversary (they had asked if it was a special occasion when I confirmed the reservation a few days prior).  They took our coats (and we realized a bit later that they didn’t give us a tag for them) and showed us to our table, which had a card sitting on it, wishing us a Happy Anniversary and thanking us for choosing EMP for this special occasion. 

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The restaurant itself is quite grand, with very high ceilings. It looks like it has not changed in forever, yet was somehow modern.

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I loved the murals on the wall and the general clean aesthetic of the dining room.

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And I’m glad we went for lunch, when we had a lovely view of Madison Square Park right next door.

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The sixteen courses are all a surprise, and you only get one choice.  Beef or duck.  We chose beef.

And then… the adventure began…

With a classic pastry box.

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Inside was EMP’s take on the classic New York Black & White Cookie. This one was a savory version made with apple and cheddar cheese.  The moment I took a bit, I knew we were in for an amazing treat. These were the perfect balance of everything, and in such a novel delivery.

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Bite number two was a Long Island oyster with wood sorrel and mignonette snow and crispy buckwheat.  A perfect treat of an oyster, with things that complimented it without taking away from the flavor of the oyster.

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Bite number three was a cranberry snow with beets, goat cheese, Greek yogurt, and caraway.  It was very refreshing and a nice balance of tart and sweet.  As a beet lover, I enjoyed this dish, but Mike said it was his least favorite dish of the meal… not that it was bad, but just because everything else was that much better.

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Course number four was sea urchin custard with shellfish ragout and apple espuma (foam).  It was a great balance of flavors, with a seriously seafood taste balanced perfectly with the apple.

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We were starting to get curious where our drinks were, since we ordered them when we first sat down and we were now already 4 courses in.  They came with sincere apologies that the bar got slammed, and we were soon sipping away on a Lafayette for Mike (Scotch, Cynar, East India Solera Sherry, Chambéry Dry Vermouth, Maple Syrup). Mike thought it was extremely well balanced with a nice oaky nose.

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And a Sleepy Hollow for me (London Dry Gin, Amaro Abano, Chambéry Blanc Vermouth, Apple Cider, Spiced-Pumpkin, Lemon, Egg White). I thought it was an awesome drink, with a perfect balance of sweetness and alcohol, with that excellent egg white foam.

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Course number five was, at first, a big mystery. This was a strange misstep in service. Since the full tasting menu is a surprise, you don’t know what you are getting until they put it in front of you and describe it. We had a server (who we only saw once during the meal) put these lovely eggs in front of us and then… leave. Not a word.  We sat for a few moments, not knowing what to do, taking in a delicious smoky smell.  It became too much, so we had to dig in with our little spoons.   The egg was creamy and delicious, and we got a smoky flavor that we were trying to identify before we heard the description… we thought it might be smoked ham, but we weren’t sure. We stopped a server to ask what we were eating, and she told us what it was: egg sabayon with chive oil. It had pieces of smoked sturgeon in the bottom. Delicious.

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This little blip in service was quickly recovered.  As we tried to get every morsel out of that egg shell, a beautiful cloche filled with smoke was put on our table with the instructions that it was still cooking and not to lift the lid.

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At this point, they put in front of us a plate with everything bagel crumbles, quail egg, and a baby romaine salad.

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They then put down a jar of homemade mini pickle spears.

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Two slices of thin rye toast.

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And a jar of caviar and cream cheese. 

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And then, they lifted the lid.

The amazing smell of wood smoke took over all my senses and Mike and I immediately said to each other that it is one of our most favorite smells.

On top was smoked sturgeon (complimenting the egg course before).

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We scooped out the cream cheese and caviar and made our own little bites of deliciousness.

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At this point, the Maitre D’ came over to say hello and then… invited us into the kitchen for a quick tour and a drink.

Don’t mind if I do!

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We walked into the front part of the kitchen where a little table was set up. He told us about how the kitchen operates (they use no computers, everything is figured out by the Executive Sous Chef and Expediter and they write down the times of every course to determine the pace at which people are eating.  We discussed how good service should mean that you never notice its there. You should never wait too long nor feel rushed.

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He then told us about how the pastry and cocktail teams came together to figure out a fun cocktail for this kitchen service. One of the pastry chefs came to make it right in front of us (WHAT FUN!)

They came up with a new spin on a 1920s, Prohibition style cocktail. It had gin, grapefruit, and pop rocks in it.

First, she used liquid nitrogen to freeze the gin.

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Then more liquid nitrogen to make a ball of grapefruit foam into a ball that resembled a meringue consistency (but cold).

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Then she added some grapefruit.

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Some other stuff that I don’t remember but tasted damn good.

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The frozen gin.

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Then pop rocks. (YUP! Pop Rocks!)

