By: Laurie Wallin
Capital Cooking Contributor
Capital Cooking Contributor
There’s one surefire thing about NYC – no matter where you turn, there’s amazing food and wine waiting for you around every corner. My husband and I spent some time in the Big Apple over the weekend celebrating our anniversary and were lucky to dine enough at some of the city’s biggest gems – Per Se, Le Bernadin, and Eleven Madison Park.
The iconic blue doors of the French Laundry welcomed us to Per Se. We were whisked away to a romantic table for two overlooking the dining room and upon noticing that I’d placed my clutch on the floor, a server came over right away with a stool for my bag. The dining room is the epitome of romantic – quiet, cozy, and a giant stone fireplace anchors the room. The view is absolutely outstanding, overlooking Central Park and the NYC skyline.
Without a doubt, the beef course – Snake River Farms’ “Calotte de Boeuf” was our favorite course. The beef was seared to a beautiful medium rare and came accompanied with gulf shrimp “tempura”, butternut squash miso-puree, fuyu persimmon, grilled scallions, and white soy “gastrique”, which we paired with a Rubissow Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Veeder, Napa Valley (2008). Another outstanding course was “Oysters and Pearls” – “sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon caviar. Some of the freshest, most delicious oysters and caviar I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Also extremely impressive was the parade of desserts that came out at the end of our meal. There is only one dessert course listed on the menu (listed as only “assortment of desserts”) but at least 4-5 desserts made their way to our table. Luckily, they allowed us to box up any dessert that we couldn’t finish, which we happily ate for breakfast the next day.
Dinner the next day was at Eric Ripert’s famous Le Bernardin, a restaurant that has been in NYC for over 20 years and held the distinction of a 4-star rating from the New York Times as long as it has been open. We chose the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu with the wine pairing and had the pleasure of eating some of the freshest, most beautifully prepared seafood we’ve eaten in a long time. One thing I really liked about Le Bernardin was the wine pairings – there were a number of unusual varietals represented, including Amigne from Switzerland and Assyrtiko from Greece. My favorite course of the night was Lobster – lobster “lasagna,” celeriac, and truffle butter paired with a Dumangin Brut 17, Chigny Les Roses from Champagne (NV).
I was surprised to discover on day 3 of the trip that I actually had room in my stomach for breakfast after two days of multi-course tasting menus so I decided to get the quintessential NYC breakfast – a bagel with cream cheese. Without a doubt, the place to go is Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd Ave in Midtown. The line was literally out the door when we arrived and only got worse, eventually snaking around the corner. I can see why –the bagels are baked fresh every day, and had just the perfect amount of softness and crunch.
We ended our trip with a bang by dining at Eleven Madison Park. I’d had my eye on this restaurant for years and was excited to finally score a reservation. We were seated in a cozy booth for two overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. After several courses, my husband and I thought we’d smelled something burning – and when the next course arrived at our table, we realized why. The sturgeon came smoking on a bed of wood-fired chips and was accompanied by a quail egg on top of everything bagel crisps, crostini, pickled cucumbers, a tin of caviar with cream cheese, meant to resemble a NYC “breakfast.” I also learned that a mother of pearl spoon is used for the caviar so as not to taint the taste.
I loved that there is no provided menu and that every course is essentially a surprise. Eleven Madison Park is busting with creativity – one course was served in a picnic basket and another accompanied by a “magic trick” that presented the next course. In addition, the entire experience was very interactive. My favorite course of the night was the honey lavender duck, which was accompanied by grilled pearl onions, chanterelle mushrooms and roasted with turnips and huckleberries. I absolutely loved the presentation of this course – first, the server brought out the entire duck, stuffed with lavender, to explain the preparation, which was then followed by the carved duck.
In three days, I experienced some of the most delicious, creative cuisine I’ve had in a long time. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure, I highly recommend NYC!