Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

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

Savory Black & White Cookie with Apple

Course Two

Oyster Wood Sorrel, Buckwheat, & Mignonette

Wood Sorrel, Buckwheat, & Mignonette

Course Three

Asparagus Custard with Caviar & Rhubarb

Custard with Caviar & Rhubarb


Course Four

Surf Clam Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Green Garlic

Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Green Garlic

Course Five

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

Clambake with Whelk, Parker House Roll, & Chowder



Bread & Butter

Rolls Bacon Fat Butter & Goat's Milk Butter

Bacon Fat Butter & Goat’s Milk Butter


Course Six

Foie Gras Terrine with Black Truffle & Asparagus

Terrine with Black Truffle & Asparagus

Course Seven

Carrot Tartare with Rye Bread & Condiments

Tartare with Rye Bread & Condiments


Course Eight

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

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

Creamed with Fingerling Potato and Goat Cheese

Amuse Bouche

Beef Broth


Course Ten

Beef Grilled with Mushrooms, Amaranth, & Bone Marrow

Grilled with Mushrooms, Amaranth, & Bone Marrow

Course Eleven

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

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)

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

Course Twelve

MALT Egg Cream with Vanilla & Seltzer

Egg Cream with Vanilla & Seltzer


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!

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!


Course Fourteen

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

Cheesecake with Mango & Peanut…and a birthday candle!

Course Fifteen (Not pictured)


Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt

Course Sixteen

CHOCOLATE Sweet Black & White Cookie with Apricot

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!




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There is no surer bond of friendship than an identity of community of ideas and tastes. ~ Cicero

Taste ‘Buds’

Me & Tara stopping for a pretzel during the wedding day shoot..It was a joke but very much our character to do so!

Me & Tara stopping for a pretzel during the wedding day shoot..It was a joke but very much our character to do so!

If you are passionate about many things it’s highly likely that you keep company with similarly passionate people.  I know just who to call when I want to go out for an adventurous meal, a 90 minute yoga class, or find the ‘perfect’ outfit.  And if you’re lucky like I am – you have that one friend who is always up for anything, really…anything!

This post is dedicated to just that person!  My lovely and beautiful friend, Tara.  She is truly the epitome of a girl’s best friend.  She’s one of those people who are just so genuine, kind, and loving that it doesn’t seem humanly possible.  She is purely kind-hearted and thoughtful, a self-sacrificing person – the last being her only downfall in that she sometimes puts others before her when she should come first.

If that makes her sound saintly, then here’s the rest to reassure you that she is human just like the rest of us.  Tara is also that crazy fun friend that you find yourself having boatloads of margaritas, martinis, whiskey, wine, or really any interesting concoctions until 3am.  French dining at 4am.  Hours in dressing rooms and buying nothing.  Random shots of olive oil and salt while searching for diet Coke in a sea of diet Pepsi.  Tomato browsing.  Midnight plunges into the ocean.  Bubble gum as shoe glue.  Pantyhose as leggings…

I could go on but then I’m missing the point of this post.  Tara not only is my best friend but she is also one damn good taste ‘bud’.

The Chew

The week of my wedding, Tara got us tickets to ABC’s show, The Chew.  To be honest, until she told me we were going together, I had never heard of it.  But from a quick google search and some DVR’ing, I caught myself up on what to expect.  The two of us love food!  We could talk about food for hours.  It’s kind of bizarre how excited we get just describing things we have eaten or want to eat.  So this show was a perfect fit for us…and a very sweet gift for a kick off before the final days leading to my wedding.

I am on the left behind Mario's head and Tara is on the right...

I am on the left behind Mario’s head and Tara is on the right…

The Chew is hosted by Iron Chef America’s Mario Batali and Michael Symon, Top Chef’s Carla Hall, What Not to Wear’s Clinton Kelly (who introduces the guests and welcomes everyone to the show) and Dr. Mehmet Oz’s daughter, author and wellness enthusiast Daphne Oz.  I was most excited to see Clinton Kelly in person…I actually told him I wanted to miniaturize him and put him in my back pocket to keep with me everywhere I go.  I immediately realized how psychotic that sounded and was thankful that he laughed without being creeped out.