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And then the ball of frozen grapefruit foam.

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You “drank” this with a spoon, that you used to crack into the grapefruit ball.

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It all mixed together so well, and the pop rocks made for such an interesting and fun experience. (I can’t call it a drink… it was really an experience)

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The Executive Sous Chef, Bryce Shuman, also came by to chat with us for a bit.  He told us that they have nearly a 2 to 1 ratio of staff to diners during lunch and nearly 1 to 1 during dinner. This helps make the service totally flawless.

It was so exciting to be in that kitchen.  

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They even offered to take a picture of us in there (while joking that we probably would only want pictures of the food… which I couldn’t argue with… but figured we would make an appearance for this special occasion).

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On the way out, I took a photo of the butter station, which the Maitre D’ appreciated that I appreciated.

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And just like that… we came back to butter on the table.

On the right was a cow’s milk butter and on the left they mixed that same butter with beef compound.  The salt in the center was a special salt that the chef loves (it was very, very good).

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I was so curious about the meat butter.  It was actually similar in taste to bone marrow (which I jokingly call “meat butter”) and it was something I was very curious to try.  

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I loved the flavor but it needed the salt to cut through the greasiness a bit. I liked it in small doses, but wound up using more of the regular butter.

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The bread was almost a roll, almost a croissant.  It was the best of both worlds.  Buttery and flaky. We enjoyed making a mess of crumbs with that bread. It was delicious.

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Our next course (at this point… I don’t even know what number we hit), was salsify roasted with bulgur wheat, mangalitsa ham, and hazelnuts.  They told us that the ham was a special ham… and it certainly tasted special.  This was a nice combination of textures and flavors and had a nice freshness that went well after the bread and butter.

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What was next? The table next door was a hint since they were 1 course ahead of us.  What on earth was a meat grinder doing on the table?

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You will just have to read Part 2 to find out!

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!

Hugo’s: Portland, ME (AKA Birthday Dinner Take 2)

13 Nov

I was very fortunate to be able to spend my actual birthday weekend in Maine.  We were there to find a wedding venue (more on that at this blog) but we managed to squeeze in some really great meals.  On my actual birthday, we went to Hugo’s, one of the restaurants that put Portland, Maine on the map of foodie towns. Hugo’s is actually owned by the same people as Eventide, where we went the day before, and set the stage quite well for this meal (and happens to be right next door).

This restaurant is decorated very simply but elegantly, without being too fancy. 

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I especially enjoyed the single stem rose on the table with the pinch bowl for salt.

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We started with some signature cocktails, which were insanely good.  Mike got the PDT’s, which was a Bacon Bourbon Old Fashioned with bacon infused bourbon, maple, orange, and Fee Bros. old fashioned bitters. I got the Marmalade Sour which was with tequila, burnt orange, and lime.  Original and delicious.

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They placed these homemade biscuits with garlic and potato flour on the table and they just smelled great. It was served with hand churned butter and everything had perfect texture. 

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A delish bite.

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We went with the tasting menu and sprung for the wine pairings.

Our first course was pickle herring with mustard seed and potato crisp paired with a Spanish sparkling wine. I thought it was very fresh and not the mustard seeds were not overpowering (I’m not a mustard person and find that it distracts me from flavors usually).

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And the wine was perfect with it.

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Course two was fluke mousse medallions with cauliflower purée and quinoa arugula broth. This tasted very “green” and was served cold. It wasn’t so much mousse as it was pâté.  I really loved it, but Mike wasn’t a huge fan.  

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Course 3 was a lobster beet salad with orange purée, baby kale, and pecorino. The dish was light and flavorful. The acid of the vinaigrette cut the greenness of the beets and the wine went exceptionally well. There was a bit of a lemon candy flavor that complimented everything very well.

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Course 4 was grilled yellow fin tuna from Massachusetts.  It was delicious tuna tartar with maitkai mushroom purée, hajji, and chili oil… As the server went to put this down in front of me, he immediately noticed the chili oil in mine and took it back to the kitchen.  It was very quickly replaced. This dish was pretty damn awesome.  The waitress told us that she was actually a bit excited that the kitchen screwed mine up so she could try it.  And the wine pairing? Perfection. 

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Our last savory course was a duo of chicken. The red wine that was paired with this was absolutely awesome.  We found that the souvied dark meat was much better than the breast. The sauce reminded us of kasha and was very nice with it.

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For dessert, we were served a moscato which was an absolutely great glass of wine.

Out came a lime sorbet with watermelon gele, mint melon balls, and prosciutto.  It was a very good palette cleanser and everything went incredibly well together.

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By this time, we had been drinking enough that I forgot to take a picture of the corn gelato with tomato sweet jam basil and popcorn. We think… the notes got blurry here as well.

