Celebrating My Birthday at Eleven Madison Park

November 25, 2015

Eleven Madison Park

We’ve walked through Eleven Madison Park’s revolving doors more than 100 times. But it never gets old. Always, there’s a feeling of excitement as we step into that gorgeous space. While most of our monthly visits are for lunch, when it comes to special occasions, we do dinner. And so on Saturday evening, October 24th, we were there to celebrate my birthday.

Lending additional excitement to the event was the fact that it would be our first time having the fall menu which had been introduced two weeks before. I had already heard that it was a mix of new dishes and “oldies but goodies.”

At our table, there was a card for me and, as usual, the box tied with bakery string containing the Black and White Cookies with Cheddar and Apple. But there was also a new table setting. As you can see, napkin rings.

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Black and White Cookie

We quickly discovered that the ring had another purpose. The first of several opening salvos was Sturgeon Sabayon with Chive, making a return appearance after a long absence. It’s one of our all-time favorites. So-o-o- delicious! And the ring acted as a holder for the egg. How clever is that?!


As usual, Michael did wine pairings. The selections were made by Sommelier John Ross who chose Champagne to accompany the opening courses. I adore the non-alcoholic French Sparkling Cider, so I had a glass to start and then another during the meal.


French Sparkling Cider

The Sabayon was followed by a brand new course: Oyster Pie and Velouté. Since I’m iffy about oysters, I got Parsnip Pie and Velouté. I’m pretty sure the kitchen knows that parsnips are one of my favorite vegetables. Both the veloutés were white, and the pies looked exactly the same. Poured tableside, the velouté was creamy, and the crust on the mini pie was crisp.



Next, another new dish: Scallops Marinated with Black Truffle and Leeks. What’s not to like about this dish? Frankly, I can’t think of a thing. Have I mentioned that leeks are another of my favorite veggies. Overall, a delicious combination of textures and flavors.


The Caviar Benedict has been on the menu for a couple of cycles. It’s made with eggs, ham, and a seasonal vegetable. In the spring, it was asparagus; in the summer, corn. In the autumn version, it’s cauliflower. There’s also a new addition to the presentation. Decorating the edge all around are teeny tiny flakes of the yellow part of a hard-boiled egg. It arrives with caviar (eliminated on mine since I don’t eat caviar), and a dollop of cream is added at the table. The house made English muffins remain a lovely accompaniment.



Housemade English Muffins

House made rolls along with butters and sea salt start the main part of the meal.

Housemade Rolls

For the foie gras course, there is always a choice between cold and hot. We asked for descriptions. I’m usually partial to warm foie but this preparation included eel which I don’t like. When the cold version was described, we went with it. An “oldie but goodie” from last year’s fall menu, Foie Gras Marinated with Cabbage and Apple is truly unique in both appearance and flavor profile. The skill required to make it look like a perfect slice of red cabbage boggles the mind. And there really aren’t words to describe how it tastes. Seriously delicious will have to do. John chose a Riesling to pair with it.


Foie Gras

Ah, the return of the Waldorf Salad! Prepared tableside, the EMP version contains apples, celery root, grapes, and walnuts and is dressed with a house made flavored mayonnaise. For those who’ve not had it before, the captain who prepares it briefly explains its New York City/Waldorf Astoria Hotel-related history. This is actually a two-part course. The salad is placed in a shallow bowl that rests atop another deeper bowl which secretly holds a chilled Celery Root-Apple Velouté. The bowls were specially crafted for EMP. A spoon rest notch keeps the utensil from falling into the bowl.

Waldorf Salad: Prepared Tableside

Waldorf Salad

Waldorf Salad//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Michael always enjoys a change-of-pace beer pairing, so John Ross poured this one for the next two courses.


New to the menu, thin sheets of pasta encase Lobster Poached with Butternut Squash and Chestnuts, and the sauce is added tableside. The different flavors and textures played well together.


Hen of the Woods Mushroom with Horseradish is also new. I loved how the horseradish added just the right zing to the meaty mushrooms.

Hen of the Woods Mushroom

The arrival of our engraved knives signals that main savory course is about to be served.

