(Back in January) Celebrating Michael’s 75th Birthday at Eleven Madison Park

(Note: Yes, I know it’s 5 months late! But I figured I’d better get this up before we celebrate our anniversary in 4 days.)

Eleven Madison Park

On Tuesday, January 26th, at 8 p.m. sharp, we walked through Eleven Madison Park’s revolving doors. Happily, the previous weekend’s Blizzard of ’16 did not derail our celebration plans (unlike last year when what turned out to be the “snowstorm that wasn’t” made us scotch our plans at EMP for his 74th) though we did have to cancel a pre-celebration dinner on Saturday evening with Jen and Louis. Upon entering, we were greeted by Head Maitre d’ Justin Roller and the reception staff. Then Will Guidara appeared to welcome us and as the others had done wished Michael a “Happy 75th!” We happened to run into Will the previous evening when we were having drinks in The Library at The NoMad before dinner there, so his showing up at EMP wasn’t as much of a surprise as it might have been. Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to see him especially since these days it happens so rarely.

Our excitement that evening was further heightened by the fact that it was the first time we would be having the winter menu as well as the new format. In December, Will and Chef Daniel Humm had announced that they would be reducing the 14-course menu to between 7 and 9. As for what else our EMP family had planned for this celebratory evening – and they always surprise us with something! – well, we’d have to wait and see. As will you, so stick with me!

Our captain for the evening was Elizabeth who has a very upbeat personality and always does a splendid job. She explained that some of the courses would have choices, others not.

And so it began….

Michael started with Krug, his favorite Champagne, and I had my favorite French Sparkling Cider. Michael had wine pairings during the meal while I had more cider.

Champagne

French Sparkling Cider (Non-Alcoholic)

As usual, the first bite of the evening was the Black & White Cookies with Cheddar and Apple.

Black and White Cookies

There was no choice for the first two courses though they did, as usual, make accommodations with regard to things I won’t eat: Oyster Poached and Raw (on the right) with Chestnut Velouté and for me, Sunchoke Hot and Cold (on the left) with Velouté.

Oyster/Sunchoke

Velouté

The next course has been on the menu since early last year: Caviar Benedict with Egg, Potato, and Ham; and for me
(since I don’t eat caviar) Black Truffle Benedict with Egg, Potato, and Ham. Accompanied by made in-house English Muffins.

Caviar

Black Truffle

House Made English Muffins

The ever popular house made Rolls served. They were accompanied by something new: house made Cultured Butter with Cheese. And, as always, Amagansett Sea Salt.

Rolls, Butter, and Sea Salt

The foie gras course was next. As always, there was a choice between hot and cold. I chose hot while Michael chose cold: Foie Gras Seared with Maple and Apple and Foie Gras Marinated with Maple and Apple. A special roll was served with the cold foie.

Foie Gras

Foie Gras

Foie Gras

Roll

The wine pairing for the foie was this Sauternes:

Sauternes

Next was the fish course where there was a choice of lobster or black bass. We both chose the bass. Black Bass Seared with Black Radish and Sesame.

Black Bass

Wine pairing with the black bass: Gorvia

Gorvia

Celery Root Braised with Black Truffle is another course that’s been on the menu since last year. It’s prepared “en vessie”, i.e., in a pig’s bladder. Previously, one of the sous chefs brought the pig’s bladder to the table, basted it, and then took it back to the kitchen for the dish to be plated. Now, there’s a change. While the pig’s bladder is still brought out, basting, cutting open the bladder and finishing the plating are done tableside by a member of the front of the house staff. As you can see, Tina did a masterful job!

Celery Root

Celery Root

Celery Root

Celery Root

The wine pairing was this Bandol from the Coravin list.

Coravin: Bandol

When the flatware for the next course includes our engraved knives, we know it’s time for the main protein.

Our Engraved Knives

There were three choices for this course: Chef Humm’s signature duck, pork cheek, and mushroom. Since we’d not had it in quite a while we both chose Duck: Honey and Lavender Dry Aged with Salsify and Pear.

Duck

To go along with the main course, something new has been added — two sides served family style: Potato Confit with Potato Purée and Butternut Squash Roasted with Thyme + Squash Custard.

Potato

Butternut Squash

The wine pairing was this Barolo from the Coravin list.

When the main plates have been cleared and one of the maître d’s shows up at our table, we know precisely what that means. It’s kitchen visit time! On this occasion, it was Zach who escorted us there. Now, it’s in the kitchen that most – though not all — of the birthday and anniversary surprises have occurred. And even though we knew that something special was afoot, still, we were totally unprepared for what did happen.

Walking through the service area, there were shouts from staff members of “Happy Birthday!” Then, the moment we appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, the entire kitchen staff and front of the house personnel who were there stopped what they were doing and began clapping. This applause continued for what seemed like a long time. Stunned would be an enormous understatement! It was a lovely way to honor Michael on this milestone birthday.

The guest table was festooned with a banner and decorations plus a party hat for each of us, all of which was created by the very talented Christine. Zach snapped a photo of us…

Kitchen Visit

Chef Shante prepared Maple Snow on a stick…

Kitchen Visit

Michael put his party hat on (I don’t do hats)…

Kitchen Visit

And there was a gift: pocket handkerchiefs.

Kitchen Visit

So, now we’re thinking this was it. No more surprises. Well, silly us!

When we returned to our table, the next course arrived: Cheddar Tart with Apple and Bacon Marmalade accompanied by a serve-it-yourself Green Salad.

Cheddar

There was no pre-dessert, so from here it was directly on to dessert. I had seen, via someone’s tweet, that the Baked Alaska was back, its popularity very much in evidence on many tables. I also knew that there were other options; however, Elizabeth didn’t tell us what they were. I guess that should have tipped us off that something was up. But… Surprise! Surprise! G.M. Billy Peelle wheeled over a table holding four whole pies!

Surprise! Surprise! Pies!!

Now, there is a story behind this which I talked about in this previous post. But for those of you too lazy to click over there…. For the past two Thanksgivings, we’ve been going to both betony and EMP. At betony, they end that meal with a variety of fantastic pies which we raved about at EMP, suggesting they do the same. At last year’s Thanksgiving, they told us they are going to do it at this year’s Thanksgiving. Well, obviously, they decided not to make us wait that long!

So, there they were, baked by Executive Pastry Chef Mark Welker and looking scrumptious: Apple, Sweet Potato, Pecan, and Coconut Meringue. The object, as explained to us by Billy, was for us to have some right there and then to take all of them home. As generous as that was, it posed a small problem. There was no way we could fit four pies in our apartment’s frig. So, we decided we’d eat a pieces of each pie, take home a quarter of each pie, and leave the rest for the staff to enjoy.

The slices they served us were not exactly tiny.

Pies

And there was, of course, a wine pairing.

Kracher

We were stuffed! So, we asked Elizabeth to doggie bag the end-of-meal chocolate treats.

Eleven Madison Park

The package also included two birthday bonbon and three jars of granola!

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

And let’s not forget the pies! We left loaded with EMP-embossed carry bags!

What a glorious evening! A simple “Thank you!” seems totally inadequate considering the lengths to which the EMP staff went to make Michael’s 75th birthday a celebration to remember. They are truly a group – a family – of very special people. And we feel flattered and grateful that they consider us members of that family.

Eleven Madison Park

To see the entire photo set of this celebration dinner, click here.

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