This was served with DuPont cider.  The best way I could think to describe it was that it tasted like hay… in a REALLY good way. The sweet corn gelato was absolutely awesome. I also really liked the corn cake and tomato but Mike thought it tasted like home made corn pops (he didn’t mention whether this was a good thing or a bad thing).  When I got a little bite of everything together it was absolute bliss.  I actually wrote down that it was one of my favorite bites… ever.   

We then had some little treats, but we were just too stuffed (okay… and drunk) to write it down or remember what it was. Whoops. Note how blurry the picture is as well.  Whoops x2.

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I absolutely LOVED our meal at Hugo’s. I was incredibly impressed and felt this could rival many meals we have had in the past in NYC.  It also made us realize that we enjoyed this meal (especially some of the innovative touches) even more than Jean George’s. I highly, highly recommend a visit if you’re in Portland, Maine.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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

 

 

Top 10 Noms of 2011

29 Dec

I can’t believe 2011 is over!  I always love going back through the past year of blogs to pick the top 10, and this year proved MUCH harder than years before.  There were just so many great Noms in 2011!

For the past Top Noms of the year, check out 2010 and 2009.

#10 – Alma de Cuba: Philadelphia I dream about the pork entree I had here, and that chocolate cigar for dessert (that was on fire) will always hold a tender spot in my food heart.

# 9 – The Breslin lived up to expectations with an awesome lamb burger and the scrumpets… oooooooohhhh the scrumpets.

#8 – We had wanted to visit Barbuto for a long time, after falling in love with the chef, Jonathan Waxman, on various food shows on television.  It was a meal made of some of the freshest, most lovingly crafted ingredients.


#7 – Our experience at Maialino was just a few days ago, but I am still thinking about that bacon and those desserts.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more… especially their namesake pasta.

#6 – When we decided to try Catch, Top Chef Hung’s new restaurant we didn’t know what we were in for. It was dark. It was Meatpacking. But it was delicious and inspired.  Awesome combinations and executed beautifully.

#5 – Imperial No. 9 was a fantastic journey of food, with many dishes that I would go back to eat all over again.  If you go, order as much as possible and share. Totally worth it.

#4 – Our adventure at Mountain Flying Fish in Breckenridge, CO was something I will never forget.  A well curated Omikase from the chef, who is a personal friend of my aunt proved to be one of the most perfect, original, and exciting meals I have ever had.  Land locked sushi shouldn’t be this good. Food shouldn’t be this good.  It was just… bliss.

#3 – Mike took me to Daniel for my birthday, and it was impressive.  The entire tasting menu was already one of the best meals I ever had, and then the desserts came.  The best series of desserts I have ever had. Hands down. And I LOVE dessert.

#2 – When I think of epic meals, I have to mention Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  A day-trip from NYC in Westchester, NY, it is actually ON the farm (which made for a lovely day as well).  Everything that comes out in the blind tasting menu was from the farm or locally sourced.  You don’t get fresher than that. And it’s hard to get any better.

#1 – Valentine’s Day at Colicchio and Sons for the Tasting Menu was phenomenal.  It took over the #2 all-time spot (under WD-50, which we tried again recently, by the way, to see if it could hold on to that #1 spot… more on that soon).  I have been to Colicchio and Sons a few times for their a la carte menu, and it’s always fantastic, but this tasting menu was other-worldly.  The duck egg, confit gizzard, & parsnip dish was hands down the best thing I have EVER eaten.  Just… wow.

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Honorable Mention:

The Truffle, Gruanciale, and Egg Pizza from Otto

Birreria at Eataly for the fantastic ambiance, beer, and damn good food

The classic New York feel (and food) of The Palm

Thumbs Up Diner: Atlanta for The Heap

Peking Duck House for the Peking Duck Special

Kefi for that amazing octopus

And 2 great Restaurant Week meals that were worth repeating…

Ilili for Restaurant Week

The Modern for Restaurant Week Winter and Summer

And last but not least… It’s hard to write about 2011 without mentioning Albert Hall Tavern, but now that Chef Bill is gone, the spark just isn’t there like it used to be.

Goodbye 2011! Onto even more fantastic adventures and Noms in 2012.

Tribeca Grill: Tasting Event Courtesy of Rue La La

7 Sep

Sometimes I look around and truly realize that I live a charmed life.  This blog has provided opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined. I have been invited to amazing complimentary dinners, been awarded a free Kodak Gallery book, and been given many opportunities to try new products.  Recently, I received an invite from Rue La La to enjoy a complimentary dinner and wine tasting at TriBeCa Grill.  I wasn’t quite sure what it would be, but they said I would be sitting with other bloggers and enjoying a meal and wine directly from the vineyard.  I was in!  Why not?