As you can see from the above photograph (taken by my very kind friend, Kat, who sat through the whole show just to see a few glimpses of us at the end of the hour) we were invited to sit at the tasting table.  I believe we shrieked and did a few fist pumps as a reply…yep, we were that lame but it was all we could talk about on the way there and we were chosen!  This episode was themed, “Battle of the Iron Grandmas”…check out the four-minute clip, we are featured quite a bit in this segment since we are behind Mama T. & Mario.

So the show can seem quite a bit corny at times and really isn’t one that I would regularly add to my DVR line-up but it was truly a fun experience and I’m so happy I got to share it with Tara.  What an unforgettable time and a brilliant way to start the final countdown to my wedding.

Behind the Scenes

Almost showtime!

Almost showtime!

Waiting for Mario's lobster rolls at the tasting table!

Waiting for Mario’s lobster rolls at the tasting table!

Top Chef Carla interacts with the audience after the show

Top Chef Carla interacts with the audience after the show

Clinton Kelly is just as sweet and adorable in person as he appears on television

Clinton Kelly is just as sweet and adorable in person as he appears on television

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El hambre es el mejor salsa. Hunger is the best sauce.

– Miguel Cervantes

ROCKAWAY TACO – Rockaway Beach, NY

Let’s just say I could have done a bit better at acquiring directions…but my head and belly was telling me one thing only – TAKE ME TO TACO! After an early morning at the gym and very little breakfast, Jonathan and I decided to get ourselves together for a last-minute beach trip. Just as we were packing I remembered my prior quest for tacos that turned into a major failure. So this time, hoping to not repeat myself and armed with my trusty iPhone, I yelped Rockaway Taco and got the address to the main ‘shack’.

The last adventure ended with me quite disappointed at the Rockaway Taco concession on the boardwalk – I stood there completely defeated when I found out that they don’t serve tacos at that location. I was angered to say the least – once tacos are in my head nothing else matters. I really wanted to challenge the cashier about the name of the joint and ask why on earth is ‘taco’ in their name if they don’t sell them…needless to say, I stuck a tostada in mouth and got over it. This time I had the address of their main outpost and hopped on the A train ready to daydream about tacos on the beach. And then failure numero dos happened…

An hour or more passed and we had left the big city behind us for some sunshine and waves. We made our way down from the subway and I pulled up the Yelp address for Rockaway Taco and $%@ ^#$%^ *&^$! Yelp – you failed me once again. No tacos in sight. In fact, not much of anything in sight except a lonely beach and an empty boardwalk. Thirty-six starving blocks away. If Jonathan could shoot killer laser beams from his eyes then I would have sizzled away after about two steps into telling him I had (Yelp’s fault mind you) the wrong address.

So what did we do? We walked the thirty-six blocks in mind altering hunger and 95 degree weather for some damn tacos! We eventually made it to the right beach and in close proximity of tacos – with noticeable six packs…sadly, not because of the gym but lack of nourishment and unnatural amounts of sweat seeping out of our bodies.

There at last! Normally, I would have been annoyed at a place that has a line down and around the block but after this hot adventure there was no way I was going to miss out once again. So we wait, and wait, and wait…and YUM! Taco belly filled and ready to lay in the sand exhausted and happy!

Here’s what we devoured in a matter of minutes:

Fish Taco = A+ (warm flaky tilapia covered in cabbage, radishes, guacamole, and even more goodness!)

Black Bean Tostada = A- (crunchy tortilla with layers of beans, cheese, guacamole, cabbage and salsa on top)

Flauntas con Papas y Chorizo = B (crunchy on the outside, smoky and starchy on the inside)

Bean, Cheese & Plantain Taco = C+ (description is exactly like the title – yet just didn’t taste as good as it sounded)

Super tasty, better than most, Fish Taco… but even better because you can scarf it down a hundred yards away on the beach!