Our Engraved Knives

At the start of the meal, diners are asked to choose between two options for that course. Chef Humm’s famous duck is always one of them. The other is seasonal. This being fall, it’s venison, and Michael opted for it. I don’t much care for venison, and since I’ve had the duck too many times to count, I was in the mood for something different. I asked if there might be another option. Our captain checked with Executive Sous Chef Dmitri Nagy who was in charge of the kitchen that evening and reported back that a chicken dish could be made for me. To be honest, I didn’t think he’d say no especially on my birthday! And I have no doubt if another guest didn’t like venison or duck, he’d make if for that person, too. After all, hospitality to the nth degree is the way they roll at EMP.

John chose a Crozes-Hermitage 2001 from the Coravin list to pair with the venison. Next stop for Michael — wine heaven!

Coravin: Crozes-Hermitage 2001

Coravin: Crozes-Hermitage 2001

Coravin: Crozes-Hermitage 2001

One of the cooks came to our table to present the venison before it was plated.


Michael was extremely pleased with the Venison Roasted with Beets and Onion.


The dish created for me was Chicken Roasted with Brown Butter. The white meat chicken was flavorful, and as far as I’m concerned, brown butter makes any dish a winner!


The cheese course, Apple Tart with Cheddar and Bitter Greens, married something new – the tart – with something that’s been served before with the cheese course though not recently – the salad. There was also a small jar of bacon marmalade. The tart was terrific! And the serve-yourself salad’s pristine lettuces were dressed just right.


This pre-dessert, Botrytis with Ice Cream, Bitter Almond, and Ginger Crumble, has been on and off the menu the past few seasons. I like sweet wines, and the one for this course is definitely that. It’s siphoned out of the bottle and dripped onto a special spoon from which one sips the wine.




With the dessert course, John’s pairing choice was a 1968 Madeira! Michael’s reaction when he tasted it? OMG! And that just happens to be the year we were married!

Madeira 1968

Milk and Honey Custard with Bee Pollen Ice Cream is a new dessert. I’ve openly admitted that I haven’t always loved EMP’s desserts. But this one definitely floated my dessert boat! Loved discovering the honey inside.

Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey

They’re still doing the “Name That Milk” game, and the Chocolate Pretzels with Sea Salt have become a fixture.


Chocolate Pretzel

We ended, as has become our custom, with the Siphon Coffee, and Michael had his favorite post prandial Laird’s Number Eleven.

Siphon Coffee

Laird's Number Eleven

I received the Birthday Bonbon which I took home along with two jars of the now famous Granola, the latter being the gift given to all diners.

Birthday Bonbon

Take-Home Gift

Oh, and the take-home menu is now a fold-out inside a Benedict container. They did this once many years ago using a caviar container — which I still have! Definitely an “oldie but goodie”!


So, are you, perhaps, wondering if like in the past they surprised me with a special birthday gift? Well, they did give me a birthday gift, but here’s how it went. The NoMad Cookbook had just come out, so I was hoping, hoping, hoping it would be the gift. And as if they had read my mind — it was!

Birthday Gift!

Since Daniel and Will were in Chicago that very evening for events related to the book, it was Dmitri who presented it to me right after we arrived for our kitchen visit. So, not exactly a surprise but a wish fulfilled.

At my age, I’m thrilled to be having another birthday because it says, “I’m still here!” It’s definitely something to celebrate and, for me, there’s no better place to do so than with our EMP family. My sincerest thanks to all of them for making the evening so special!

Eleven Madison Park

To see the entire photo set of this dinner on my Flickr, click here.

At Home: Autumn Colors

November 20, 2015

At Home:  Autumn Colors

NYT Sunday Puzzle – November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015

NYT Sunday Puzzle - November 15, 2015

Title: Having Aspirations

Theme: Common phrases in which one of the words begins with “Wh.” The spelling is changed to reflect the clue which changes word’s meaning, thereby turning the phrase into a silly one.