I had been to the TriBeCa Grill once before, for Restaurant Week, and had a so-so experience.  I was happy to have the opportunity to try it again.  And I recently found out that Robert De Niro was a co-owner, so if Vito Corleone approves, I had to give it a second shot.

I arrived and quickly learned that this was actually an event that Rue La La offered from their NYC Local site where many people bought into this opportunity.  I was even more humbled to have been invited as I sat at a round table with 3 other couples.  They were all surprised to hear that I blog about food and it led to some fun conversation throughout the night.  I was the only single person at a table of couples.  This was one of those moments that I was happy that I have no problem being chatty.

The menu looked great, and I did the usual schpiel with the waiter about peppers.  He said it wouldn’t be an issue.

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The wine was supplied from Joseph Drouhin vineyard and one of the brothers from the family that owned the vineyard, Laurent Drouhin, was there to tell us about the wines.  He was an absolute charmer, with great charisma that really captivated everyone’s attention as he spoke.  All learned that all Burgundy is really Pinot Noir (red) or Chardonnay (white).  Suddenly it made sense that I have recently found a fondness for Pinot Noir, seeing as though I have always been a Burgundy fan.  We learned a lot about the vineyard, including that in 2009 it was certified organic, making them the largest landowners to be certified.  We heard some great quips from those that make wine, including “When I see my dogs eating the berries, I know [the wine] is ready.”

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The chef also came out to say hello, however, he seemed more on the shy side.

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As we waited, we were served awesome chardonnay (Saint Veran) which he described as “beachy,” which was apropos.   There were numerous passed hors d’vors, including some awesome short rib pot stickers.

Our first item on the menu was diver sea scallop carpaccio with yuzu raita and sea urchin vinaigrette, paired with Drouhin Vaudon CHablis ‘Premier Cru’ 2008.  Sadly, I was so into the chat that I completely forgot to take a picture.  I also didn’t get the sea urchin vinaigrette due to my allergy, which as a bummer, but it was delicious.  It was summery, fresh, and creamy with a slightly grassy note. The cucumber with it was great but mine seamed to be missing the yuzu sauce.  The wine was grown in a cold climate, in a chalky and limestone soil.  It was good on its own, but it really sang when paired with the scallops.

Our next item was the Mushroom Crusted Halibut with gulf shrimp raviolini and lobster consomme.  It was supposed to look like this…

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But mine came out without the mushroom crust and without the raviolini.  I was disappointed by this fact, and quickly realized that they thought my allergy was to BLACK pepper as well as the vegetable peppers.  This is the most annoying part about my allergy.  In every language, black pepper and peppers are the same word.  But they are not related.  I cleared it up with the waiter immediately, but it wasn’t in time to get that raviolini back on this plate.  This fish was, sadly, overcooked. But the consomme was sensational.  Looking back, I wished I hadn’t eaten this entire piece of fish, as it was the worst thing all night (since it was overcooked) and I wound up far too full by the end of the evening.

The wine that was paired was a Drouhin Beaune ‘Clos des Mouches’ Blanc 2008.  The story of this wine was interesting.  It was on the 1st vineyard the family purchased and it was actually produced by accident.  In 1928, they were only producing red wine and told the pictures not to pick the white wine grapes yet because they were not yet ripe.  Some white wound up mixed in with the red, and when they tasted this white, they loved it.  It became the housewine for the famous restaurant in France, Maxine.  The name translates to “enclosure for flies,” however, flies were really bees (honey flies) and it happened that there were many in this area. It was smoky and long lasting.  One of my favorites of the evening.

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Next was the currant glazed duck.  It came with summer truffle and a duck leg confit croquette along with herb roasted heirloom carrots.  I thought it was a very well composed dish, with a great balance of sweet with the fattiness of the duck.  The carrots were garlicky and awesome and the croquette sang to me.  Some found the currant glaze too sweet, but it was right up my alley.

The wine was the Drouhin Savigny-les-Beaune ‘Clos des Godeaux’ 2009.  It was from a vineyard that was purchased by the family in 2009 and was fruity and smelled like my Grandmother’s Italian Plum Pie.  It was my second favorite of the evening.  We were informed that the 9s were very good for wine years, and 2009 was one of the best in the last 110 years in the Burgundy region. I agreed.

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We then were presented with a selection of artisanal cheeses (Coupole from Vermont, Le Marecha from Switzerland, Ubriaco Speciale from Veneto, Italy, and Cantalet from Auvergne, France).  I honesty couldn’t tell you which was which, but they were all great.  And made even better by the fig jam, quince paste, and raisin walnut bread it was served with. That bread was simply scrumptious!

