At Home: Daffodils vs. Severe Winds and Torrential Rains

April 19, 2018

When we left for NYC last Thursday evening, none of the daffodils had bloomed yet. Not too surprising since the weather hasn’t been exactly spring-like. But they did look ready to open.

It was a short stay, and we returned to the house Saturday morning. Looking into the backyard, I discovered that — lo and behold! — the daffodils had blossomed. I guess Friday’s temps in the 70’s was just the signal they were waiting for. And no doubt they were happy with Saturday’s 80 degrees.

Being busy that day, I didn’t get a chance to take photos. Which is a shame because the weather then made a total U-turn back to winter, dropping 40 degrees (!) overnight. Sunday was cold (mid-30’s) and rainy with severe winds. And things got even worse with Monday’s torrential downpours.

Poor little daffies! They were no match for such horrendous conditions.

At Home 2018: Daffodils

At Home 2018: Daffodils

At Home 2018: Daffodils

The complete daffodil photo set is on my Flickr here.

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Passover Dinner at Cafe Boulud

April 13, 2018

Cafe Boulud

Early in March, an email landed in my in-box from Café Boulud which said they would be doing a Passover dinner on both Seder nights, Friday and Saturday, March 30th and 3st. At first, I thought this might be something new that they were doing. Alas, I was the victim of a very poor memory because Jen reminded me that we had attempted to reserve for their Passover dinner last year but by the time I tried to reserve, they were completely sold out. This time, I jumped on it immediately. I called Jen, and we decided that Michael and I would go alone to Café Boulud on Friday, and on Saturday, we’d go to Rotisserie Georgette* as we did last year with Jen, Louis and Louis’s sister and her husband if they were available and wanted to come. Happily, Lesley and Philip were on board, so I booked both restaurants.

We arrived at Café Boulud promptly at 8:30 p.m. Though the dining room was packed, our table was ready. There was only one unoccupied table near ours which, Asst. Maitre d’ Mark DiPasquale informed us, had just been vacated by a very large party. It was now set for four but a few minutes later, the staff enlarged it to accommodate an incoming party of six.

Now, we need to ask that all-important question related to Passover: Why was Café Boulud’s Passover dinner different from all other restaurant Passover dinners we’ve had? Yeah, that’s not exactly how it goes. But anyway, here’s the answer: This was the first Passover meal to start with a Seder Plate. A proper Seder plate with all the symbolic items. Plus, a little side bowl of salt water.

Seder Plate

Salt Water

Of course, there was Matzoh.

Matzoh

The only thing missing was a Haggadah. If we had brought one, we could have conducted our own Seder right there. We did do a bit of ceremony by dipping the karpas into the salt water before eating it. And I peeled the hard-boiled egg which Michael ate.

Café Boulud always serves an amuse. However, instead of the usual tasty one-bite morsel, this meal started with something more substantial: wonderfully crispy and delicious Potato Latkes with Sour Cream and Applesauce.

Potato Latkes

For the rest of the meal, there were choices for each course.

First Course
Michael never pass up chicken soup, so he chose Matzoh Ball Soup with Chicken Broth, Carrots, and Turnips. I tasted some broth and a piece of the matzoh ball and agreed with him that they were excellent.

Matzoh Ball Soup

Knowing that chicken soup was one of the courses we’d all be getting at Georgette, I opted for Smoked Ora King Salmon with Deviled Egg, Horseradish Cream, and Dill. I love salmon — in fact, anything smoked — and deviled eggs, so what could be bad?! And the horseradish cream was the perfect accompaniment for the salmon.

Smoked Ora King Salmon

Main Course
Michael consulted with our captain Julian regarding a wine to pair with his main course.

Gigondas

Since he was going to have the main course lamb shank at Georgette, Michael chose Roasted Chicken.

Roasted Chicken

I, on the other hand, was going to have chicken at Georgette, so I went with Niman Ranch Beef Brisket.

Niman Ranch Beef Brisket

As you can see, Michael was given half a chicken: breast, wing, leg, and thigh. It could easily have served the two of us. And that’s what it ended up doing because he only ate the quite sizable breast, which he said was delicious, and we took the rest home. While I didn’t taste any of the chicken at the restaurant, I had the thigh at home, and it was very flavorful.

Now, about that brisket. I normally avoid brisket like the proverbial plague because I find it too dry. However, I chose it not only to avoid having chicken two nights in a row but also because I felt if anyone could change my mind about brisket, Chef Aaron Bludhorn could. And I’m happy to report than he came through. This cut of Niman Ranch beef was of the highest quality with just the right amount of fat to insure juiciness. Braised to melting softness, this brisket was spectacular! Two big pieces were too much for me (I did give Michael a taste), so I finished one and took the other home.