23A. “So You Think You Can Dance,” say? = The Whirled Series
41A. Roller coaster shout from Queen Elizabeth? = The royal whee
68A. “Did you mean Doom or Doolittle?”? = Which doctor
89A. Mob Boss Hall of Fame? = Whacks Museum
113A. Making a complaint at a restaurant? = Whining and dining
17D. “That milky liquid belongs to me!”? = Get out of my whey
48D. One in line to rule the ocean? = Prince of Whales

I didn’t find this puzzle particularly difficult. After figuring out the trick fairly early, I worked on the puzzle in fits and starts over a few hours. I had everything filled but when looking it over, I decided to change 118-Across from “outpace” to “outrace.” A good decision since the correct answer to 111-Down is “inri” not “inpi.”

In the category of “You learn something new every day”:

19-Down. Baseball or Supreme Court lineups. Answer: enneads. It means a set of nine.

80-Across. One-_____ (old ball game). Answer: o’cat.

104-Down. Mathematician who was the subject of the book “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers.” Answer: Erdos (Paul).

NYT Thursday Puzzle – November 12, 2015

November 14, 2015

NYT Thursday Puzzle - November 12, 2015

Theme: 40-Across has the clue: Popular zoo attraction … or a hint to 11 squares of this puzzle. Answer: Panda. Actually, it’s P and A and a rebus where the letters PA inhabit the same square.

I figured out that the trick involved a rebus of PA well before getting 40-Across. Since the PA squares are scattered throughout the grid with no particular pattern, it was an interesting challenge finding where they occur. So, this was not a quick finish. I kept plugging away over a two-day period. The southwest corner was still not filled in last night. And this is where the mystery of how the brain works came into play. I had thought the answer to 51-Down (Wash against gently) might be LAPS, but it wasn’t right. I consciously let it go, but it seems my brain didn’t. Right after I woke up this morning, the correct answer, which included the rebus, suddenly popped into my head: LA[P A]T! Once I had that, I was able to fill in the rest of that corner.

This Is the Tree That Replaced the Tree That Replaced the Tree That Fell on Our House

November 8, 2015

At Home: The Tree That Replaced the Tree That Replaced the Tree That Fell on Our House

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the tree falling on our house. I wrote about it here and about the immediate aftermath here. In the spring of 2013, our landscaper planted a replacement tree. Unfortunately, it did not do well. He took it out and planted this one. As you can see from this photo I took in June, it’s doing just fine.

NYT Sunday Puzzle – November 8, 2015

November 8, 2015

NYT Sunday Puzzle - November 8, 2015

Title: Three-Peat

Theme: Answers have words in which three-letter-strings immediately repeat, but the repeat string is left out.

23A. 1982 Arnold Schwartzenegger film = Conan the Bar[bar]ian
33A. Bringer of peace between nations = Ente[nt39A. Statee] cordiale
39A. State bordering Texas = Chihau[hua] Mexico
57A. Rose buds? = Cin[cin]nati Reds
66A. Jason Bourne and others = Trained ass[ass]ins
76A. Salad bar bowlful = Alfa[lfa] sprouts
91A. Some auto auction’ inventory = Reposse[sse]d cars
100A. Land in the Caucases = Che[che]n Republic
114A. Chocolaty Southern dessert = Miss[iss]ippi mud pie

The first answer I knew was 114-Across. But when I couldn’t fit in all the letter for Mississippi, I immediately thought, “Oh, it’s a rebus!” Uh, no!! Turns out that instead of putting the repeat letter together in one square, they were just left out. And so the answers became gobbledegook. Ugh! In any case, this puzzle was pretty easy for me. I got a brief start on it before falling asleep and after I woke up finished it in about an hour.

Seeing “alfalfa sprouts” as the answer to 76-Across brought back this memory. When I was in 6th grade, the teacher divided the class into groups for spelling practice. I was so good at spelling, I ended up in the highest group, a “group” of just 2 – me and another student. The teacher had us take seats together in the back of the room. One of the words on our list was “alfalfa.” Neither of us had ever heard of this word before. When practicing spelling, we were taught to say the word out loud first, and then spell it. I don’t recall who went first, but as soon as the word was spoken out loud, it sounded so funny to us that we burst out laughing. As soon as we stopped laughing, we said the word again and burst out laughing again. This went on for quite a while with the laughing turning into giggling. Eventually, we calmed down enough to be able to actual spell the word.