The cheeses were actually served with 2 red wines.  One was the Drouhin Clos de Vougeot 2004.  I thought this was a bit strong and almost blotted out the flavor of the cheese.  The second wine was produced just 5 miles away, but was completely differently.  I really loved the Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny ‘Premier Cru’ 2003.  I thought it was fantastic and my top wine of the evening.  It smelled a bit like port and I thought it was the perfect foil for the cheeses.  Interesting, Laurent Drouhin asked the room who liked which one.  1/3 were with me, and 2/3 preferred the first wine.  He made the point well that wine preferences are very personal.

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Our final dish of the evening was a strawberry cheesecake with strawberry rhubarb sorbet.  This was… unnatural.  The color was a little too fake and the taste reminded me of fruit loops.  I couldn’t get past it and didn’t really enjoy this (which is strange for a dessert lover like me).  Someone else mentioned that it tasted like those Hostess packaged strawberry treats.  Neither comparison was something I would want my dessert to taste like.  It was a shame after such a lovely meal.

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Our table left very satisfied, and the number of glasses we amounted over the course of the evening amused me.

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Overall, both the food and wine at this event were fantastic.  I’m really thrilled to have been invited and this definitely elevated my perception of the restaurant.  Laurent Drouhin said the wines were made to be “Food Friendly” and he was absolutely right.  I will pursue these wines and hope I can find them in local stores.  (If only I could figure out how to pronounce them).  I’m bummed that my allergy mix-up at the beginning meant I didn’t get to try things the way they were intended, however, even without that it was great.  I will make a point of going back here.

And I have to thank Rue La La for being so good to local bloggers and inviting us out to this event.  There was a handful of us in attendance, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.  I have purchased a number of local packages from Rue La La (and don’t even get me started on how many pairs of shoes have been shipped my way courtesy of their shopping site) and have always found them to be one of the better “deals” sites.  This event was personal and professional and all around delicious.  They just recently launched local editions in Chicago and Miami and I highly encourage you to check out their site to see if they have deals in your area.

Thank you again to TriBeCa Grill, Joseph Drouhin Wines, and Rue La La for reserving a seat for me at this dinner.  It was NomAlicious!

Blue Hill at Stone Barns: Tarrytown, NY

15 Aug

We were trying to determine where to go for a getaway weekend.  I knew we might not get out until late afternoon on Friday, and had to be back on Sunday, so we didn’t want to go far.  We thought about the usual contenders: Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, Jersey Shore, Long Island beaches.  But then Mike came up with a fantastic idea… to go to Tarrytown, NY and finally visit Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  We have been wanting to go for years, especially after trying their NYC location which was wonderful.  The only reservation we could get with the 1 week notice was at 9:30pm on Friday night.  So we decided to get a local hotel room and then we would explore the area the following day.

Stone Barns is very easy to get to. The train is very quick and you can get a cab right there.  We got a ZipCar and arrived less than an hour after we left our apartment.

Blue Hill is literally on the farm.  The chef finds what is freshest from the farm that day and makes a menu out of it.  You never quite know what is going to come out, but you can be sure it’s good.

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We arrived about 10 minutes early and were told we would be seated soon.  So we made ourselves comfortable at the bar, which had these lovely, comfy chairs and couches.

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Their cocktail list was very unique, but both Mike and I were enamored with the “Up in Smoke” which had whiskey, mescal, and smoked peaches, lime, and thai basil.  It was definitely unique. Not sure I would get it again but I’m glad we tried it.

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We had nearly finished our cocktails when the Maitre’D came over.  I assumed it was time to go but he informed us that they were a bit behind schedule and asked if we would like to begin our amuse bouche in the bar area while we waited. We happily agreed.

First up were lightly fried fresh beans (green and wax).  They were delicious and the fry just added a hint of crisp.  I also liked that they served it on slate.

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Next up was a few fresh veggies from the garden (arranged on skewers sticking out of a block).  We had fennel, butter lettuce, a radish, and a gooseberry.  Everything was tasty, but the gooseberry was sensational.

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Next up came a pancetta fried squash blossom.  I find that many times squash blossoms retain too much grease from frying, but these were tender and cooked just right.  I can’t say I tasted the pancetta too much, but the entire thing was tasty all together.

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Next was something I remembered trying, and loving, at Blue Hill NYC.  These were tiny tomato “burgers.”  These were perfectly sweet with perfectly ripe tomatoes.  Even better than I remembered.

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Next up came some sliced meats.  The one on the left was bresaola (air cured beef) and on the right was prosciutto.  Both were quite tasty.

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At this point, we were so pleasantly enjoying our experience that we hadn’t even realized that we were nearly 45 minutes past our reservation when we finally sat in the main dining room.

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The did an amazing job with an old barn, keeping it modern and industrial, while clean and looking like it belonged on a farm.

