The only time this has ever happened in our lifetime…
and My Brother’s Birthday!
I was six when he was born. Until then, I was the only grandchild on both sides of the family.
Happy Birthday, Mel!
We light the first Chanukah candle this evening. I’ve finished my baking for our traditional holiday meal which will take place this weekend. Since the P.G. is gluten-intolerant, I made two things he can enjoy along with the rest of us.
The recipe for the cookies, which comes from Beth Hagman’s The Gluten-Free Gourmet , is specifically designed for the gluten-intolerant. I made one change: butter instead of vegetable shortening.
Flourless Walnut Cake
This cake works for the gluten-intolerant without any alterations. No flour and just four ingredients. The recipe is adapted from From Earth to the Table, by John Ash.
I had graduated from Queens College in June, spent the first part of the summer traveling in England and Europe, the second half on a USA cross-country trip with my parents and brother, and had celebrated my 21st birthday on October 24th.
I was living at home in Queens and working at the Walter F. Cameron Advertising Agency, a very small retail agency, in Brooklyn. There were five of us: the eponymous Walter; his partner, Lawrence Germain; an ad salesman, Lowell, the graphic designer, Len; and me, the advertising/administrative assistant. With the exception of Len, our desks were in a large front room; his work area was down a long hall in the back. He had a radio which he always listened to as he worked.
It was a Friday (exactly 50 years ago to the day) with unusually balmy weather for November. So much so, that when I went out for lunch, I didn’t wear a coat. After I returned, I was sitting at my desk working and chatting with Walter and Larry. Lowell was out of the office. All of a sudden, Len came running down the hall. I can still hear his voice. “The President’s been shot!” Stunned was followed by shock when we soon heard that JFK was dead.
I don’t remember much of the rest of the afternoon. At 5 o’clock, I drove home taking my usual route along the Belt Parkway. During rush hour, it was always bumper-to-bumper. As we inched along, I clearly recall peering into all the cars around me and seeing the same look of sadness on all the faces.
The next three days were spent in front of the TV. As the three major networks broadcast JFK’s American flag-draped coffin lying in state in the East Room of the White House, the music played on an endless loop was the funeral march from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. Whenever I hear it, even 50 years later, it remains connected to that image.
On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in history: The Gettysburg Address. When I took American history in high school, my teacher required us to memorize it. I wonder if any teachers still do.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Normally, I don’t post Tuesday puzzles as they aren’t particularly challenging; however, since the theme of today’s puzzle commemorates this historic event, I decided to include it here.
3D. Prez who delivered a famous address on Nov. 19, 1863 = Abe Lincoln
31D. Where 3-Down’s address was delivered = Gettysburg
The circle fills for 17-, 25-, 36-, 43-, 51-, and 66-Across spell out the famous six-word opening: Four score and seven years ago.
(Note: Although I uploaded photos of this dinner to my Flickr right after the event took place, I never wrote about it. Since then, the P.G. has asked me several times to post about it. So, Louis, this one’s for you! Happy Birthday!! )
In August 2012, the food world was all abuzz with the announcement that Eleven Madison Park and Alinea were undertaking a project called “The 21st Century Limited,” named after the famous train that ran between NYC and Chicago. The plan: the two restaurants would trade places. For five days in September, Chef Grant Achatz and his Alinea team would take over the kitchen at EMP, and in October, Chef Daniel Humm and his EMP team would do the same at Alinea.
Michael and I were among those fortunate to attend Alinea at EMP and shared the experience with our friends Jose Moran Moyer and Elise Porter.
Walking through the familiar revolving doors, we were immediately signaled that we were being “transported” to a restaurant 800 miles from NYC. Gone were EMP’s floral arrangements. Instead, there was this display:
When we were escorted to our table, it also looked very different. Instead of EMP’s formal white cloth skirted in gray, we found this:
The meal included wine pairings. My pairings were non-alcoholic. First up, a cocktail: Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée St. Anne with Lillet, Vya Sweet, Peychaud’s, Thai Long Peppercorn. And for me, a Sparkling Cocktail of Ginger & Elderberry.
What followed was a multi-course tasting dinner. Many of the dishes Alinea signatures. Some were just one bite; others somewhat larger. Often they came with instructions as to how they should be eaten.
Butternut, Muscovado, Finger Lime, West Indies
As you can see, the glass things turned out to be holders for the tubes.
After we drank the Butternut and the glass holders were removed, we were told to sweep the leaves onto the floor! Then, a tall glass cylinder filled with sand was placed on the table and left there, its purpose not to be revealed for a bit.
