Double the Pleasure on Thanksgiving

The Bird!

We’ve been going to Eleven Madison Park on Thanksgiving since 2010 — always in the evening at 8p.m.  However, last year, I decided we should start a new tradition:  betony for Thanksgiving dinner at noon and EMP as usual in the evening.  Why did I want to do this?  In a word:  Pies!  Specifically, the pies at betony from Executive Pastry Chef Rebecca Isbell. Did you notice the “s” at the end of the word “pie”?  Yes, that means more than one pie.  Not just one more or two more.  But FIVE different pies!

To digress briefly with a bit of background….  betony opened in May 2013.  Since Executive Chef Bryce Shuman and General Manager Eamon Rockey are EMP alums, we started going to betony toute de suite and have continued going there regularly.  Bryce is an incredibly talented chef and together with Executive Sous Chef Jack Logue and their team serves some of the most creative and delicious food in the city.  The restaurant’s three stars from The New York Times and a Michelin star are very well deserved.

During its first year, betony was open on Thanksgiving.  We went as usual to EMP, but I saw photos on Twitter of betony’s pie table.  Wow!  A separate tale just for the pies!  Now, the food at EMP on Thanksgiving is always terrific.  BUT, they don’t serve pie!  And, frankly, something is kind of missing on Thanksgiving if there is no pie, especially pumpkin but also apple or – let’s face it – any kinds of pies.  So, right then I knew I had to come up with a way to have betony’s pies!

Fast forward to a few weeks before Thanksgiving in 2014.  When I told Michael that I wanted to go to betony AND to EMP, he said it was a crazy idea.  I countered with some facts:  (a) we had to have lunch, and (b) turkey is one of his favorite foods – he loves it way more than I do – so having it twice in one day would be a plus for him.  I reminded him that during the years when my parents were doing Thanksgiving dinner for 20-25 family members, one of my cousins went with her husband and kids to his family in the afternoon and then joined us in the evening.  So, two Thanksgiving dinners in one day wasn’t such an outlandish idea.  If we went to betony at noon, we’d have plenty of time to recover for our 8 p.m. res at EMP.  In the end, it didn’t take all that much convincing to get him to agree.  It worked out as well as I thought it would, so we did it again this year, and a new tradition has been born.

betony: Thanksgiving 2015

It was a fine day weather-wise, so we took the subway to betony. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we immediately noticed that they had moved the pie table. Last year, it was at the front of the bar area right near the windows. This year, it was at the rear of the bar area near the entrance to the dining room. I joked that maybe we should start with dessert and work our way backwards through the menu.

We started things off with some pre-prandial refreshment, aka cocktails. For Michael, the Riflin’ Dixie: White Dog Whisky, Triple-Sec, and Mint; For me, a Virgin put together by one of the bartender: O.J., Ginger, and Seltzer.

Rifflin' Dixie

Virgin Cocktail

They brought out Parker House Rolls and Yogurt Butter. The warm rolls fresh out of the oven were insanely delicious!

Parker House Rolls

The meal began with Mushroom Tea. Jack Logue brought it to our table which gave us the opportunity to exchange Thanksgiving greetings with him. Now, you probably know that I dislike tea. However, though they called it that, it was actually an intensely flavored mushroom broth.

Mushroom Tea

We both chose the Foie Gras Terrine with Parsnip and Mustard for our first course. The wine paired with it was Château d’Arlay, Macvin du Jura. The foie gras dish was a phenomenal mix of flavors and textures: the very smooth foie, its crunchy coating, the crispness of the ultra-thin parsnip sheet (How do they do this?), and the slightly sharp mustard sauce.

Château d’Arlay

Foie Gras Terrine

Foie Gras Terrine

One of the chefs presented he Whole Turkey. Gorgeous!!

Presenting the Bird!

The wine pairing for Michael with the bird was a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The carved white meat was as delicious as the whole turkey looked, and so were the array of complements on the plate – wheat berries, roasted carrot, and dark meat turkey in a crispy pastry.

Roasted Turkey

The Trimmings: roasted Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and fingerlings; puréed potatoes; stuffing; cranberry sauce; and more gravy. All excellent!

The Trimmings

We now arrived at the reason for this new tradition. Pies! Once again, there were five: Pumpkin, Apple, Pecan, and Lemon Meringue Pies, and a Chocolate Malt Tart. And to gild the proverbial lily, this year they added an ice cream bar!

Pies, Tarts, and Sundaes

Pies, Tarts, and Sundaes

Instead of the captains taking orders at the table, guests were invited to the pie table to make their selections. We, of course, had to have one slice of each which we shared. Michael also got two scoops of ice cream.

Pies and a Tart

Pies

Ice Cream

At the end of the meal, something else that was new: a Post-Prandial Cocktail prepared tableside. Michael certainly did not pass this up.

Post Prandial Cocktail

Post Prandial Cocktail

During the meal, Bryce came out of the kitchen to greet us. Hanging around his neck was one of his Polaroid cameras. He has a collection of them which we found out about at last year’s Thanksgiving. He set the camera on automatic, and it took this black and white photo of the three of us. How cool is that!

betony: Thanksgiving 2015

The turkey and trimmings portions were exceedingly generous — way too much for us to finish everything and have any hope of eating a morsel at EMP. Same for the pies even though we shared them. So, we took home two doggie boxes. Hey, what’s Thanksgiving without leftovers?

betony: Thanksgiving 2015

Finally, a parting gift for all guests.