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I opened up the menu and was pleased to see that of the multiple artwork available on menus, I received the artichoke. (I LOVE artichokes).  The menu gives a choice of 5, 8, or 12 courses.   The 5 and 8 have the same amount of food, but the 8 had more variety.  The 12 is called the “Farmer’s Feast” and it sounded quite epic.   Too epic for being after 10pm.  (Sidenote: This place is a “Special Occasion” restaurant.  It is expensive even as far as NYC Tastings go.  Be prepared.  But it is 100% worth it.)  We chose the 8 course and, to add to the opulence, I also got the wine pairing.  (Note as dishes get increasingly blurry below… both in images and in recollection of what we ate).

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I then realized that the beautiful flower sitting on our table was ALSO an artichoke.  Gorgeous.

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And then the food started coming out… Look familiar?  It was so delicious and light the previous time that we didn’t mind a second helping.

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Next came a melon shooter.  It was melony, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to drink it again.

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And then more beans…

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When the meat came out again I debated saying something, but this was NEW meat so I just had to try it.  I believe the left was bresaola again but on the right was bologna.  Now I don’t like bologna.  But this is what bologna was supposed to be.  Made me think that I cannot even imagine how they can call deli bologna “bologna” if THIS is what it was supposed to taste like all along.

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Next, out came a salad.  It had fresh and seasonal vegetables with (YAY!) gooseberries.  It also had some marscapone and a foam that I cannot recall anymore.  They also topped it with edible flowers.  It really just looked like freshness in a bowl.

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The next item was a piece of brioche (that also had some swiss chard that didn’t photograph well).

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And this was paired with homemade ricotta that they strained in front of us.    It was creamy and rich and I kind of wanted to bathe in it.

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We were then served poached lobsters with corn and shallots.  It was in a broth that tasted like everything that is wonderful about lobster and corn.

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At this point we really wanted bread to lap up the broth from the lobster dish, and without a moment to spare, out came the bread with homemade butter and two specialty salts.

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They were flavored with tomato and spinach.  And they were wonderful.

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Next was an egg dish.  It was a poached egg over julienned squash noodled.  I took a small bite and realized that the dark red specks were, in fact, peppers(which, thanks to my allergy are my mortal enemy).  Mike really enjoyed the dish while I waited for a replacement.

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At first I was a bit upset to be missing the egg course, because there are few things I love as much as a fresh and well cooked egg.  I was also surprised that the pretty impeccable service had made this mistake.  But then… my replacement came out.  It was a lightly fried poached egg (say what?) in a pea broth.  Let me just say, this was so freakin’ amazing that I was GLAD they made the mistake.  How on earth they fried a poached egg will remain a mystery to me, but it was sensational.  The pea broth was a perfect foil for the egg and everything came together with perfect flavor and texture.

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Our next course required special preparation, where a special type of egg yoke was grated onto our dish.

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This was a homemade ostrich egg pasta dish (with the shaved egg thing over it) and a sauce that I cannot for the life of me remember but I do remember thinking it was absolutely delicious.   (Note: this is when I realized that the wine pairings, which were supposed to be “small pours,” were no where close to small and were starting to impact my ability to photograph and recall what we ate… not that I enjoyed it any less, however).

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Our next course was the meat course, which had sliced flank steak and beef tongue. I usually am not a huge fan of tongue.  Sliced deli tongue is fine, but give me a slice of pastrami any day instead.  This tongue, however, was one of the best morsels of food I have ever had.  It was rich and melted in my mouth, with intense meat flavor.

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Up next were desserts.  This was fresh blueberries, marscapone, and sorbet. It was fresh and delicious and all the right balances of sweet and tart.

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Our last bite was a caramel sauced, fresh milk ice cream, chocolate mousse with chocolate ganache and fresh berries.  It was decadent with nothing too sweet, nothing too rich, nothing too bitter.  It was perfect.  A blend of everything that is right with dessert.

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At this point I was a bit thankful that it was over… I was so stuffed (and so damn drunk) that I was concerned that Mike would have to carry me out (or roll me).  At this point we were served a mint smoothie, some fresh fruit, and some chocolate cookies.  I took a nibble and sip of each, and each was delicious… but just far. too. full.

