Posts Tagged ‘Birthday Dining Extravaganza’

5-Day Birthday Dining Extravaganza (Part 7): Le Coq Rico

April 3, 2017

Le Coq Rico

We have finally arrived at the last meal of this dining extravaganza.

Le Coq Rico opened last year on March 10th, a restaurant whose arrival we’d been eagerly anticipating. Luckily, we were in the city when it opened so wasting no time had our first dinner there on March 11th. The superb cuisine, excellent service, pleasant ambiance, and warm hospitality immediately won us over. Given its location a short walk from our apartment, it quickly became one of our favorite neighborhood dining spots. During the past year, we’ve had a total of ten lunches and dinners there. We’ve done a pretty good job of eating our way through the menu: all the whole birds; many other mains including the baeckeoffe, the stuffed chicken, and the squab pie; soups, salads, terrines, and sides; and, of course, desserts. All expertly prepared and, as I said, delicious. So, it being a place we always enjoy and where we’ve become “friends of the house” are certainly good reasons for us to have picked Le Coq Rico for of the extravaganza’s finale. However, we actually chose it for a more specific reason.

While the same menu is served at both lunch and dinner – a giant plus in our book! – each day during lunch, there is a different plat du jour. It it’s Tuesday, it’s Coq au Vin. Now, this is a dish that Michael adores. Not that I don’t like it, I do. But he really loves it! And if it’s on the menu, he definitely will order it. As it turned out, the final day of the extravaganza fell on a Tuesday. Since it’s rare for us to be in the city for lunch on a Tuesday, this was the perfect opportunity to check out the coq au vin.

As soon as we were seated, a staff member promptly arrived as always with bread and butter.

Bread and Butter

Michael requested a glass of the wine he most likes to have there.

Listrac-Médoc

We began by sharing Steamed Leek with Hollandaise.

Steamed Leek

Then, we each ordered the Coq au Vin which arrived in pretty cocottes each with a different design.

Plat du Jour: Coq au Vin

Plat du Jour: Coq au Vin

The cocottes held lots of chicken and a gargantuan portion of pasta.

Plat du Jour: Coq au Vin

I made a start.

Plat du Jour: Coq au Vin

In retrospect, we could easily have shared one order since there was no way either of us could come close to finishing one on our own. But looking on the very bright side, plenty of delicious leftovers to take home!

For dessert, Michael chose Mousse Glasée à l’Orange with Orange Salad.

Mousse Glasée à l’Orange

I had Baba au Rhum.

Baba au Rhum

A perfect meal to end a truly memorable 5-day birthday dining extravaganza!

Previously:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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5-Day Birthday Dining Extravaganza (Part 6): Dinner at Eleven Madison Park

March 7, 2017

Birthday Card

After having a night-before-my-birthday dinner at Mamma Guidara’s and a birthday lunch at NoMad, we completed the Made Nice trifecta with dinner at Eleven Madison Park. It’s where we always celebrate our special occasions. Most of our monthly visits to EMP are at lunch. However, for our anniversary and birthdays, we always do dinner. And so at 8 p.m., on Monday, October 24th, we pushed through the revolving doors and entered the gorgeous Art Deco room. I know I’ve said this before, but no matter how often we go to EMP, we’re always excited to be there, and the staff is excited to have us there. But we feel a heightened sense of excitement when we’re celebrating a special occasion.

Arriving at our table, I immediately spotted this beautiful hand-drawn card created by the very talented Emily Parkinson.

Birthday Card

The interior is at the top of this post. The lovely message and so many of the staff signing gave me a huge case of the warm and fuzzies.

Elizabeth was our captain for the evening while Sommelier John Ross saw to our beverage needs. It’s always great fun having them take care of us. After we discussed menu choices with Elizabeth, John wheeled over the Champagne cart.

It being a celebratory occasion, Michael had his favorite Champagne.

Krug

John knows what I like, so my favorite Non-Alcoholic French Sparkling Cider was also on the cart.

French Sparkling Cider (Non-Alcoholic)

As always, our first bites were of the signature cookies which are already on the tables when guests are seated.

Black and White Cookie

Black & White Cookies with Apple & Cheddar

The meal began with a quartet of Hors d’Oeuvres brought to the table by one of the chefs.

Hors d'Oeuvres Tower

Hors d’Oeuvres Tower

The chef disassembled the tower which then becomes four interlocking sections each holding a different hors d’oeuvre connected by a theme: Mushrooms.

Hors d'Oeuvre Tower: Mushroom

Tarte with Black Truffle

Hen of the Woods with Amaranth and Horseradish

Pickled with Apple and Shallot

Beignet with Black Truffle

The Caviar course was next. It’s Chef Humm’s upscale take on Eggs Benedict.