Black Bean, Cheese & Plantain Taco – good, but nothing to write home about…

Verdict ~ don’t forget your SPF! This little hip shack, attracting people from afar, is serving up some damn good fish tacos. What else goes better with the beach? My only argument – Coronas?! However, if you are making your way to this side of Queens for tacos only – then you’ve gone way too far on that A train. It’s good, but in my opinion – not worthy of a solo trip. Keep in mind though, if I happen to be enjoying some sunshine at Rockaway Beach, I can promise you I will be right there in line with everyone else. Where you find good tacos – you find me!

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One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf

PORTEÑO – Chelsea, NYC

Foodie paradise.  Yes, that’s all I really need to say but I will indulge.  Dining well is exactly what one will do at Porteño.  This charming little restaurant will make you feel at ease and gives such a sense of comfort like you are about to sit down for dinner at home with family and friends.  The staff go out of their way to welcome you and make you feel like you are a part of their family from the moment you enter the door.  It is a pure joy to experience dining in this way – where everyone from the owners, bartender, waiters and chefs is thrilled to offer you an unforgettable meal.

I don’t have the experience to comment much in the way of Argentinian food – all I know is that it is delicious and I want more…but the real expert here is Chef Martín Badillo.  Badillo offers up good-for-the-soul dishes; some light and some hearty but all influenced by old world recipes found in the heart of Buenos Aires.

A few nights ago I was out with a dear friend and got the craving for Porteño’s avocado custard – I rave about this dish to anyone who will listen.  It has the freshness of a salad and the sweetness of a rich custard.  Put these two together and you will have something so unexpected and satisfying that you will go out of your way to have it again.  And again.  And again.  I can’t tell you just how good it truly is.  Anyhow, we made our way to the bar to have a few drinks and the custard.  Several hours later and two desserts down, we had a reservation for the following day to come back to enjoy a special meal prepared for us and two other friends.  We talked for quite some time and just could not wait to return for another feast with handpicked selections for us by Badillo himself.

~Flan De Palta~

On the following night, we walked into Porteño ready to indulge in all ways possible.  I can’t begin to tell you how much we enjoyed our dinner.  From drinks, to starters, dinner, dessert and conversations with the staff – I fell in love all over again.  Visiting this restaurant is like going to sit down at your grandmother’s dining room table (you know, the one grandmother that can REALLY cook) by the end of your meal you are pleasantly stuffed and happy as a clam.

Here’s a bit of what we had!

~Tuna Tartare~


~Vieras Selladas con Puré de Coliflor~

~Matambrito con Papas Doradas~

~Corvina con Vegetales~

~Ñoquis de Espinacas con Cordero~

Verdict ~ Go here…as often as you visit your grandmother…Because you will soon be extended family at Porteño! 

¡Muchas gracias to Josue, Martín, Jorge, George, and Brent – for a wonderful evening of dining!  Looking forward to my next visit home

– Miranda

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Nha Trang One – Chinatown, NYC

After a soulful bowl of steaming pho and an iced coffee to cool me off at Nha Trang in Chinatown, I am no longer reluctant to say that Vietnamese is one of my favorite cuisines.  Before this visit, I simply liked a good noodle soup and the fresh quality of ingredients found in Vietnamese foods.  I am afraid to say that from the onset of devouring the best pho I’ve ever had I knew another conquest was in the works – where can I find NYC’s very best pho.  By the time I reached the bottom of my bowl I believed that this new adventure may just mimic my quest for the best gnocchi around – the first dish that inspired me happened to be unbeatable or is at least so far – so why keep looking?  Well, why not, I have yet to have a bowl of pho that I didn’t want to at least finish.


Pho Tai ~ rare beef and noodle soup

This aromatic pho is comfort food at it’s finest, warming you up instantly and making you want to tip up the bowl and slurp it down just to enjoy it all at once.  Since it happened to be one of the hottest days so far this year, I took it slow as to not overheat or cause a mini stroke.  This was of course made easier by the fact that I am not exactly dexterous and absolutely stubborn enough to only use the chopsticks and spoon.  I added the mung sprouts, lime, Thai basil and sriracha a little at a time all the while wishing I had a stomach large enough to also order what the table next to me ordered…some chicken and rice with lemongrass and chili (I will be returning for this too).  At the end of all this sublimity, I ordered an iced coffee – a little pick-me-up and cool-down at the same time.  Whoa!  Who knew the Vietnamese made unbelievably tasty iced coffee?


