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Archive for July, 2013

Help Me Plan Our Vacation!

Hanoi & Halong Bay, Vietnam

Have you been to Vietnam?  Ever traveled to Hanoi or Halong Bay?  Do you live in one of these areas?  If so, I would love your insider tips!  Jonathan and I are leaving big city life behind for a bit and dusting off our suitcases for another trip to Asia.

We love good food, unusual experiences, and more off-the-beaten-path kind of ideas.  If you have an idea, I would love to hear it!  Please give us your tips/secrets/advice below in the reply/comment section.  If you are viewing the link from my homepage, then you must find the ‘leave a comment’ tab to make the comment box open.   If we happen to go with one of your suggestions, I will be certain to connect with you after our trip to share our experience.

Here are the details that may help you narrow down your suggestions:

  • We are there for one week
  • We already have a hotel in Hanoi booked (in the Old Quarter)
  • We plan to travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay for an overnight boating experience

All my best,

Miranda

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For a gourmet wine is not a drink but a condiment, provided that your host has chosen correctly. – Edouard De Pomaine

Eleven Madison Park

May 2013

The Surprise

It was the eve of my latest birthday.  Jonathan and I were meandering through Madison Square Park on our way to my surprise dinner he had planned.  Our taxi had dropped us off several blocks west of the park and as we were walking and chatting away, I was racking my brain; thinking of all the restaurants in a half mile radius that we might be heading towards.  Gramercy Tavern?  Three blocks south, but we were heading east.  Hanjan?  Two blocks northwest…not it.  Blue Hill?  Close, but too far south to walk comfortably in my pencil skirt and stilettos; he would have certainly taken us closer to the place by taxi.  ABC Kitchen?  Kin Shop?  Where on the earth are we going?  I didn’t actually say any of the above aloud because this man does not divulge any hints or clues to his surprises…never, never ever.

It wasn’t until we stopped for a moment to watch a live filming of Sesame Street that it all dawned on me.  I looked at Jonathan and asked if he thought they always film in Madison Square Park.  When I said those last three words, I heard this echo in my brain.. Madison Square Park, Madison Square Park, holy moly!!  We are going to Eleven Madison Park!!!  One block east…the direction we had been heading all along.  I could see the entrance.  I wanted to scream to all around me that I just guessed where I’m having dinner.  That would just be totally wrong because if you know anything about NYC parks…you can scream anything you like and no one is going to acknowledge you, I would seem like a spoiled asshole AND the other reason I couldn’t scream it… Jonathan has this thing, if I guess right on any surprise or present then I don’t get it.  Not that I really think he would ever do such a thing but there was no way in hell that I was going to jeopardize this chance to dine at Eleven Madison Park!

A Birthday Dinner to Remember

A Birthday Dinner to Remember

The Experience

Walking into EMP is like walking into a spacious art gallery except instead of gazing at art you are gazing at the wait staff, completely dumbfounded by how they just appear and disappear when needed.  They are everywhere but nowhere.  It is honestly quite extraordinary.  Diners were greatly outnumbered by the staff.  But the beauty of this is that you never ever have to wait for a thing and they seem to be completely invisible until your face gives a look as if you may be thinking you want something…and poof!  Like magic they appear before you even confirmed to yourself that you really needed to ask that dying question or that you would like another glass of wine.

And the real experience…the best I’ve ever eaten, hands down.  Arguably my favorite fine dining experience and easy to see how Chef Daniel Humm has been awarded the highest of all honors; three Michelin stars.

Every course was a testament to how beautifully balanced and layered flavors can make any ordinary dish explode.  Even the most delicate of all dishes, an oyster, was intensely flavored with simple wood sorrel and buckwheat.  In a city with many extraordinarily talented chefs, you might wonder what makes EMP so special.  Amongst many things, the two most evident reasons that EMP should be on any gourmand’s to-do list are the locally sourced ingredients that inspire the menu and the theatrical experience of dining here.

Eleven Madison Park’s menu is created from a love of New York.  It’s hard to believe that with 16 courses, almost everything on the menu can be found on a farm or a shop nearby.  Even the cheese on the 11th course (a picnic basket filled with pretzels, mustard, beer and cheese) was aged in the caves of the famous NYC cheese shop, Murray’s, in West Village.

Having been lucky enough to dine at many highly acclaimed restaurants, I’m familiar with the little things that restaurants do to surprise their diners or showcase their food.  What I wasn’t prepared for during this meal was how entertaining each course was in the way it was presented to us.  At some points our table was full of a mist from a table top clam bake, later we were watching our carrots being hand-driven through a meat grinder and near the end of our meal I was beyond delighted to dig into my picnic basket to discover one of my favorite cheeses.  This style of presentation has serious potential to come off as artificial and overdone but that was certainly not the case.  We enjoyed every moment and was impressed by all the details put in creating and presenting each course.

