O.K., Wizard fans! I’m not going to make you wait until next year to read about our 47th anniversary celebration at EMP and to learn what surprises they had in store for us. But before I get into it, I should tell you that for the second year in a row, we were not able to celebrate there on the actual date. Unlike last year, it was not because of anything related to the Big Apple BBQ because this year, our anniversary did not coincide with that event which took place the following weekend. This time, EMP was closed for a private party on Monday, June 8th, so we moved our reservation to Tuesday, the 9th. Let me assure you that did not in any way make it feel less special.
We were in the reception area being greeted by various members of the staff when… Surprise! Will Guidara was in the house! A few moments after we arrived, the man himself with his dazzling smile and ebullient personality was actually there in the flesh! These days, he’s rarely in during our monthly visits, so the fact that he made it his business to be there to offer us anniversary wishes was such a treat and started the evening off on a high note.
At our table, the lovely card pictured above awaited. During our discussion about the menu with our captain Elizabeth, she suggested doing something unique – something we’d not done before. Normally, diners select one of the two options for the main savory course. Chef Humm’s signature duck is always one of the choices. For the spring menu, the other choice is the aged veal, which we’d had in April and loved. Why not, Elizabeth posited, have both? Since we’d requested that the carrot tartare be eliminated (although we like it, we’d had it way too many times), this would be a splendid way to fill that gap. We also decided to have the seared foie gras preparation since we’d already had the terrine version. We were offered two choices for the cheese course as well. I chose the Farmer cheese (I love its creaminess and mild flavor) while Michael opted for the local selections. We also had a choice for dessert between strawberry and chocolate. Since it was strawberry season, and it’s one of our favorite fruits, that was a no-brainer. Michael then chatted with Dev, the sommelier, about pairings. Of course, there would be some wines from the Coravin list served in Zalto glasses. I requested my favorite French Sparkling Cider. And so on to the meal….
Michael’s favorite Champagne
A bit of Krug for me for a Champagne anniversary toast
Krug for Michael
Black and White Cookies with Cheddar and Apple
Morel Custard with Trout Roe
English Peas Glazed with Buffalo Yogurt and Garlic
Radish Salad with Pike and Nasturtium
Caviar Benedict with Egg, Ham, and Asparagus
Benedict sans Caviar (for me)
House Made English Muffins for the Benedict
House Made Rolls, Butters, and Sea Salt
Foie Gras Seared with Sorrel and Horseradish
Lobster Butter-Poached with Dandelion and Ginger
I don’t remember exactly when but during this part of the evening, Chef Daniel Humm stopped by our table to offer his best wishes. As with Will, we hadn’t seen much of Daniel lately, so it was great having the opportunity to chat with him.
Just after the lobster course, Zach, one of the maître d’s, appeared. After offering his felicitations, he escorted us to the kitchen. Shaved ice cups were prepared. Michael’s contained liquor; mine did not.
We chatted with Zach and other staff members. Executive Sous Chef Dmitri Nagy, who was in charge of the kitchen that evening, spent a few minutes with us.
Executive Sous Chef Dmitri Nagy facing towards the camera
Normally, the preview of the Asparagus “en vessie” (in a pig’s bladder), which would be our next course and which we’ve had previously, is done tableside. But they surprised us by presenting it in the kitchen.
When we make these kitchen visits, I usually just take a few photos of the shaved ices being prepared and maybe a shot of the pass. This time, Zach kept encouraging me to take photos of other areas. And when we left, instead of leading us out the way we always come in, which is through the service area, he took us to the side exit, along the way exhorting me to continue taking photos, which I did. From this exit, we came out near the reception area.
In retrospect, we should have suspected that something was up. But we didn’t. And that’s because on these special occasions, we get so caught up with having such a good time, we don’t think about what they might have planned, which is why we’re always taken by surprise.
We followed Zach through the dining room back to our table. When we got to it, we stopped short and gasped. A gift had been placed on the table.
Here’s why this was so amazing. The day before, I’d posted this wedding photo on the blog. They made a very fine copy of the photo and had it surrounded by a heavy lucite frame. Staff members then signed their good wishes on the front of the frame. The lovely bow was the finishing touch. I know they monitor my blog, but to come up with this?! And to get it done in just a day’s time! Utterly astounding! I’ve said many times before that we don’t even bother trying to figure out how they are going to surprise us because it’s bound to be something even in our wildest dreams we couldn’t imagine. And so, once again, they’d done exactly that with this beautiful memento.
If we were on a high before, our spirits were now way up in the stratosphere as we finished the rest of the meal.
Asparagus “en vessie” with Potato and Black Truffle
Duck Roasted with Lavender Honey, Rhubarb, and Spring Onion
Our engraved knives: EMP’s gift to us on our 45th anniversary
Veal Dry-Aged with Ramps and Bone Marrow
Farmer Cheese (for me)
Local Selections (for Michael)
Whey Sorbet with Caramelized Milk and Yogurt
Strawberry Variations with Vanilla and Elderflower
Chocolate Course: “Name That Milk”
Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt
Along with the homemade granola that all the guests receive as a parting gift, Elizabeth had the kitchen pack us a boatload of those pretzels to take home. Anyone celebrating a special occasion also receives the candy bar. This version was chocolate covered coconut.
From the moment we walked through the revolving door at 8 p.m. until we exited near 2 a.m. the next morning, it was another memorable evening. “Thank you!” hardly seems adequate to tell the wonderful folks at EMP how much we appreciate what they did for us and always do. We’re truly honored that they consider us members of the EMP family.
To see the entire photo set of this dinner, including the wines for Michael’s pairings, click here.