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Overall, this was one of those meals for the history books.  It was easily in the Top 10.  From start to finish, everything was delicious.  There were some mistakes in service (the seating, the double amuse bouche, the peppers) but the overall service was so fantastic with great attention to detail, that none of that mattered.  The wines during the pairing were each very good, but nothing that stood out and it was honestly just too much.  I wouldn’t recommend going for that part, but everything else is a must.  Each bite was fresh, delicious, and elevated what food should be.  It was unbelievably expensive, but worth every penny.  It is one of those once in a lifetime food experiences that everyone should have the opportunity to have just once.   Some people dream about vacations to Bali, some about luxury cars, some about owning race horses… me? I dream about food experiences like this one.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Philly Noms- Amada (AKA the most disappointing Celebrity Chef restaurant EVER)

15 Apr

Philly was so packed with restaurants we wanted to try that we actually found no time to get some famous Philly Cheesesteaks.  We aren’t cheesesteak fans, however, there is always next time.  Though after our meal at Amada, I think a gross greasy cheesesteak would have been a MUCH better idea (and for an arm and a leg cheaper).

We had VERY high hopes for Amada.  It is a Jose Garces restaurant and were told it was his best.  And Jose Garces was picked as the Next Iron Chef, so how could this not be awesome?

Well… we’ll start with some things that WERE awesome… like the meat hanging from the side of the bar.

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And what was listed on the HUGE menu…

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And especially the SANGRIA!  (The best I have ever had)

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The awesome pretty much ended there. 

On the menu, we were having trouble deciding so we decided to splurge for the tasting to make sure we got a good sampling of all that Amada had to offer.  We inquired as to the three different prices listed on the Chef’s Selection Menu (see below) and were informed that the price would determine the quality of the ingredients.  So there would be more higher end things at the $65 level with more meats.  Each would have 9-11 dishes over 3 courses.  We decided to take the middle-road and went with the $55 tasting… and since it was our final meal of this little trip, we went for the wine pairing ($20 was a 3 ounce pour and $35 was the 5 ounce, but each had only 3 glasses total, 1 per course).

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We mentioned at the get-go that we LOVE artichokes (hoping for at least a few of the awesome sounding artichoke dishes from the menu) and, of course, that I was allergic to peppers.  We even had a long discussion over what type of peppers, which we informed her includes paprika.  I THOUGHT we were in good hands.

The bread that came out was crispy and garlicky, with a tuna, olives, and capers dip (compliments of the chef).  This was okay.

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Next up came aged manchego cheese with truffle lavender honey.  The cheese was very good, though the honey was more lavender than truffle.  Still enjoyable though.

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And the presentation was awesome (this was true throughout the meal actually).

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Next, we were served a few things all at the same time (even before we finished the cheese).  First was the sorano ham and fig salad, which came wrapped in the thinly sliced ham and it all went very well with the fig and blue cheese inside.  This was one of our favorite dishes of the night, though we both noted that the best things were the items that were basically assembled and not really cooked.

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Cured meats came out next.  I asked the busser who put this on the table if the meats were spicy at all and his answer of “OH YEAH!” was scary.  I finally got a hold of the waitress who informed me that I couldn’t eat a row of meat (Damn! Glad we asked).  She hardly apologized.

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While most of the above dishes were still on the table, the next course came out.  Now I understand that they wanted to serve things in courses, however, the table was nowhere near big enough for the food and we found most of it got cold before we got to it because it was just so much.  It also made us feel VERY rushed (we did, in fact, finish this entire tasting in just over an hour).

First, we had the flat bread with short ribs.  It was VERY short on flavor and we both laughed over the fact that the short ribs were nowhere near as good as the ones from Chef Bill at Albert Hall Tavern.

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We were also given caramelized melon with ham.  This was good but, again, more assembled than cooked. 

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We were then served garlic shrimp which was… garlicky.  So garlicky that you hardly tasted the shrimp.  And super oily.  This reminded me of a bad diner meal.

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Next we were served… more grilled shrimp… with more garlic olive oil.  (MEH?) This was good but way too salty, and Mike and I are some of the biggest over-salters we know.  Bleh.  (At this point I started getting ornery).

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The next course was garbanzo beans with spinach… and peppers.  Lots of peppers.  WTF.   Mike tried it and mentioned that it tasted awful and the beans weren’t cooked.  We sent this back.  (For me to send something back at a restaurant is HUGE.  I think I have done it twice in my entire life).

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FINALLY an artichoke came out.  It was the parmesan artichokes… but it was 1 small artichoke… split in half.  It was literally 2 bites a piece.  Why so skimpy?  I understand if you skimp on things like lobster… but artichokes and cheese? GIVE ME A BREAK.

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Next up we had NY Strip Steak which came with currants and spinach.  The combination of spinach, the cheese, the sweet sauce, and the currants on the steak was really great and at least a bit special.  But I don’t know if this one well cooked plate could come anywhere close to making up for the atrocity of a meal we had.

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Then we got our last dish which was… fava bean and lima bean salad?  What a weird ending!  And totally bland.  I think this may have been what was replacing the chick pea pepper catastrophe, however, to end on this was just icing on the awful cake.