From the Sea: Oyster Leaf Mignonette; King Crab – Celery, Meyer Lemon, Mustard; Sea Urchin – White Chocolate, Yuzu, Wasabi; Lobster – Trinity, Sherry, Chervil; Taylor Bay Scallop – Onion, Champagne, Osetra; Razor Clam- Shiso, Soy, Daikon
Yuba Prawn, Togarashi, Miso
At this point, the sand was poured in little mounds in front of each of us.
The sand was the base to hold the next course. Otoro, Thai Banana, Sea Salt, Kaffir Lime.
So, how did they clean up the sand? Easy! They gathered up the tablecloth and removed it, thereby revealing another cloth.
The colors in the composition of the next course matched the colors on the cloth which could be seen through the glass plate:
Corn, Huitlacoche, Sour Cherry, Silk
The colorful cloth was removed revealing yet another cloth, a stone was placed in front of each of us, and the next course was placed on the stone: Brook Trout, Sage Bourbon, Nasturtium.
The next three courses…
Woodcock, Lingonberry, Shallot, Oak Leaves
Matsutake, Pork, Huckleberry, Pine
Hot Potato, Cold Potato, Black Truffle, Butter
Then, the table was covered with brown boards. If there is such a thing as a “main course” with this kind of dinner, I guess this next course would be it. On the menu we were given at the end of the meal, it was listed like this: Lamb …..?????…..!!!!! Placed in front of each of us was a plate of lamb prepared five different ways.
In the center of the table was a large glass sheet which held a variety of ingredients.
We were instructed to choose whichever ones we wanted to accompany the different styles of lamb. Since we would determine how the lamb dish would be “composed,” ergo, all those ?’s and !’s.
The center board was removed, but the other boards were kept in place as five more courses followed.
Black Truffle Explosion, Romaine, Parmesan
Honey was placed on the table, its use to be determined.
Ginger, Five Other Flavors
Concord Grape Crispy & Cold
Carrot, Coconut, White Sesame, Caramelized Honey
Here’s where the honey came into play.
Balloon – Helium, Green Apple
We were instructed to inhale it. I didn’t. But the others did. Michael somehow managed to end up like this:
The boards were removed. Time for Chef Grant Achatz’s famous dessert: Dark Chocolate Pinata, Chestnut, Rye, Birch Syrup. Chef Achatz came to the table to make it happen.
After a short series of steps, the “piñata” was smashed.
It then became a do-it-yourself dessert thingy.
To clear the dessert mess the easy way, the tablecloth was gathered up and removed. Et, voila!
The final tablecloth reveal, white skirted with grey, signaled that we had finished our journey to Alinea and were back at EMP.
So, how was the food? I would describe it as interesting and playful. There were a few things that I felt were delicious though not so much so that they stand out in my memory. But, overall, it is not the kind of food I love. To be honest, if Michael and I had had this meal on our own at Alinea in Chicago, I would have come away disappointed. Nevertheless, I’m very glad I had the opportunity to try Achatz’s style of cuisine. Doing it at EMP and sharing the experience with Jose and Elise made it a fun and memorable evening.
To see the entire set of photos from this dinner, including the wine and non-alcoholic pairings, click here.
Theme: Answers That Refer to Themselves.
Since October 6th, the last time I posted a puzzle, I’ve finished quite a few others but all had one or more errors. For a Thursday puzzle, this was relatively easy. But I think the theme sucks.
20A. Like 20-Across = Pronounceable
28A. Like 28-Across = Unhyphenated
43A. Like 43-Across = Twelve-Letter
52A. Like 52-Across = Pentasyllabic
It’s white truffle season. Most restaurants that offer them do so at exceedingly high prices. However, at NoMad, for this entire season, they are being offered at cost. On the website, the listing is as follows: a reasonable portion 4 grams @$32; a ridiculous portion 8 grams @$64. This will, of course, fluctuate.* At lunch and dinner, they are being shaved over risotto or tagliatelle with butter and parmesan, $25 for each. At brunch, I believe they can be shaved over eggs.
The day after my birthday dinner at EMP, we had lunch at NoMad. Definitely a great way to extend the celebration since we are, of course, treated as “family” there as well.
Before arriving, we decided we’d order the risotto and the tagliatelle as our main course and share them. And we’d have “the ridiculous” on both!
Like EMP, NoMad has the Coravin system. So, Michael chose to have one glass of a very fine Barbaresco, which would be a perfect match for Alba white truffles.
I asked if they had the French Sparkling Cider served at EMP. They did not; instead, our sommelier had the bartender whip up a special virgin cocktail. I didn’t make a note of its composition, but I liked it a lot.
We began by choosing one item from the “Snack” section, Sweetbreads Croustillant with Parsley.
However, the kitchen surprised us by gifting us with not one but two more snacks: Radishes Butter Dipped with Fleur de Sel and Crudité of Raw Vegetables with Chive Cream.
