Thanksgiving at Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park:  Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving Day 2011. J and the P.G. were at his parents’ house as they were last year. So, M and I did what we did last year and went to EMP. The place was packed! Will Guidara told us that on the day they opened reservations, within 15 minutes, they were fully booked. To meet the increased demand for tables, diners were also being served in the upstairs private rooms.

For this holiday meal, the menu grid was dispensed with in favor of the traditional format with choices offered for three of the four courses. Our dinner was pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s.

When it comes to turkey, you can’t do any better than what comes out of EMP’s kitchen.  No stringy, dried out white meat from Chef Humm’s  organic bird. No, siree! He prepares the breast sous vide, which produces white meat that’s incredibly juicy, tender, and flavorful. When it comes to the dark meat, he makes a confit. While it may not be traditional – more French than American – it is delicious. Also on the plate were a wonderful chestnut dressing garnished with whole chestnuts, a swath of sweet butternut squash puree and, of course, gravy. For me, turkey without gravy doesn’t cut it. No surprise that Chef Humm’s gravy is luscious. Frankly, though, there wasn’t enough of it on the plate to suit me, so I asked for more. It was brought in a little gravy boat and left for us to spoon on ourselves. You can be sure that M and I emptied that vessel. Yum!

Organic Turkey

Lest you’re thinking that that was all there was to the turkey, forget it! There were six sides served “family-style” in little bowls: two kinds of potatoes, whipped and sweet; roasted Brussels sprouts; mashed parsnips; sweet & sour red cabbage; and cranberry relish. I’m not a fan of Brussels sprouts and though I’ve tried mightily over time to get to like them, even Chef Humm’s didn’t convince me. So, M, who loves them, cleaned out that bowl. The other sides were, however, seriously to my liking as well as to his.

The meal started with a lovely little cup of Chicken Veloute accompanied by small toasted brioche rectangles topped with minced black truffles. There were also white truffles available as a supplement, so we didn’t pass up the chance to have them with the Tagliolini. As was the case during my birthday lunch in October, Sous Chef Bryce Shuman gave the truffles a generous shave. Ambrosial!

Tagliolini

For dessert, M chose the Poached Pear, which was new to us. I opted to repeat the Chestnut Vacherin; however, it turned out to be a completely different version than last year’s, thus making for two new desserts, which we shared. Both were light and just right. Finally, the mignardise plate arrived holding four different-flavored mini-macarons: pumpkin, pistachio, cranberry, and chocolate.

Macarons

Two vignettes. Will happened to be at our table chatting with us when the servers arrived with the turkey and trimmings. Will, himself, placed the plates before us, arranged the little bowls on the table, described everything (just in case we weren’t sure), and sent one of the servers to the kitchen to get the additional gravy. So, we had the supreme honor of being served our turkey by one of EMP’s new owners, the other being, of course, Daniel Humm.

A little while later, I thought I heard the sounds of a baby. When I mentioned this to our captain, Nicole, she told us that it was Chef Humm’s infant daughter, Colette, who was born just a few weeks ago in October. He was actually having dinner in the dining room with his wife and Colette’s two-year-old sister, Vivienne. We could not see them from where our regular table is situated. But it was lovely to know that Chef Humm was sharing Thanksgiving with his family in a restaurant he and Will now own.

To see all the photos from this dinner, click here.

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