Ca Phe Da ~ Vietnamese dark roast coffee with sweetened condensed milk

Do yourself a favor – order one of these, sit and relax while cooling off, go run a mile, come back, order another and repeat!  I always skip heavy cream in my coffee and usually opt for almond or soy milk if I’m adding milk at all since it generally tastes better and is by far healthier.  I had no idea sweetened condensed milk was that delicious!  I will never let myself look at the ingredients on a can or even the nutrition facts because this iced coffee is gonna be a treat that I refuse to let slip by me again.  Thankfully this is not on the menu in the bodega below my apartment, I would be in serious trouble.

Verdict ~ Go here try the pho, order an iced coffee and try to tell me that is not the best damn pho you’ve ever had – outside of Vietnam of course!  Okay, okay…maybe that might be too early to state – but believe me, I’m gonna search for NYC’s best and you will be the first to know if any other tops this one.

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Coney Island Boardwalk

Nathan’s Famous: Jonathan goes for the chili cheese dog and a corona…me, just a corona

After all this time in NYC, I finally find authentic Mexican…all the way out in Coney Island. I’m devouring ‘una quesadilla de chimpinones” at Plaza Mexico Dona Zita – Go here for fresh, delicious tacos, quesadilla, tostadas and more – you won’t be disappointed. My newest rave – sliced radishes with my meal, adds a nice crunch to a messy plate of Mexican!

Preparing to get freaky…or just weird at the Coney Island Freak Show. I figured this would be a hit or miss and sadly, it was a miss. Sad, gross and just overall depressing…although, it wasn’t a total waste of five dollars, I did enjoy the knife juggler and his corny jokes – the near miss of the knife to his ear added to the entertainment

A little soft serve to lift our mood after the freak show at Denny’s Ice Cream next door…Jonathan steals a bite of mine – notice he’s not offering me his cone, actions of a true sweet addict!
Mango on a stick – with hot sauce and lime juice to finish the day. The hot sauce was my idea, I was totally wrong – not everything taste better spicy, but then again, I hate mangoes so there…

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BOULEY – Tribeca, New York City

When you leave a restaurant with the sommelier’s business card you know you have had an incredible meal…and wine to boot! Don’t be shy – state what you like in a wine and let their genious do the work. Thank you, Michael Peltier, for your attention to detail and lovely choice

No better way to start the Memorial Day weekend off than with a six course tasting meal that not only delighted my belly but pleasured all senses…beautifully constructed plates that are just as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate.

Course one:

Me – Mushrooms with tuna belly and with a sauce that I cannot remember but oh so delicious!

Jonathan – Fresh Malibu Sea Urchin Terrine with Russian Golden Oscetra Caviar

Course two:

Me – Why are all of my selections not on the online menu? Scallops with langoustine and blood orange with fois gras something or other…

Jonathan – Porcini Flan, Alaska Live Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi

Course three:

Miranda – Organic Connecticut Farm Egg, Comté Foam Steamed Polenta, Artichoke and Sunchoke (best among all – I have never had an egg like this before and of course they had me at comte) YOU MUST ORDER THIS

Jonathan – Sardines over a yummy sauce and um, I dunno

Course four:

Me – Organic Colorado Rack of Lamb Soubise of Cippolini, Zucchini Mint Pureé, Black Truffle Sauce (my least favorite but not discouraging considering I was a vegetarian over half of my life…prettiest dish though)

Jonathan – Slow Braised Kobe Style Beef Cheeks with Ricotta Gnocchi, Blue Kale

Course five:

Me – La serena cheese with beet puree

Jonathan – California organic orange flesh melon soup with fresh ricotta sorbet

Course Six:

Me – Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé 2011 White Coffee Cloud, Chocolate Sorbet

Jonathan – I have no idea but it was damn tasty – key words: pistachio, walnut, cream, raspberries, gelato with a side of pure love (can you tell I liked his better?)

Verdict – Go here…order wine just the way you like it from some lovely region with the tasting menu and you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks, Bear, for a wonderful dinner. I couldn’t wish for a better person to spend a lovely evening of great conversation and some serious indulgence!

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