The Flatbread with Grapes, Cheese, and Rosemary was, like all the NoMad’s seasonally changing flatbreads, hot, crusty, and seriously delicious.
For the first course, we each ordered a salad. For Michael, Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts, Apples, and Bacon; for me, Lettuces with Almonds, Cucumber, and Radishes.
I must say that mine was a great example of how a simple salad can be superb! Pristine greens and crunchy accompaniments perfectly dressed with a lovely vinaigrette. Brussels sprouts are one of Michael’s favorite vegetables, so he was equally pleased with his salad.
When it was time for the main course, Dining Room Manager Brandon Lateveer was the bearer of the white truffle. The risotto was in front of me. As Brandon shaved the truffles into the bowl, the intoxicating aroma wafted around us.
Michael and I were seated side-by-side, so Brandon moved to the other side of the table in order to shave “the ridiculous” over the tagliatelle in front of Michael. As Brandon started, it occurred to me that this would make a really good video. I’d never attempted a video before, but I pushed the button and let ‘er rip! I even added a touch of narrative. When I loaded the video into my laptop, I was thrilled to find that it had turned out quite well. See for yourself…. (For anyone using a device that does not support this video, click below for the entire photo set on my Flickr.)
For dessert, we kept it simple by sharing a trio of ice creams.
The white truffle season still has a way to go. No doubt before it ends, we’ll be back at NoMad for more truffleliciousness.
*Note: Prices for the white truffles the day we were there: $36 for 4 grams; $72 for 8 grams.
To see the entire photo set of this lunch, click here.
To those who know us and/or follow this blog, it will come as no surprise that we celebrated my birthday at our favorite New York City restaurant surrounded by a staff who have become family to us. Though the majority of our monthly visits to EMP these days have been for lunch – which has exactly the same menu as in the evening — when it comes to special occasions, we always opt for the more celebratory feel at dinner.
It being well into autumn, the menu was considerably different from the one we had during our lunch in September. Gone were summery things like Clambake 4.0 with EMP’s inventively delicious take on Manhattan clam chowder and the incredible Tomato with Lobster Salad. Instead, among the 15-course tasting were many new dishes incorporating the flavors of fall.
Before we started, our captain Corwin had asked me how I felt about oysters. I replied that while I don’t care for them plain, I will eat them dressed. The preparation he described sounded great to me. So, after the meal’s usual first bite, the savory Black and White Cookie with Cheddar and Apple…
…we were served an Oyster with Grapes, Bulgur, and Sorrel.
Next, we were each served different things: For Michael, Shrimp Marinated with Sea Urchin, Foie Gras, and Chervil; for me, Beet Pickled with Yogurt and Nasturtium.
Although we’d had Smoked Sturgeon with Chive Oil in an egg many times before, it hadn’t been on the menu for quite some time.
It signaled the return of an old favorite brought back for the fall menu: “EMP’s Homage to Jewish Appetizing” — Smoked Sturgeon, with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles, and Caviar (cucumber “caviar” for me).
For this self-styled Foie Gras Queen, no birthday dinner would be complete without it. I usually prefer it hot; however, when Corwin told us that the cold foie was an entirely new preparation, I decided to go with it. And am I glad I did! Foie Gras Terrine with Plum and Bitter Almond was sensational! My favorite dish of the evening!
The two courses that followed were from the sea. First, Tilefish Poached with Mushroom, Broccoli Rabe, and Garlic.
Then, Lobster Poached with Brussels Sprouts and Guanciale, which I have to say was my second favorite dish. The sauce knapped around it tableside was ambrosial. And what really shocked me was that while I normally don’t like Brussels sprouts, the teensy ones here – deep fried and roasted – won me over.
I had been noticing the service staff regular traversing the room carrying a tray which held something large. What could it be? I wondered. It was a whole kabocha squash roasted with sourdough bread.
Presented at our table prior to the tilefish and lobster, it was returned to the kitchen for plating and served to us after the lobster: Squash Roasted with Cranberries, Pumpkin Seeds, and Sourdough.
During our 45th Anniversary Celebration at EMP in June, we received several amazing gifts among which were knives engraved with our names. They are stored and each time we dine, they are brought out when the main savory course is served.
The two choices for the main meat course were venison – something I don’t recall ever having been served before at EMP though I could be wrong — or the famous duck. Michael immediately opted for the venison while I, not having much experience with it, played it safe with the duck. They were presented to us before being plated.
Duck Roasted with Turnip and Huckleberries
Venison Roasted with Pears and Sunchokes
While the duck was, as always, excellent, after tasting the venison, I have to be honest and say that I was a bit sorry I hadn’t been braver as it was delicious.