Our Menu

Course One

Cheddar Savory Black & White Cookie with Apple

CHEDDAR
Savory Black & White Cookie with Apple

Course Two

Oyster Wood Sorrel, Buckwheat, & Mignonette

OYSTER
Wood Sorrel, Buckwheat, & Mignonette

Course Three

Asparagus Custard with Caviar & Rhubarb

ASPARAGUS
Custard with Caviar & Rhubarb

course3b.jpg

Course Four

Surf Clam Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Green Garlic

SURF CLAM
Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Green Garlic

Course Five

Littleneck Clam Clambake with Whelk, Parker House Roll, & Chowder

LITTLENECK CLAM
Clambake with Whelk, Parker House Roll, & Chowder

Course5b.jpg

course5c.jpg

Bread & Butter

Rolls Bacon Fat Butter & Goat's Milk Butter

ROLLS
Bacon Fat Butter & Goat’s Milk Butter

course5e.jpg

Course Six

Foie Gras Terrine with Black Truffle & Asparagus

FOIE GRAS
Terrine with Black Truffle & Asparagus

Course Seven

Carrot Tartare with Rye Bread & Condiments

CARROT
Tartare with Rye Bread & Condiments

course7b.jpg

Course Eight

Lobster Poached with Snap Peas, Morels, & Sweetbreads (my favorite course)

LOBSTER
Poached with Snap Peas, Morels, & Sweetbreads
(my favorite course)

In Preparation of... Showcasing the beef that will come two courses later

In Preparation of…
Showcasing the beef that will come two courses later

Course Nine

Nettles Creamed with Fingerling Potato and Goat Cheese

NETTLES
Creamed with Fingerling Potato and Goat Cheese

Amuse Bouche

Beef Broth

BEEF BROTH

Course Ten

Beef Grilled with Mushrooms, Amaranth, & Bone Marrow

BEEF
Grilled with Mushrooms, Amaranth, & Bone Marrow

Course Eleven

Greensward Pretzel, Mustard, & Dried Fruit with Ithaca Beer Company's Picnic Basket Ale

GREENSWARD
Pretzel, Mustard, & Dried Fruit with Ithaca Beer Company’s Picnic Basket Ale

Cheese A washed rind also arrived with the picnic basket (my second favorite)

CHEESE
A washed rind also arrived with the picnic basket
(my second favorite course)

Course Twelve

MALT Egg Cream with Vanilla & Seltzer

MALT
Egg Cream with Vanilla & Seltzer

Course12a.jpg

Course Thirteen

SPECIAL REQUEST At the beginning of the meal I asked for a dessert course that would pair well with a stout. I don't recall the ingredients but remember it was a winning combo!

SPECIAL REQUEST
At the beginning of the meal I asked for a dessert course that would pair well with a stout. I don’t recall the ingredients but remember it was a winning combo!

course13b.jpg

Course Fourteen

SHEEP'S MILK Cheesecake with Mango & Peanut...and a birthday candle!

SHEEP’S MILK
Cheesecake with Mango & Peanut…and a birthday candle!

Course Fifteen (Not pictured)

Pretzel

Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt

Course Sixteen

CHOCOLATE Sweet Black & White Cookie with Apricot

CHOCOLATE
Sweet Black & White Cookie with Apricot

Wine Pairing

I selected my quote for this post to make a point and unfortunately, EMP missed the mark on this one.  Wine here was an afterthought, not a condiment.

As wine lovers, we opted for the wine pairing for each course.  It was the only letdown of the evening.  Just like the food, the wine is selected based upon your likes and dislikes.  I told the sommelier that I was not a fan of many white wines but was open to them if he thought that the selected wine was a perfect pairing.  Only three courses turned out to be served with red wine and not one course that was paired with white was a homerun in my opinion.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have ordered a wine that I knew I would love and forget about the pairings.  There’s nothing like experiencing a moment when the combination of food and wine is more grand than the individual components but that did not happen here with my dinner.  For these reasons, I would not suggest a pairing unless you; are not a fan of red wine, don’t want to be bothered with selecting your own wine, or you are new to wine and want to learn a bit during dinner.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, Eleven Madison Park is worth traveling to New York City just for this one experience.  At $195 a person (wine pairing and gratuity not included), it is an indulgence that most will find hard to partake in.  If you can swing it, do it.  I believe it will be one of your best dining experiences ever…as I said, it is my all-time favorite to date.

Special thanks to my amazing husband, the man who first ignited my passion for good food and fine dining.  You fill my life with so much joy and always make the best dinner partner.  To many more  amazing experiences to come!

xoxo,

Miranda

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