The Sabering King

Last year, I did a post looking back at our 45th anniversary celebration on the eve of our 46th. Now, here I am doing a look-back recap of our 46th the day before we celebrate our 47th. Could be it’s becoming a tradition. In any case, it’s a great way to relive an exciting evening. So, here we go….

It will come as no surprise for those who know us that our 46th anniversary celebration took place at Eleven Madison Park. There was, however, a slight change as to when the dinner took place. For the past three years, our anniversary fell on the weekend of the Annual Big Apple Barbecue. Last year, June 8th was on that Sunday, and EMP was going to be closed that evening in order to host a post-barbecue Bluegrass concert.* So, we changed the reservation to the evening before. No big deal, especially since by the time we finished well after midnight, it was June 8th!

There was, of course, lots of seriously delicious food, and many staff members stopped by our table to offer congratulations. However, the highlight of the evening – and the focus of this post — was the surprise they had in store for us. There is always a surprise when we celebrate our anniversary and birthdays there. But the fact is it would be really, really hard for them to outdo the myriad surprises they sprang on for our 45th. Since then, each time we’ve dined at EMP, and they place our engraved knives on the table for the main savory course, we are reminded of what a memorable evening that was. Still, undaunted, those ever creative and resourceful folks at EMP managed to come up with a surprise for our 46th that blew us away.

It started during our kitchen visit. Since many previous surprises have taken place there, we should have suspected something was coming. But as we chit chatted away with some of the staff and enjoyed our cups of shaved ice, we were surprised when Jon, one of the sommeliers, appeared carrying a large rectangular wooden box. Inside was a gorgeous sabering knife with LAGUIOLE engraved on one side…

Kitchen Visit

…and EMP’s logo engraved on the other.

Kitchen Visit

“Jon,” I said, “Are you going to saber a bottle for us?.”

“No, he’s going to!” Jon replied, pointing. The “he” being pointed at was – Michael!

“You must be joking!” I exclaimed.

“No, we’re serious.”

We all looked at Michael. He hefted the knife and said, “I’m game!”

Kitchen Visit
(That’s Chef de Cuisine Chris Flint taking a photo with his phone camera.)

We all trooped out of the kitchen through a side exit to the patio. (You didn’t think this was going to take place in the dining room?!) Tables and chairs were set up outside because during the Big Apple Barbecue weekend, EMP sells liquid refreshments and has music provided by a small band whose members are old college buddies of Will Guidara. Will has even been known to sit in with them on the drum. But I digress…

One of the tables was ready for us. Obviously, they had no doubt at all they’d be making Michael an offer he wouldn’t refuse. There was a bucket containing two bottles of Champagne (the second one a back-up in case of a disastrous first attempt, for example, a shattered bottle), two glasses, and a card signed by Chef Daniel Humm and other staff members.

Eleven Madison Park:  Our 46th Anniversary

Eleven Madison Park:  Our 46th Anniversary

Eleven Madison Park:  Our 46th Anniversary
(Made Nice is the parent company of EMP and its sister restaurant The NoMad.)

Eleven Madison Park:  Our 46th Anniversary

After I took the photo of Michael again hefting the saber, he and Jon got down to business. Jon showed him the spot on the bottle where the saber must hit and the correct swing. I was in the process of readjusting my camera’s focus when, suddenly, the top of the bottle went flying. Michael had done it so swiftly that I didn’t get action the shot. That was the bad news. The very good and exciting news: He sabered the bottle perfectly! The Champagne was poured, we toasted, and I pronounced him “The Sabering King”! Seemed especially fitting since his middle name happens to be “King.” (No joke!)

When we returned to the dining room, the sabered Champagne bottle and the cork were placed on our table.

Eleven Madison Park:  Our 46th Anniversary


Staff members stopped by to check the evidence of Michael’s sabering prowess, and when Chef Humm came to offer us his best wishes and examined the bottle and cork, he told Michael he was quite impressed. Needless to say, Michael was feeling very proud of himself. And justifiably so! See, here’s the thing. We had once been in the dining room when Jon sabered a bottle to celebrate a couple’s engagement. Ironically, his effort was a bit of a disaster which, after Michael’s success, we kidded Jon about.

It’s a fool’s errand trying to predict what our EMP family will be surprising us with for our 47th because it will no doubt be something we could never in our wildest dreams imagine. One thing’s for sure. There will be no more sabering for Michael. He’s retired the crown.

*Note: We were invited to attend the Bluegrass concert and did.

To see all the photos of our 46th anniversary celebration at EMP, click here.


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