Take-Home Gift

betony bag in hand, we toddled off to our apartment for some R&R before going on to T-Day Part 2 at EMP.

One of the main reasons we started going to EMP on Thanksgiving had to do with traffic. After my Dad died, I did Thanksgiving at our house with some close friends who lived nearby while my brother did it at his house with his in-laws. After many years, I stopped doing it, and we went instead to my brother. He lives in Syosset, and every year, I’d moan and bitch about the traffic. The Long Island Expressway is familiarly known as the L.I.E. Couldn’t be more appropriate because on holidays, calling it an expressway is a big fat lie! It’s more like a giant parking lot where you inch along for what seems an eternity. Finally, I’d had it! At this older stage of my life, the last thing I want to do is waste precious hours sitting in traffic especially if there’s any way to avoid it. EMP is just three blocks from our apartment, so we walk there. Ergo, traffic problem solved!

Eleven Madison Park: Thanksgiving 2015

We arrived promptly at 8 p.m. Our appetites had revived, so it was nice to find the usual Black and White Cookies with Cheddar and Apple waiting for us to snack on.

Black and White Cookies

Michael began with his favorite NoMad cocktail, Satan’s Circus, composed of Rye, Thai Chili-Infused Aperol, Cherry Heering, and Lemon. No problem getting it at EMP since one of the bartenders had worked at NoMad and so was quite familiar with that cocktail. I had a glass of my favorite non-alcoholic French Sparkling Cider which lasted through the meal.

Satan's Circus

French Sparkling Cider (Non-Alcoholic)

EMP’s Thanksgiving dinner always starts with Chicken Velouté with Black Truffle. Poured tableside, it’s heavenly.

Chicken Velouté

Chicken Velouté

Next, the wonderful House Made Rolls, accompanied by cow’s milk butter and Amagansett sea salt.

House Made Roll

For the first course, we made a major change. In previous years, we’d both had the tagliolini with white truffles. This year, prices for white truffles have been astronomical (they have come down a bit recently), and we’d already had white truffles at NoMad during my birthday weekend. But cost was not the biggest factor. I decided that having pasta was too filling which made it difficult for me to have adequate room for the rest of the meal. Michael went along with my decision, and we both had Smoked Foie Gras Terrine with Purple Potato and Black Truffle. Divine! And it did include black truffles. So, not exactly too shabby! The wine pairing was a Keller sweet wine. I liked it, so I “helped” Michael to finish it.

Keller

Smoked Foie Gras Terrine

We’ve visited the kitchen countless times but have never done it on Thanksgiving. So, it was a total surprise when it happened. We were treated to something new: Maple Syrup “Snow” on a Stick. I’m not sure if that’s its official name, but it does describe it. Heated maple syrup is dribbled onto ices and then rolled onto the stick. Yum! I liked it much more than the flavored ices in a cone which had been the kitchen treat for quite a long time.

Kitchen Visit

Kitchen Visit

Kitchen Visit

The best thing about that kitchen visit was it gave us the opportunity to exchange Thanksgiving greetings with Chef de Cuisine Chris Flint. He and the team always do a spectacular job!

Kitchen Visit

We returned from the kitchen to find the table set with our Engraved Knives signaling the arrival of the main course.

Our Engraved Knives

It is Thanksgiving, so I can’t imagine not having the Turkey with Caramelized Apple and Chestnut Stuffing (though I did notice that the couple at the table adjacent to ours chose the lobster). For Michael, the wine pairing was a Saint-Joseph 2003 from the Coravin list.

Coravin: Saint Joseph

No presentation of the whole turkey. The plates arrived with two nice sized slices of white meat and the sides. Gravy was spooned tableside with the boat then left for additional applications.

Organic Turkey

As usual, The Trimmings: Carrots, Red Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Potato Purée, Cranberry Sauce, and Parsnips.

The Trimmings

No surprise that everything was perfectly prepared and delicious! We could have asked for more turkey, but honestly, the two slices were just the right portion size. Because I didn’t have the pasta, I was able to clean my plate and enjoy healthy servings of the trimmings. And don’t forget that we already had leftovers from betony.

For dessert, we both chose Honey Custard with Milk Ice Cream and Bee Pollen which is on the fall menu and which I fell in love with. Vin Santo was the wine pairing. Again a sweet wine I liked, so I had several sips.

Vin Santo

Honey Custard

The meal ended with Syphon Coffee, Chocolate Pretzels with Sea Salt, and Laird’s Number Eleven for Michael.

Siphon Coffee

Chocolate Pretzel

Laird's Number Eleven

Finally, the usual take-home gift for all guests: House Made Granola.

Take-Home Gift: House Made Granola

So, there you have it. Two superb Thanksgiving meals! No cooking and clean-up for me and no dealing with traffic. What a pleasure! If we’re alive and well next Thanksgiving, we’ll definitely do it again.

P.S. Last year, we raved about betony’s pies to many of EMP’s staff members, including Kevin Lind, one of the dining room managers. Kevin also loves pies and agreed with us that it would be great if EMP served them for Thanksgiving. He decided to make the suggestion internally. It took a long time going through “channels” so that the final decision to do it didn’t occur until a few weeks ago, at which point Chris Flint felt it would be too rushed to make the change from what was already planned. But Chris told us it will happen next year! Yay! We definitely have to remain alive for that!

To see the entire set of photos from our Thanksgiving dinner at betony, click here.

To see the entire set of photos from our Thanksgiving dinner at EMP, click here.

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