Certainly there were sides. Three were served for the table, all in generous portions.

Horseradish Potato “Kugel” Gratin

Horseradish Potato “Kugel” Gratin

Sautéed Spinach

Sautéed Spinach

Tzimmes Stew

Tzimmes Stew

The kugel was great, a welcome change from roasted potatoes. And the spinach was delicious. However, while I like carrots, the tzimmis included raisins which I detest. Portions being, as I said, more than ample for two people, we took the leftovers home. When I served the tzimmis, I divested my portion of the offending element.

Dessert
Michael again consulted Julian about a wine pairing for dessert.

Tokayï

We both chose Pavlova with Lemon Curd, Mixed Berries, and Raspberry Sorbet. A serious yum! The perfect end to a perfect Passover dinner.

Pavlova

But we weren’t quite finished.

Chocolate Covered Matzoh

Chocolate Covered Matzoh

And as every meal at Café Boulud ends, the signature Madeleines.

Madeleines

Cafe Boulud is one of our favorite NYC restaurants, and its food is always first-rate. Mega-kudos to Chef Bludhorn and his team for knocking this Passover dinner way out of the gustatory park!

The complete photo set of this dinner is on my Flickr here.

*Note: This year’s Passover menu at Rotisserie Georgette was nearly the same as last year’s. The exceptions: the lamb shank was a new main course choice, and instead of one of the sides being Brussels sprouts, there were lentils.

The complete photo set of this year’s Passover dinner at Rotisserie Georgette is on my Flickr here.

At Home: Tree Removal and Pruning Spring 2018

April 9, 2018

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

After March 2nd storm’s extremely high winds, we discovered that one of the trees in our woods was leaning precipitously over our neighbor’s fence.

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

If it fell, their fence would be severely damaged, and they would be responsible for clearing whatever part of the tree landed in their yard. We know the laws pertaining to this issue because we had a similar situation years ago though in reverse when a tree from the neighbor’s property fell onto ours, and we had to take care of it. To determine how likely it was that the tree would fall, we put in a call to Aspen, our long-time the tree experts. This would also be a good opportunity to have a general tree inspection. I should mention that a new family moved into that house last year. We told them what we were doing and if the tree needed to be removed, we’d take care of it.

As we suspected, that tree definitely had to be taken down. In addition, the inspection found that one of the trees in the woods facing the center of our house had rot at its base and while not in immediate danger of falling, it would at some point. Now, anyone who visits this blog with any regularity knows that we’ve been through the trauma of a tree falling on our house. And there was no way we were going to take a chance of that happening again especially since unlike that event where the tree fell onto and over the garage, this tree would fall smack in the house’s center. So, we said, take it down asap. We would also have them cut back the branches overhanging the house from the tree on the right side of the yard.

When I awoke around 9 a.m. this past Friday, Aspen’s crew was already at work. Since taking the two trees down and pruning the third required climbing, a different man was assigned to each tree. I’ve seen it done many time times, but it still amazes me. As the men up in the trees did their work, another crew member on the ground assisted with ropes and worked on clearing the wood.

Climbing the leaning tree:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Climbing high enough to start sawing the upper branches:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

I didn’t take any more photos of the work on this tree. The top branches which were sawed off landed in our neighbor’s yard. The crew later went into their yard to clean them up. I did see them take down the major trunk of the tree. The cuts and sawing were done in such a skilled way to make it land in our woods.

In the tree at the side of the house:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Moving into position to saw off the overhanging branches:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Almost ready to prune:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Pruned branch lowered with a rope so as not to hit the house:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Done:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Climbing the tree facing our house:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Positioning:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

First branches to come down:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

You will note that this was taken indoors. In fact, most of the photos were taken from the safety of our kitchen.

Tree sections to be hauled away via tractor to the chipper out front:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Logs sawed from the upper trunk that fell onto the ground:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Most of the tree is down:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Hauling tree branches to the chipper:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

Feeding the chipper:

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

On Saturday, I took these photos showing the results of a job well done.

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

At Home: Tree Work Spring 2018

 

At Home: Gefilte Fish

April 4, 2018

When we were doing our Seders, the meal always began with gefilte fish.  But several years ago, I decided to go out of the Seder business. Instead, on both Seder nights, we’ve been going to restaurants that feature a Passover Menu. Interestingly, gefilte fish has not been on any of those menus. And that includes the two restaurants where we had our Passover dinners this past weekend. So, when we came back to NJ, I bought a jar of gefilte fish for the two us.

As was the tradition at the Seders, I accompany the fish with My Famous Chopped Salad along with Gold’s Horseradish — a must! Michael likes the plain (white) kind which is very strong while I prefer the kind with beets (which gives it the red color) because it’s more mellow. Last night, it was our dinner’s first course. Today, it was lunch.

