For My 70th Birthday, Eleven Madison Park Outdoes the Previous One

In my birthday post on October 24th, I wrote:

This evening, Michael and I will be dining at EMP, and we’ll return again on Saturday to celebrate with Jen and Louis. A few weeks ago, I kidded with Will Guidara that I can’t image he could ever come up with a surprise that would top what they did for my birthday last year. But with or without surprises, there is no place I’d rather celebrate this milestone occasiom.

Well, silly me! The man definitely loves a challenge. And so…

We asked at the beginning of the meal if there were going to be any white truffles since the season usually starts at about that time. When told they weren’t serving them just yet, we were admittedly disappointed. BUT…

We had finished the initial volley of courses — Black and White Cookies with Truffles and Foie Gras; Cranberry Gelée with Curds, Sumac and Agretti; Cucumber Snow with Lapsang Souchong and Grape; and Eel with Foie Gras and Swiss Chard – when who should show up at our table but the man himself! Accompanying Will were servers carrying trays, one of which contained something that made our eyes light up and had us “Oohing!”: White Truffles! Plates were placed before and as the truffles were shaved atop the contents, Will said, “Someone celebrating a birthday near the end of October should definitely have white truffles!” And who could disagree? Certainly not moi! He then told us he was leaving to go over to NoMad and probably wouldn’t be back but added, “This is only the beginning.” With a wink and a grin, he left as we tucked into White Truffle, Poached Egg, Porcini, and Pine Nuts.

White Truffle

After finishing those plates of serious deliciousness, it was back to the regular menu*: Smoked Sturgeon Sabayon and the “Homage to Jewish Appetizing,” followed by Foie Gras Torchon with Maple, Walnuts, and Apple for me and Langoustine with Fennel, Sour Cherries, and Clam for Michael; Carrot Tartare; and Parsnip Roasted with Sesame, Parsley, and Dijon for Michael and the aforementioned Langoustine for me. At this point, we were expecting the duck, which we’d chosen for our main protein. BUT…

The cutlery was set when I nudged Michael and whispered, “Look, here comes James.” That would be Chef de Cuisine James Kent whom I’d spotted walking along the far aisle and then heading toward us. Hmmm… Something definitely afoot. He arrived at our table with two servers each carrying a tray. Upon each tray was a plate covered with a silver dome.

Birthday Surprise!

They were set before us, the domes were simultaneously lifted, and the reveal lest me in dumbfounded shock as James explained. Will had read the birthday post. One of the things I talked about was celebrating my 50th birthday at Les Celebrités and wrote the following:

Whenever Michael and I think about that meal, the most memorable thing about it was the first course foie gras we both ordered. Sandwiched between thick slices of apple was a gargantuan piece of seared foie gras. As the reigning Foie Gras Queen, I can say that to this day, it’s the most humungous we’ve ever had!

That sparked Will’s idea to surprise me by duplicating that dish. So, he spoke with James and told him to “make it happen!” James joked to us that the piece of foie gras here was probably not as hefty as the original. True enough, but no matter. Incredibly talented, he created a modern interpretation with additional elements which I found when I tasted it actually enhanced the original. Orgasmic! They dubbed it “Foie Gras à la Les Celebrités 1992.”

Birthday Surprise! "Foie Gras à la Les Celebrites 1992"

Recovering from this second surprise wasn’t easy, but I managed. So, it was on to Chef Humm’s signature Duck Roasted with Lavender, Honey, Apple, and Quinoa. Although the whole duck was presented to us, they were no longer carving it tableside. Not really a big deal for us since we’d had that ceremony so many times before.

A kitchen visit was a nice break before the closing courses:  Picnic Basket: Greensward Cow’s Milk Cheese, Pretzel, Mustard, and Grapes; Egg Cream; Pistachio Ice Cream with Grape, Golden Raisin, and Sauternes for Michael and Chocolate Ganache with Caramel, Apricot, and Cocoa Nibs with a candle for me; Huckleberry Goat Cheese Cheesecake and Lime; Card Trick Chocolates; and Siphon Coffee.

As we were finishing our coffee and enjoying the last two sweet treats, the Black and White Cookies and the Chocolate Covered Pretzels with Sea Salt, along with Apple Brandy for Michael and French Sparkling Cider for me, Service Director Kirk Kelewae came to the table. He had been by earlier in the evening to say hello and offer birthday congrats. So, I figured he was back to ask how everything went and to say good-bye. BUT…

I wish I had a recording of his short “speech” because his sentiments were incredibly sweet and heartwarming. There was also a gift – the sneaky devil was holding it behind his back — a plate from the service ware used until the advent of the “new” EMP in September when they introduced their new, specially designed service ware. Signed by staff members, it was, he said, a souvenir commemorating the many years we’ve been supportive of the restaurant.

Birthday Gift for Me from the Entire Staff

Kirk took away the plate to be wrapped. Still in shock, I pulled my cell phone from my purse and sent Will this pithy message: “You did it!”

*Note: The menu grid had not yet been eliminated.

To see all the entire photo set from this dinner. click here.

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2 Responses to “For My 70th Birthday, Eleven Madison Park Outdoes the Previous One”

  1. Andrew Says:

    What a wonderful account of your birthday meal!

  2. thewizardofroz Says:

    Thanks, Andrew! It was a phenomenal evening.

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