My Birthday Lunch at Tocqueville

November 3, 2015


One of the many reasons we love Tocqueville is that on Saturdays, while most other restaurants are serving brunch, they serve lunch. By that I mean their regular lunch menu. In fact, the a la carte menu is the same as the dinner menu. At lunch, there is also what I consider the best bargain in the city for cuisine of such superb caliber – a 3-course prix-fixe for $29! We’ve done quite a few of those over time. Plus, they offer a 5-course tasting menu for around $65, another great value which we’ve taken advantage of in the past.

Since my birthday fell on a Saturday, Tocqueville was the perfect place to have lunch. It’s not the first time I chose it for my birthday lunch. I did so two years ago and posted about it here.

We had an 8 p.m. reservation at EMP, so we booked Tocqueville at 11:45 a.m., to allow us an unrushed meal and enough time to regain our appetites by the anointed evening hour. Because lunch is never very busy, we were the only ones in the dining room for a while. Not that that would ever bother us. Other parties slowly trickled in until by the time we left, a half dozen other tables were occupied. Our favorite captain, Miguel, was in charge of the dining room, and being taken care of by him is always a pleasure. I didn’t tell him it was my birthday; nevertheless, he treated us to some extras.

After we placed our food order from the a la carte menu, Michael consulted with Roger, the sommelier, to choose a wine that would go best with the main course. The plan was one glass because there would be lots more drinking in the evening. Roger offered tastes of three different wines from which Michael chose the Burgundy.

Red Burgundy

Miguel started us off with delectable hors d’oeuvres usually served only at dinner.

Hors d'Oeuvres

Gougères, Cured Salmon and Crème Fraîche, Beet Scrolls Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Right after that, he came to our table bearing a gift for me: a virgin cocktail. He explained that he’d created it for a table of regular patrons who don’t drink alcohol. Mango tea-based, it contained a variety of tropical fruit flavors. I dislike tea and usually don’t care for non-alcoholic cocktails that use it. But I was really pleased to find that this one was delicious.

Virgin Cocktail

When Tocqueville’s bread basket is brought to the table, there is never any doubt about the choice since it’s the most perfect roll.

Brioche Roll


All diners receive an amuse. This one came topped with caviar. I normally don’t eat caviar, but I decided not to take it off before popping the whole thing into my mouth. Because the caviar blended with the other flavors and textures, it wasn’t really noticeable. A very tasty morsel.



We both chose the same first course. Tocqueville’s soups are always phenominally flavorful. This one included little cubes of foie gras! Need I say more?

Sunchoke Soup

Sunchoke Soup

Sunchoke Soup

We also chose the same main course. We’ve both had Loch Etive sea trout at Tocqueville before, and I had it as my main course at our Rosh Hashanah dinner here in September. This was an entirely new preparation. All the elements on the plate worked well together.  A seriously delish dish!

Potato Crusted Loch Etive Sea Trout

Potato Crusted Loch Etive Sea Trout, Spaghetti Squash, Burgundy Reduction

We decided to share one dessert, and to go with it, Michael had a glass of Banyuls. Not only are desserts at Tocqueville always scrumptious, but a major plus is that they do not follow the current desserts trend, one I heartily dislike. That is, desserts which are deconstructed and/or have weird flavor combos.


Cheesecake, Figs, Banyuls Reduction

Miguel didn’t think one dessert was sufficient, so in his inimitably generous manner, he had the kitchen send out a plate of sorbets which are always a delight because their flavors are intense.


Pear, Blood Orange, Raspberry

Stellar cuisine and gracious service in one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city, this was, once again, a lovely birthday lunch at Tocqueville.

To see the entire photo set of this lunch on my Flickr, click here.

NYT Thursday Puzzle – October 29, 2015

October 29, 2015

NYT Thursday Puzzle - October 29, 2015

Theme: Two word answers with the final letter of the first word being the first letter of the second word. That letter appears twice in the same circled square. 66-Across has the clue to the circles. They spell out LION.