At Home: Gefilte Fish

Dining Out: January – March 2018

April 3, 2018

DSC06437

January
New York City
Dinner:
Union Square Café
Majorelle
Augustine
Eleven Madison Park (Michael’s Birthday)
The Clocktower

Lunch:
Dog & Bone
Studio at the Freehand Hotel
Le Coq Rico
Aquavit
Tsuru Ton Tan (Michael’s Birthday)

Brunch:
Made Nice

Late Supper:
Sarge’s Deli

New Jersey
Lunch:
Chez Catherine

February
New York City
Dinner:
Scampi
Simon & the Whale
Quality Eats

Lunch:
Studio at the Freehand Hotel – 2
Merakia

Late Supper:
Marseille

Delivery:
Sarge’s Deli

New Jersey
Lunch:
Jersey Shore BBQ

March
New York City
Dinner:
Le Coq Rico
The Lobster Club
The NoMad Bar Fondue
Boucherie Gramercy
The Grill
Café Boulud (Passover Menu)
Rotisserie Georgette (Passover Menu)

Lunch:
Maysville
Eleven Madison Park
La Vera Pizzeria
Farmer & the Fish

Brunch:
Tivoli Café
Covina

Late Supper:
Oceana

New Jersey
Dinner:
Old Bukhara

Lunch:
Bulbap Grill

NYC: Snow-Covered Central Park on April 2, 2018

April 2, 2018

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning at Mt. Sinai’s Guggenheim Pavilion, on 5th Avenue and 101st St. I had purposely made this appointment in April in order to avoid dealing with snow. So much for that brilliant idea!

It was snowing, windy, and in the low 30’s when we left to go uptown. When we finished the appointment at noon, it had pretty much stopped snowing but was still very cold and windy.

The Guggenheim Pavilion is across the street from Central Park. Since we’re hardly ever in the city when it snows, snapping photos of a snow-covered Central Park is a rarity especially so far uptown. To say nothing of doing so in April!

NYC: Snow-Covered Central Park on April 2, 2018

NYC: Snow-Covered Central Park on April 2, 2018

Spring in NYC at 8:30 a.m., on April 2, 2018

April 2, 2018

In NYC on April 2, 2018: Spring?!

 

View of snow-covered surfaces from our 12th floor apartment

Passover 2018

March 30, 2018

Passover 2018

Wishing all who celebrate a “zeisen Pesach”!

Eleven Madison Park’s Winter 2018 Menu Wows Us Big Time!

March 27, 2018

Eleven Madison Park

I’ve never made it a secret that I much prefer EMP’s spring and summer menus to those in fall and winter. Because of last year’s renovations, there were no spring and summer menus. Instead, between April and the June 9th closure, they served a terrific retrospective menu which I wrote about here. When they reopened in October, the fall menu was in place. We had it on my birthday. (Photo set here. There was one standout, the spectacular sturgeon cheesecake. I did enjoy the main course veal and loved the dessert donut. Otherwise, to be honest, the meal was kind of meh. Even Michael felt it wasn’t their best effort. And I saw comments on food boards from a few people who also found it wanting. However, to be fair, we did speak to someone who said he and his dining companions loved it.

The winter menu was introduced at the beginning of January. We had it on the 26th which is Michael’s birthday. We did the vegetarian version earlier this month though we didn’t go entirely veg.

From someone who usually isn’t bowled over by the winter menus, I can say without hesitation or reservation that this winter menu – both the seasonal and vegetarian versions — was stunning! One of the best, if not THE best winter menu we’ve ever had anywhere.

(Note: Because the lighting during the day makes for far better photos than the dim illumination in the evening, wherever possible, I’ll be using the photos I took during lunch.)

Eleven Madison Park

Michael always begins our celebration dinners with his favorite Champagne. But he decided to have it at lunch as well since it paired well with several courses.

Krug

For me, my favorite non-alcoholic French Sparkling Cider.

French Sparkling Cider (Non-Alcoholic)

As you can see from the photo above, the box containing the first nibbles at all EMP meals are already on the table when guests are seated: Black & White Cookies with Cheddar and Apple.

Black and White Cookies

House Made Rolls, Cultured Butter Topped with Kombu, and Amagansett Sea Salt were served at the beginning of the meals. I found the kombu too fishy, so at lunch, I requested an additional dish of plain butter.

House Made Roll, Butter, and Sea Salt

Along with the bread service Scallop Broth (Seasonal) and Fennel Broth (Vegetarian) were poured at the table. The broths’ flavors corresponded to the first courses.