Caviar

Caviar Benedict with Potato, Leek, and Hollandaise

I don’t eat caviar, so I got this not exactly shabby substitution.

Black Truffle

Black Truffle Benedict with Parsnip and Hollandaise

Accompaniment for the Benedicts. Look out, Thomas’s!

House Made English Muffins

House Made English Muffins

Next up: Foie Gras! We had the option of choosing hot or cold. While I generally prefer hot, I’ve found that at EMP, I like the torchons better. And Michael always prefers cold. This one had us both swooning.

Foie Gras

Foie Gras Marinated with Plum & Cocoa

Foie Gras

Wine pairing:

Moulin Touchais

At this point, the House Made Rolls arrived along with the Amagansett Sea Salt. However, instead of the usual house made cultured butter, there was something quite different to spread on the rolls: Honey Nut Squash with Sage and Cinnamon that was mixed at the table with some other ingredients.

Honeynut Squash

Honeynut Squash

While it was tasty, I have to be honest and say I much prefer the butter.

For the fish course, we were given a choice between lobster and striped bass. We both chose the latter.

Striped Bass

Striped Bass Poached with Fennel and Clams

Wine pairing:

Schloss Gobelsburg 2000

The vegetable course was Celery Root. Previously, it had been prepared “en vessie.” This time, there was a brand new preparation expertly finished tableside by Elizabeth.

Celery Root

Celery Root

Celery Root en Croûte with Black Truffle

Michael likes to have at least one beer pairing, so John paired this beer with the celery root.

Beer

When one of the reception staff arrives at our table mid-meal, we know that it’s Kitchen Visit time! This time, it was Matt who escorted there. When we’re celebrating a special occasion, the kitchen is often the place where we will be greeted with a surprise. Even knowing this, we’ve given up trying to figure out what it might be. And damn it! They do always manage to surprise us!

We walked in and saw that they’d removed the high-top table and replaced it with a table for two. There were place settings and wine glasses which held pours of – GASP! – Château d’Yqem.

Kitchen Visit

After we sat down, Chef de Cuisine Dmitri Magi brought over this.

Kitchen Visit

OMG! Yes, a gigantic White Truffle!

Two plates were set in front of us holding a composition Dmitri had created especially for us.

Kitchen Visit

Ris de Veau, Cauliflower, and Almond

Dmitri spooned on some sauce.

Kitchen Visit

Kitchen Visit

Now, the idea was, of course, for the white truffles to be shaved on top. Next thing I knew, Dmitri handed me the truffle and said, “You do it!”

Kitchen Visit

Well, folks, let me tell you that was no easy task. What took me totally by surprise was that the truffle was not anything like the mushrooms I’m used to cooking with. This baby was hard! Like baseball hard. My first attempt didn’t go well. Dmitri retrieved the truffle, made some adjustments to the shaver, and shaved a few truffles. He made it look so easy!

Kitchen Visit

He handed the truffle and shaver back to me. It still wasn’t easy — you have to put some muscle into it — but I finally managed to get some decent shavings on Michael’s plate.

Kitchen Visit

Dmitri added a lot more and then rained truffles onto my plate.

Kitchen Visit

Dmitri’s creation by itself would have been sensational. Covered with a blanket of white truffles, it was orgasmic! John Ross knows that sweet wine is the one type of wine I like, and you can’t do much better than Château d’Yquem which also happens to be Michael’s favorite sweet wine. Overall, perfection!

We toddled back to our table basking in the glow of the fantastic surprise. The flatware for our next course had already been laid. It included our engrave knives (a gift from EMP for our 45th anniversary) which signaled that the main course would be served.

Our Engraved Knives

The choices were venison or Chef Humm’s signature duck. Michael chose the venison but since I don’t care for it, I had the duck.

Duck

Duck Honey and Lavender Glazed with Turnip & Huckleberry

Venison

Wine pairing:

Saint-Estephe 2000

Two sides served family style:

Potatoes

Potatoes

Black Radish and Spelt Dumplings

Black Radish and Spelt Dumplings

The Cheese Course was an oldie but goodie.

Cheddar

Cheddar Tart with Apple and Mixed Greens

Mixed Greens

Wine pairing:

Chardonnay

Approaching the meal’s denouement, we chose different desserts. From the photos, you won’t have to guess which was dessert was Michael’s and which was mine.

Pear

Pear Sorbet with Caramelized White Chocolate & Riesling

Chocolate

Chocolate Tuile with Crème Fraïche Ice Cream and Mulled Wine

John went a little overboard with the pairings.