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The tasting didn’t come with any dessert, and after the terrible meal we decided to wade our way through the rain storm to go somewhere, ANYWHERE, else. But it ended with this interesting almond thing.  It was a lot like a fortune cookie.  Pretty good actually.

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Oh! And we got a wine pairing didn’t we?  Ugh.  All 3 wines tasted like they came out of the bottom of a house wine bucket.  Nothing even remotely good or noteworthy.

It felt like there were a lot of great ingredients that were mostly executed terribly. Whomever selected this tasting really didn’t put much thought into it.  To follow up garlic and oil shrimp with garlic and oil shrimp made that obvious.  And very few dishes were executed well.   I was beyond disappointed by this meal. I was actually quite horrified.

And to make matters worse… both Mike and I got food poisoning on the way home… on a train.

Curse you Jose Garces. CUUUURRRSSSSSSEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUUU.

Total Nom Points: 3 out of 10

 

Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto

4 Apr

While Mike and I watched Top Chef Masters last year, we really had a fondness for Jonathan Waxman.  We were thrilled to learn that he had a restaurant in the West Village which was quite reasonably priced.  Barbuto is located on Washington Street at West 12th Street and has big garage doors that must be awesome in nice weather.

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There is also a nice open kitchen.

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I also appreciated the logo, which had an adorable cartoon dog, and was on all the plates.

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The menu changes often and tailors to what is freshest.  As I looked through, there were far too many things that looked far too good.  We then saw a note in the bottom left corner that said that a tasting menu was available for $65 per person.  As far as tasting menus go, that seemed like a steal.  When we inquired about it, we were informed that the tasting menu includes 2-3 dishes from each section… and then the waiter went on to tell us that it was a LOT for two people and he wanted to make sure we were aware that we would probably be overwhelmed with the food quantity.  Seeing as though we hadn’t eaten that day, and it’s hard to resist TOO MUCH food, we went for it.

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There was also an extensive wine menu and our waiter guided us in a direction that I’m still not sure how to pronounce, but it was FANTASTIC.

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Our first course was the salumi, which had prosciutto coppa, cacciatorini and rosemary focaccia.  Very fresh. Very delicious.

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Next up, we were delivered the bruschetta which came with butternut squash and marinated gorgonzola.  MMMM this was good.  Great combination of flavors.

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Our final antipasti was the cavolini crudi, which was shaved brussels sprouts with pecorino, lemon, and breadcrumbs.  While this was DELICIOUS (and the vinaigrette impeccable), we both agreed that we enjoy our brussels sprouts roasted rather than shaved.

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Our first pasta was lumaconi alla cavolfiori.  Lumaconi is “snail shell” pasta that looks like opened shells.  It had a GREAT texture and ours came with roasted cauliflower and cream sauce (they, thankfully, remembered to hold the chilis!)  I’m always concerned that when a dish loses peppers that it will lose its substance.  But this was great even without the spice.

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Our second pasta was the gnocchi con zucca which came with roasted fall squash and sage.  The squash here was SO. GOOD.  And I really liked the gnocchi.  It was slightly browned and had a great texture, with awesome pecorino cheese and a delicious sauce.

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Our first main course was pollo al forno which was a roasted chicken with salsa verde.  We heard good things about this chicken, and it was VERY GOOD.

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Ok… not Zuni good… but still very good.  Though I think I’m always a wee bit let down when I get chicken on a tasting menu, since I don’t think chicken is ever really special enough (and I make a damn good roast chicken myself, thanks to the Zuni recipe).

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Our second entree was coda di rospo, which was seared monkfish with bacon and savoy cabbage.  I LOVE monkfish, and this was one of the best I had ever had.  It was seared and cooked perfectly and the slight sauce on it was awesome.  And it all went so well with the delicious cabbage. 

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We also received sides, and I was very happy to see that we got the roasted brussels sprouts and colatura (anchovy sauce!)  The salty anchovies with the brussels sprouts was very good.

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Our last side was crispy potatoes with pecorino and rosemary.  It looked like these were hit with a hammer and then roasted to perfect crispness. 

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Our dessert was a hazelnut torte of some kind with chocolate sauce. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember thinking that it was very good, but not GREAT.  I kind of wanted just a little more texture in this.  But I enjoyed it.

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Overall, as far as tasting menus, especially at a celebrity chef restaurant, I thought this was incredibly affordable and did an amazing job of showcasing the REAL menu by picking selections from the actual menu.  While I do love the specialness of getting a tasting menu to try out some things that you can’t get a la carte, there is something comforting about knowing that the menu is good enough to be its own tasting menu.  Nothing was earth shatteringly delicious or original, but it was all cooked and flavored perfectly. 

I can’t wait to go back.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10