Fennel Broth

1st Course (Seasonal): Scallop Live with Sea Urchin and Scallop Butter. (The sea urchin was underneath. Mine did not include it.)

Scallop

1st Course (Vegetarian): Pear Poached with Almond and Fennel

Pear

2nd Course (Seasonal): Caviar Benedict with Smoked Ham, Sturgeon, and Hollandaise

Caviar Benedict

Since I don’t eat caviar, I was served Black Truffle Benedict with Cauliflower and Hollandaise. On the vegetarian menu, it was the 2nd course for both us.

Black Truffle Benedict

The Benedicts were accompanied by House Made English Muffins.

House Made English Muffins

3rd Course (Seasonal and Vegetarian): Foie Gras Marinated with Squash and Pumpkin Seeds. An incredible work of art and so-o-o-o luscious! Having it again was an absolute must!

Foie Gras

Next on the seasonal menu was the fish/seafood course where we got to choose.

4th Course (Seasonal): 4th Course (Seasonal): Lobster Butter-Poached with Butternut Squash and Chestnut (Michael’s choice)

Lobster

Halibut Poached with Variations of Turnips (My choice)

Halibut

4th Course (Vegetarian): Lentils with Potato and Garlic

Lentils

Note: At lunch, Michael wanted to have the halibut. I certainly had no objection to having it again as it was really delicious. So, it was served as an extra course between the 4th and 5th.

5th Course (Seasonal and Vegetarian): Mushroom Tart with Cremini and Black Truffle. A two-part course finished and served at the table. So extraordinary, we were thrilled to have it again.

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Note: In addition to these still shots, I took videos with my iPhone. The one in the evening is rather dark. At lunch, I took it in 5 segments. They came out great! They’re posted on my Instagram. To view them, search for @rozrap.

6th Course (Seasonal): Venison En Croûte with Foie Gras and Civet. I don’t usually eat venison, but I love things En Croûte. And as the self-styled Foie Gras Queen, I would never pass this up.

Venison

6th Course (Vegetarian): Cabbage Roasted with Apple and Thyme

Cabbage

6th Course Sides:
Carrot Roasted with Buckwheat and Mustard (Seasonal)

Carrot

Potato Baked with Horseradish and Bacon (Vegetarian) Obviously, not exactly. But since we weren’t being strictly veg, why not?

Potato

Leeks Roasted with Hazelnut and Parmesan (Seasonal and Vegetarian)

Leek

7th Course (Seasonal and Vegetarian): Tubby Cheese Grilled with Celery Root, Black Truffle, and Winter Greens

Tubby Cheese

Winter Greens

There were choices for dessert.

8th Course (Seasonal): Chocolate Tuile with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream and Cranberry (Obviously Michael’s choice)

Chocolate

For me, Butternut Squash with Sarsaparilla and Pumpkin Cake

Butternut Squash

8th Course (Vegetarian): Michael had the Butternut Squash while I had Pear-Cranberry Donut with Mulled Wine Ice Cream.

Pear-Cranberry Donut//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

As has become the custom, at the end: Chocolate Covered Pretzels with Sea Salt.

Pretzels

We had Kitchen Visits during both meals. The lagniappe at both was this truffle cream-filled cone topped with crunchies and a black truffle.

Kitchen Visit

During the lunch visit, I snapped this photo of the “conga line” assembling that mind-boggling foie gras.

Kitchen Visit

Mega-kudos to Chef Humm, Chef de Cuisine Dmitri Nagi, and their entire team! A huge “Thank you!” to our captains Pam in January and Stephen during lunch for their usual stellar service. And a special nod to Pam and Service Director Kevin Lind who starred in my videos and did an outstanding job serving that mushroom course.

The spring menu starts on April 7th. If you can get there before then, go!

The complete photo sets for these two meals including the wine pairings can be viewed on my Flickr, dinner here and lunch here.

Chez Nous: Une Salade Composée Pour le Déjeuner

March 25, 2018

Though I am best known here for my Famous Chopped Salad which starts all our holiday dinners, when it comes to salads for everyday meals, I love doing a salade composée  (the French for a composed salad), especially for lunch (in French, le déjeuner). Instead of the ingredients being put together any which way, they are artfully arranged in a bowl or on a plate.

A few days ago, lunch for Michael and me was this salade composée.

At Home: Salade Composée

I prepared arugula and red leaf lettuce, put them in a bowl, tossed them with some vinaigrette, and divided the mix between two plates. After arranging roasted beets, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and grape tomatoes in a pleasing pattern, I added crumbled chèvre in the center, spread thinly sliced red onion over the top, and lightly spooned around some more vinaigrette.

Pretty to look at and a treat for the palate.