Harlan Estates

Rappa

Riesling

Our usual Siphon Coffee was prepared by Whitney Boyer, one of the dining room managers.

Siphon Coffee

Michael always enjoys ending with Laird’s Apple Brandy.

Laird's Apple Brandy

For some time, we’ve been having the Chocolate Pretzels with Sea Salt and the “Name Your Milk” game packed to go. Also in the bag were the take-home gift House Made Granola, menus, and a Birthday Bonbon.

It was a truly magical evening. Outstanding cuisine, spot on pairings, exceptional service, and a memorable surprise. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Plus, we were surrounded by our terrific EMP family. I sincerely appreciate everything they did to make it an unforgettable birthday celebration.

Eleven Madison Park

To see the entire photo set for this dinner click here.

Here are the links for previous birthday extravaganza posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The links to Parts 4 and 5 are in the first paragraph of this post.

5-Day Birthday Dining Extravaganza (Part 5): Lunch at NoMad

January 24, 2017

NoMad Atrium

Having lunch at NoMad on the day of my birthday was a no brainer! My birthday occurs during white truffle season. I adore white truffles as does Michael. And there is no better place to have them than at NoMad. Added to that, the dessert cart was back! It had been part of lunch service during NoMad’s early days. We’d loved it, were bereft when it was no longer available, and so were thrilled when we read it was returning. White truffles and the dessert cart on my birthday! We were stoked!

We’ve had countless meals at NoMad since it opened nearly 5 years ago. As I said in my previous post about Mamma Guidara’s, we are flattered to be considered members of the NoMad Family and are always made to feel special whenever we dine at NoMad. When we come for dinner, we always sit in The Parlour because in the evenings, it is quieter than the Atrium. However, The Parlour is not open at lunch, so the Atrium it must be. Fortunately, it isn’t noisy in the afternoon. And, frankly, the brightness that comes from the enormous skylight makes for excellent photos (so much better than the dim lighting and red décor of The Parlour).

Flatbread

House Made Flatbread with Sweet Potato and Apple

The filling changes with the season. Hot and crusty. Yum!

Bay Scallops

Bay Scallops Marinated with Yuzu and Pistachios

We each started with the scallops. Light, flavorful, delicious.

Champagne

Though Michael had not ordered wine to go with the scallops, the sommelier arrived with this surprise gift for him — the perfect accompaniment.

Alba White Truffle

White Alba Truffle

Look at the size of that beauty!

Alba White Truffle

Intoxicating aroma!

White Truffles

Tagliatelle

Ready to be shaved upon. The NoMad offered the truffles at cost, 4 or 8 grams, the latter dubbed “The Ridiculous.” They’ve been doing that for the past few years. Now, you couldn’t possibly be thinking we’d skimp and get a measly 4g’s? After all, it was my birthday lunch. But the fact is, even when it hasn’t been a special occasion, we’ve always opted for 8 g’s.  So, bring on The Ridiculous!

White Truffles

Sometimes, the shaving takes place in the kitchen.  We felt honored to have them shaved at the table.

White Truffles

Tagliatelle with White Truffles: 8g’s aka The Ridiculous

In a word: Orgasmic!!

Coravin: Barolo

Coravin: Barolo

Coravin: Barolo

At NoMad, Michael always requests at least one wine from the Coravin list. Barolo is a classic pairing with white truffles.

The Dessert Cart Is Back!

The Splendiferous Dessert Cart

There was no way we could possibly choose just one! Nor even two. The solution? We’ll have one of each and share! (We didn’t include the Chocolate Bar because we had one at home.)

Raspberry

Raspberry, Violet Macaron, and Cream

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

Blueberry Streusel Cake

Blueberry Streusel Cake

Blackout Layer Cake

Blackout Layer Cake

They added a surprise gift for me: the NoMad’s signature dessert with a birthday candle. Of course, I shared it with Michael.

Milk and Honey

All the cart desserts were wonderful. But without a doubt, my favorite was the blackout cake. Seriously chocolaty without being too sweet, it totally bowled me over! We polished off all the sweets with the exception of the blackout cake. The slice was enormous, so we finished half and asked that remainder be wrapped. But the NoMad’s generosity knows no bounds. When we got home, we discovered that they’d included another large slice!

Truly a memorable birthday lunch!

Here are the links for the previous extravaganza posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The link to Part 4 is in the 2nd paragraph of this post.

5-Day Birthday Dining Extravaganza (Part 4): Mamma Guidara’s at The NoMad Bar

January 19, 2017

Mamma Guidara's at The NoMad Bar

The NoMad Bar opened in June 2014 and was an instant hit. We’ve been many times. The food’s terrific. But the insanely high noise level drives me crazy. Normally, that would mean crossing The NoMad Bar off the list. What saved the day – or more appropriately, the evening — was discovering that Sundays are decidedly quieter than the rest of the week. So after that, we only went on Sundays.

