Celebrating My Birthday, Part 2: Dinner at Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

To those who know us and/or follow this blog, it will come as no surprise that we celebrated my birthday at our favorite New York City restaurant surrounded by a staff who have become family to us. Though the majority of our monthly visits to EMP these days have been for lunch – which has exactly the same menu as in the evening — when it comes to special occasions, we always opt for the more celebratory feel at dinner.

It being well into autumn, the menu was considerably different from the one we had during our lunch in September. Gone were summery things like Clambake 4.0 with EMP’s inventively delicious take on Manhattan clam chowder and the incredible Tomato with Lobster Salad. Instead, among the 15-course tasting were many new dishes incorporating the flavors of fall.

Before we started, our captain Corwin had asked me how I felt about oysters. I replied that while I don’t care for them plain, I will eat them dressed. The preparation he described sounded great to me. So, after the meal’s usual first bite, the savory Black and White Cookie with Cheddar and Apple

Black and White Cookies (Savory)

…we were served an Oyster with Grapes, Bulgur, and Sorrel.

Oyster

Next, we were each served different things: For Michael, Shrimp Marinated with Sea Urchin, Foie Gras, and Chervil; for me, Beet Pickled with Yogurt and Nasturtium.

Shrimp

Beet

Although we’d had Smoked Sturgeon with Chive Oil in an egg many times before, it hadn’t been on the menu for quite some time.

Sturgeon

It signaled the return of an old favorite brought back for the fall menu: “EMP’s Homage to Jewish Appetizing” — Smoked Sturgeon, with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles, and Caviar (cucumber “caviar” for me).

"Homage to Jewish Appetizing"

"Homage to Jewish Appetizing"

"Homage to Jewish Appetizing"

"Homage to Jewish Appetizing"

"Homage to Jewish Appetizing"

For this self-styled Foie Gras Queen, no birthday dinner would be complete without it. I usually prefer it hot; however, when Corwin told us that the cold foie was an entirely new preparation, I decided to go with it. And am I glad I did! Foie Gras Terrine with Plum and Bitter Almond was sensational! My favorite dish of the evening!

Foie Gras

The two courses that followed were from the sea. First, Tilefish Poached with Mushroom, Broccoli Rabe, and Garlic.

Tilefish

Then, Lobster Poached with Brussels Sprouts and Guanciale, which I have to say was my second favorite dish. The sauce knapped around it tableside was ambrosial. And what really shocked me was that while I normally don’t like Brussels sprouts, the teensy ones here – deep fried and roasted – won me over.

Lobster

I had been noticing the service staff regular traversing the room carrying a tray which held something large. What could it be? I wondered. It was a whole kabocha squash roasted with sourdough bread.

Kabocha Squash

Presented at our table prior to the tilefish and lobster, it was returned to the kitchen for plating and served to us after the lobster: Squash Roasted with Cranberries, Pumpkin Seeds, and Sourdough.

Squash

During our 45th Anniversary Celebration at EMP in June, we received several amazing gifts among which were knives engraved with our names. They are stored and each time we dine, they are brought out when the main savory course is served.

Our Engraved Knives

Our Engraved Knives

The two choices for the main meat course were venison – something I don’t recall ever having been served before at EMP though I could be wrong — or the famous duck. Michael immediately opted for the venison while I, not having much experience with it, played it safe with the duck. They were presented to us before being plated.

Duck

Venison

Venison

Duck Roasted with Turnip and Huckleberries

Duck

Venison Roasted with Pears and Sunchokes

Venison

While the duck was, as always, excellent, after tasting the venison, I have to be honest and say that I was a bit sorry I hadn’t been braver as it was delicious.

Along with the duck and venison came something we’d first been served in September which was not yet on the menu then. I labeled it “BBQ!” Indeed, a shiny stainless steel portable covered grill is brought to the table. Removal of the cover reveals a bed of hot charcoal and a grate on which rests small skewers with grilled meats – for this meal, duck on one and venison on the other – with accompaniments. Delicious fun!

BBQ!

BBQ!

After the always enjoyable Picnic Basket

Central Park Picnic

and Egg Cream

Egg Cream

…there was a new dessert (with a candle for me): Apple Sorbet with Bay Leaf, Crème Brûlée, and Hibiscus. More classic in style than many previous desserts have been, I loved it!

Apple

Then the second, smaller dessert: Cheesecake with Sweet Potato, Honey and Chestnut.

Cheesecake

At this point in the meal, we find ourselves comfortably sated and not wanting to feel stuffed, we always box up the final three sweets to take home along with the granola.

House Made Chocolates

Chocolates

Chocolate Covered Pretzel with Sea Salt

Pretzel

And coming full circle, the sweet Black and White Cookies with Cinnamon

Black and White Cookies (Sweet)

Michael has made some changes with regard to wine consumption. Instead of pairings, he’s decided to do just two high quality glasses: Champagne for all the courses leading up to the main meat and then a red for that course. When he did this for the first time in September, we discovered that EMP has something we had not heard of before: the Coravin, a system that enables them to offer single glasses of very high quality wines without opening the bottle. An exceedingly fine needle is threaded through the cork, the wine is extracted, and when the needled is pulled out, the cork reseals itself. Genius!

For this dinner, rather than having a single glass of Champagne, Michael decided to order a half bottle of Krug Rosé, insisting I have some at least for a birthday toast. Turned out, I quite liked this particular Champagne and actually finished a glass.

Champagne: Krug Rosé

For the venison, he consulted with our sommelier Lindsay and agreed that she would Coravin a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Coravin

Among the many high points during the evening was one that helped make it extra-special. We hadn’t seen Will Guidara since the afternoon of our anniversary in June and had really missed him. So, I was hoping he would be in. And like a wished for birthday gift, he was! It was a joy seeing his smiling face as he approached our table. His ebullient, winning personality makes it great fun chatting and laughing with him.

As you may have heard, there are some major changes about to take place within the EMP/NoMad family. Chef James Kent has been appointed Executive Chef at NoMad – a very well-deserved promotion – replacing Chef de Cuisine Abram Bissell who will be leaving. Chris Flint, who has been the Executive Sous Chef at NoMad is replacing James as EMP’s Chef de Cuisine, another well-deserved promotion. For Chris, it is a homecoming as he worked for several years at EMP before going to NoMad when it opened last year. The evening of my birthday, both James and Chris were in EMP’s kitchen as was Chef Humm (who stopped by our table to say hello). Chris was in charge for the first time. He and the kitchen team did a truly splendid job!

My heartfelt thanks to our entire EMP family for making my birthday celebration such a wonderful evening! You are all THE BEST!!

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

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