17A. Party-going and such = Socia(l l)ife
24A. One whose work is going downhill = Sk(I i)nstructor
41A. Second chance = D(o o)ver
53A. Campbell’s variety = Chicke(n n)oodle
66A. Almost all … and a hint to the five circled letters = Lion (s s)hare

This was easier than I first thought it would be especially for a Thursday.

Lots of interesting fills:
44-Across. 1881 novel “for children and those who love children.” Answer: Heidi
32-Across. Locale for snow leopards. Answer: Nepal
46-Across. “Cars” producer. Answer: Pixar
58-Across. Director Bresson. Answer: Luc
72-Across. Addie’s husband in “As I Lay Dying.” Answer: Anse
8-Down: Friedrich _____, first president of the German Republic. Answer: Ebert
9-Down: Source of the line “There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” Answer: Dr. Seuss
18-Down: Hollywood’s Alan and Adam. Answer: Arkin

It’s My Birthday!

October 24, 2015


December 1948

At Home: Looking Back at Summer 2015’s Produce

October 22, 2015

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Although the autumnal equinox arrived several weeks ago, right now we are enjoying a short spate of Indian summer weather. The perfect time to reminisce about summer produce. This year’s New Jersey corn, tomatoes, and peaches were the absolute best in recent memory.

Corn made its first appearance on our table during our July 4th barbecue (blog post here). After that, we overdosed on corn throughout the summer. I prefer white though we sometimes had bi-color. I don’t like grilled corn. Probably in the minority there. Instead, I cook it briefly in boiling water. So sweet, no need for added salt or butter.

At Home: July 4th Cookout (2015)

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

The majority of the tomatoes we had were from the Clayton Family Farm, in Freehold.

Clayton Family Farm

They are the only farmers in our area who grow heirlooms. (I did a post about them and their heirlooms back in 2011.) This year’s crop was even better than last year’s. Plus, there was a wider variety all of which were fantastic. What’s more, the price remains ridiculously reasonable for heirlooms: $3/lb! Their regular tomatoes, Early Girls, and green ones were also excellent. The cherry tomatoes at Stattl’s were fabulous. And I also bought regular and plum tomatoes at Battleview Orchards and Delicious Orchards.

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)


At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Heirlooms, Basil, and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Arugula, Red Onion, Olives, Basil, Balsamic Vinegar, and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Heirlooms, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil, Balsamic Vinegar, and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Capellini with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, EVOO, and Parmesan Reggiano:

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

This Tomato Tart is one of my all-time favorites. The recipe is from Pierre Franey Cooks With His Friends.

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

I’d never made pickled green tomatoes before. So easy! And they turned out great!

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

I love eggplant! EMP’s summer menu (Post here) included an eggplant course. They used a variety I was not familiar with — fairytale. It totally bowled me over. So, imagine how excited I was to discover tiny fairytale eggplant at the Clayton Farm. I didn’t do anything complicated with them. Just split them in half, brushed them with olive oil, and grilled them on the barbecue. Yum!

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Grilled Fairytale Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato

Peaches are my favorite fruit. The ones I like best are carried by Wegmans which gets them from a farm in South Jersey. This year, I discovered that Whole Foods had local peaches similar to those at Wegmans (I don’t know what farm they were from), so I bought some there as well. Sweet and juicy, they were truly luscious. For breakfast, I like to cut them up and top them with cottage cheese and sour cream. They’re great in a salad. And, of course, they make for splendid desserts.

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Peach and Tomato Salad with Feta, Red Onion, and Basil

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Peaches and Breyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Peaches, Breyer’s Vanilla, and Warm Fox’s U-bet Chocolate Syrup

At Home: Summer Produce (2015)

Peach Clafoutis

New Jersey corn and peaches are long gone. But last week, Delicious Orchards still had some local field grown tomatoes. I bought three and let them ripen further. I have one left. It will be, regrettably, the last taste of summer 2015.

The complete set of Summer Produce 2015 photos can be seen on my Flickr here.

Uppity Woman

I'm just one of those Uppity Women. Live with it.


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