This past October, something new began happening at The NoMad Bar. Co-owner Will Guidara, who is Italian, loves Italian-American food. For many years, his father ran the famous Mamma Leone’s. Chef/Owner Daniel Humm is not Italian but, according to an article I read, that didn’t stop him from cooking Italian food for Will and his wife Christina Tosi at home on Sunday evenings. This led the endlessly inventive duo to come up with a brilliant idea. On Sunday nights, why not morph The NoMad Bar into an old-style Italian-American restaurant? And so they did! In honor of Will’s heritage, they dubbed it Mamma Guidara’s.

During lunch at EMP in September, we mentioned to G.M. Billy Peele that we’d read about Mamma Guidara’s and would love to try it during my birthday weekend. He immediately secured a reservation for us. Arriving at The NoMad Bar on Sunday, October 23rd, we were led upstairs to one of the tables along the rail all of which have a view of the downstairs bar area.

Mamma Guidara's at The NoMad Bar

The place had, indeed, been transformed to give it the aura of the typical old-style Italian-American restaurant: red & white checked tablecloths; accordion-pleated napkins standing upright at each place settings; a tall candle; and a vase holding a solitary fake rose.

The music being played lent a feeling of nostalgia for us — Golden Oldies from back in the 50’s sung by crooners like Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and, of course, Sinatra. The music of our teenage years.

On our table, there was an envelope with my name on it; inside, a birthday greeting in Italian.

Mamma Guidara's at The NoMad Bar

My Italian is pretty much limited to “Buon Giorno!” “Prego!” “Grazi!” and “Buon Apetito!” When we were told that the young woman who wrote it was in the house, we asked if she could come by to translate. It was a lovely sentiment which, Allison told us, was commonly used for special occasions (Sadly, I didn’t write down the translation). I thanked her and asked her to sign the card.

There are no printed menus at Mamma Guidara’s . Instead, servers tell diners what dishes compose the meal. The only choices we had to make were which of three chicken preparations we preferred — Parmesan, Marsala, or Piccata — and which of two sauces for the pasta – red or cacio e pepe. Michael wanted the Parmesan, but since it was my birthday, I got to choose and preferred the Piccata. However, we agreed on the cacio e pepe sauce. Then, we sat back and let it all roll out.

House Made Italian Bread

House Made Italian Bread

Anitpasto

Antipasto: Ham, Cheese, Stuffed Peppers, Spicy Peppers, Marinated Olives & Mushrooms

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Clams Casino

Clams Casino

Meatballs

Meatballs

Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari

Arancini

Arancini

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Sautéed Spinach

Sautéed Spinach

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Cannoli

Cannoli

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

We were totally stuffed! We demolished the whole loaf of bread. So delicious, it was hard to resist! (For some reason, I can never open those ridiculous butter packets while Michael does it easily.) Actually, we thought it was all delicious. Most things were served family-style, but we each got our own Caesar salad, pasta, and tiramisu. The hubcap-sized Chicken Piccata was way too big for the two of us to finish especially considering everything we’d already eaten. We managed about half and took the rest home. We also had them wrap the cannolis. (Reminds me of the famous line from The Godfather, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” No gun involved here, but we definitely took the cannoli!) Have I mentioned that we were stuffed?! I should also note I told our server that I don’t like calamari – it tastes like rubber to me — but I’d heard fried calamari was on the menu and was looking forward to seeing if Chef Humm’s would change my mind. The kitchen sent out the arancini for me as a substitute just in case. Well, the calamari was not rubbery and was, in fact, quite tasty. But it didn’t change my mind about eating calamari elsewhere. Oh, I also ate the arancini. Yum!

Michael had wine. I didn’t make a note of what it was nor do I recall if he had one glass or two. We each got the Grasshopper. I tasted it. Too strong for me.

When it was time to pay the bill, we were told the meal was compliments of our NoMad Family in honor of my birthday. Of course, we told them how very much we appreciated their generosity.

And speaking of generosity, when we got home, we discovered that they’d added a whole loaf of the Italian bread to our doggie bag.

To satisfy Michael’s craving for the Chicken Parmesan, we went a second time in December. We asked if Mamma Guidara’s would be continuing in 2017 and were told it would be. Plus, there would be a new menu. Definitely looking forward to that!

The photo set for the December dinner can be viewed on my Flickr here.

Here are the links to the previous posts about the birthday dining extravaganza: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.