a weekend in new york

so i haven’t posted in just ages and ages and ages and i thought i had better throw something up here lest blogger try to take away this piece of real estate.

i spent last weekend in new yawk eating. the little owl, eleven madison park, bar masa, nougatine and per se. (sorry i am too lazy to put up the links.) i posted about it all on FB, but here it is in the altogether.

lunch the first day at the little owl: a dish of heirloom tomatoes (red, yellow and green) with shaved radish, cucumber and red onion and a bit of basil. exquisite! then a plate of grilled scallops atop a salad of asparagus, grapefruit and cracked green olives. as much as i wanted to try their famous fried softshell crab, it was just too darn hot!

that evening, dinner at eleven madison park…
6 tiny canapes, including the lightest gougeres ever and foie gras with strawberry gelee and the tiniest radishes dipped in salted butter.
then a liquid insalata caprese: a colloidal suspension of mozzarella and one of tomato water.
next was caviar with panna cotta and lobster gelee, served in the caviar tin;
followed by heirloom tomatoes three ways: poached, served with Jamon iberico; warmed and topped with a tomato cloud: as a sorbet with “provencal granola.”.
a lovely dish of sea urchin cappuccino with cauliflower and peekytoe crab arrived next; then a mille-feuille of foie gras plated with compressed plums and bitter almonds
now we are on to the fish courses: snow white halibut with sweet corn three ways, radishes and purslane (this was my favorite dish);
poached lobster with lemon verbena and quenelles of zucchini, eggplant and peppers.
the next course was served in an empty egg shell: frog leg ragout with truffle and vin jaune sabayon. with this course we made the leap from the sea back to land.
a plate arrived covered with a glass bell filled with smoke. the waiters lifted the bells simultaneously, filling our nostrils with sweet smoke. on the plate rested a thin slice of pork belly with a sugary crust. pure theatre.
the last savory course arrived: herb roasted lamb, lamb sweetbreads, garbanzo beans and a sheeps milk tart with haricots verts. by now we have finished our martinis and are deep into the wine.oh yes…the wine. a 2005 chateau neuf de papes les hautes brusquieres. light enough for the tomatoes and fish, yet bold enough for the lamb and cheese.
ooooh! the cheese. the cheese trolley was wheeled up and we were informed about the dozen or so choices. cow, goat, sheep, washed rind, triple creme, blue, aged, fresh, blahblahblah. drew chose and they were plated with apple butter, port jelly, marcona almonds, toasted nut bread, fig cake and baguette
okay so now the desserts. an icy strawberry sorbet atop lemon gelee, crowned with champagne emulsion.
then jivara chocolate: moelleux with vanilla, olive oil and cocoa raspbery sorbet. this came with a whisper of a cocoa tuile.
all that remained were macaroons in seven flavors, along with coffee, and the check. we stumbled out into the night 4.5 hours after we had arrived–fat and sassy.

saturday night we opted for a japanese dinner at Bar Masa. we started with cocktails: a raspberry champagne concoction for drew and a refreshing watermelon martini for me.
we sat at the bar and drew handled the ordering. first up was hirame (fluke) layed atop perfect cylinders of cucumber and drizzled with a spicy vinaigrette. these were garnished with a tangle of cilantro sprouts. next was “Mako Karei”: slivers of flounder draped over quartered cherry tomatoes and anointed with tomato vinaigrette.

thanks to the perfectly dreadful heat, we were ready for another round of cocktails at this point. we each chose a wicked good elixir of ketel one, cointreau and clementine juice muddled with mint. two more sashimi selections came up next. unagi shirayaki (grilled eel) and toro (fatty boston bluefin tuna). each was laid next to a nest of shreds of shiso leaf and daikon.

next up were some warm selections. BBQ toro suji: fatty tuna cooked with a deeply flavored, spicy sauce, flecked with sesame and finely diced daikon, then mounded on bibb lettuce leaves. our last dish was grilled eggplants. these came in a heated black stone bowl and were crowned with a shower of bonito flakes that danced in the waves of heat from the dish.

opting out of dessert here, we settled the bill and crossed the street to have something sweet at jean-george vongerichten’s Nougatine in the trump hotel. we sat at the bar and noshed on cherry clafoutis with an amazing pistachio ice cream; apricot semifreddo; and the original warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

the last was dinner in per se’s salon on sunday night: we were seated in the middle of the room on a velvet couch in front of a silk rug set with a low table. a gorgeous setting, but not the most conducive to (fine) dining. we settled on a bottle of champagne (pol roger NV) and the food started coming.

the traditional thomas keller beginning: cheese gougeres (more substantial than those from friday night) and the salmon creme fraiche cones. next up was a luscious, silky gazpacho with a float of armando manni olive oil. a breadbasket was presented with pretzel rolls, miniature sourdough boules and tiny baguettes, accompanied by salted butter.

we ordered everything on the salon menu, leaving out only the foie gras and the cheese course. the first dish to arrive was a matsutake mushroom salad with very thinly sliced fresh mushrooms, chunks of lightly sauteed mushrooms, confit of fairy tale eggplant (about 2 inches long!), french breakfast radishes and bok choy. also a dish of sweet corn agnolotti with new crop potatoes, celery and tarragon butter.

then a fish course: pan roasted chatham bay cod with summer pole beans, smoked chili puree, frisee and whole grain mustard emulsion; butter poached lobster with lemon cucumbers, “ranch dressing,” and a baton of red pepper puree encased in the lightest, crispiest phyllo imaginable.

our entrees followed: rare duck breast, accompanied by a duck leg “sausage” with crispy okra, corn and huckleberries; a lovely lamb chop, garnished with crispy bits of lamb sweetbreads, infant brussel sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms and lamb jus.

dessert was next: a sorbet selection that included manjari chocolate, red currant, strawberry (set atop a brunoise of strawberries) and coconut, (set atop “croutons” of toasted genoise); a double chocolate brownie with caramel ice cream. this was followed by coffee and sweets (chocolates, pate de fruits and fudge).

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