Along with the duck and venison came something we’d first been served in September which was not yet on the menu then. I labeled it “BBQ!” Indeed, a shiny stainless steel portable covered grill is brought to the table. Removal of the cover reveals a bed of hot charcoal and a grate on which rests small skewers with grilled meats – for this meal, duck on one and venison on the other – with accompaniments. Delicious fun!
After the always enjoyable Picnic Basket
and Egg Cream…
…there was a new dessert (with a candle for me): Apple Sorbet with Bay Leaf, Crème Brûlée, and Hibiscus. More classic in style than many previous desserts have been, I loved it!
Then the second, smaller dessert: Cheesecake with Sweet Potato, Honey and Chestnut.
At this point in the meal, we find ourselves comfortably sated and not wanting to feel stuffed, we always box up the final three sweets to take home along with the granola.
House Made Chocolates
Chocolate Covered Pretzel with Sea Salt
And coming full circle, the sweet Black and White Cookies with Cinnamon
Michael has made some changes with regard to wine consumption. Instead of pairings, he’s decided to do just two high quality glasses: Champagne for all the courses leading up to the main meat and then a red for that course. When he did this for the first time in September, we discovered that EMP has something we had not heard of before: the Coravin, a system that enables them to offer single glasses of very high quality wines without opening the bottle. An exceedingly fine needle is threaded through the cork, the wine is extracted, and when the needled is pulled out, the cork reseals itself. Genius!
For this dinner, rather than having a single glass of Champagne, Michael decided to order a half bottle of Krug Rosé, insisting I have some at least for a birthday toast. Turned out, I quite liked this particular Champagne and actually finished a glass.
For the venison, he consulted with our sommelier Lindsay and agreed that she would Coravin a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Among the many high points during the evening was one that helped make it extra-special. We hadn’t seen Will Guidara since the afternoon of our anniversary in June and had really missed him. So, I was hoping he would be in. And like a wished for birthday gift, he was! It was a joy seeing his smiling face as he approached our table. His ebullient, winning personality makes it great fun chatting and laughing with him.
As you may have heard, there are some major changes about to take place within the EMP/NoMad family. Chef James Kent has been appointed Executive Chef at NoMad – a very well-deserved promotion – replacing Chef de Cuisine Abram Bissell who will be leaving. Chris Flint, who has been the Executive Sous Chef at NoMad is replacing James as EMP’s Chef de Cuisine, another well-deserved promotion. For Chris, it is a homecoming as he worked for several years at EMP before going to NoMad when it opened last year. The evening of my birthday, both James and Chris were in EMP’s kitchen as was Chef Humm (who stopped by our table to say hello). Chris was in charge for the first time. He and the kitchen team did a truly splendid job!
My heartfelt thanks to our entire EMP family for making my birthday celebration such a wonderful evening! You are all THE BEST!!
To see the entire photo set of this birthday dinner on my Flickr, click here.
I wanted a restaurant that is elegant, quiet and, of course, with delicious food. Tocqueville was the perfect choice. As I’ve said previously, it’s one of our favorite NYC spots. We’ve been there often for lunch and have never been able to figure out why it’s never busy because aside from the wonderful traits I mentioned, it offers one of the best deals in town: 3 courses for $29. Actually, that should be two great deals as currently there is also a Green Market menu, 3 courses for $39. In both cases, a steal for cuisine of such high caliber! Additionally, the upscale a la carte menu (same as the dinner menu) and a 5-course chef’s tasting are always available.
We did three courses a la carte, each ordered different dishes for each course, and shared everything.
As usual, there was a tasty amuse: Roasted Duck and Chestnut Purée on Toasted Bread.
From the bread selections, THE best Brioche Roll.
To start, Michael chose the Creamless Cauliflower Soup which was on both the a la carte menu and 3-course prix-fixe.
I selected the appetizer from the Green Market Menu: Squash Terrine with Spaghetti Squash.
For the mains, Michael picked the Pan Roasted Wild Sockeye Salmon with Roasted Beets, Pears, Parsley, Baby Brussels Sprouts, and Caraway Bullion.
My choice was the Olive Oil Poached Black Bass with Gala Apples, Dill, Caramelized Endive and Fennel, and Tarragon Broth.
Desserts were the Chestnut Napoleon with Candied Chestnuts and Brandy Sorbet for me and a Tasting of Ice Creams for Michael.
Everything was perfectly prepared and – no surprise – seriously delicious! Michael had one glass of Pinot Noir.
Though our favorite captain, Miguel, was not in, Alejandro provided the gracious, cordial, and faultless service we have come to expect.
Truly, a lovely birthday lunch.
To see the entire set of photos from this lunch, click here.