Well hello there my little peepers and poopers! To borrow a phrase from my 14 year old self, this week has been “totally sweet ass”.
I am very much grateful to both the universe and my awesome bosses sending 4 of us chef-folks on food centric trip of a lifetime to NYC to eat at some of the finest restaurants in the world. 5 days, 4 nights, 11 Michelin stars.. GELLIS? MWUHAHAHA. It was mind blowing and I hope I never forget a single moment, or bite.
This was basically The Gastro-Olympics. As one of our sous chefs put it “This was a culinary juggernaut.” It gently, and with great finesse, handed our collective asses to us on a silver platter. We spent a lot of time looking at each other and yelling “whaaaaaaaat????”
I was drunk most of the time on some of the most rare and expensive wines ever produced. Everything was either stuffed with, or covered in, shaved truffles. I ate oysters at least once a day. I nearly barfed at Per Se. By the end of the trip I had cankles. Seriously. My body was so unhappy and swollen I gave myself cankles. It was so awesome.
Free kale salad everywhere! This was the most green I saw in NY.
After 17 hours of traveling by boat, plane and car, we arrived in NYC on Thursday night around 9pm. We checked into the apartment we rented out for the week in lower Manhattan, right across from Les Halles. Which was on fire at one point while we were there.. crazy. They were back up and running for dinner service!
Had a quick shower and went out for SUSHIIIII! Being on a small island in the North Atlantic, we get a lot of fish.. but no sushi. It’s probably the food I crave most here, and can’t really make myself without great time and expense.. cod sushi just doesn’t seem right. Newfie cod & balogne sushi??? *mental note*
Nobu was the perfect place for our first night. It is rated with a michelin star, has been around for a long time, pretty casual and makes some killer Japanese food. Also, super close! Which is good, cause I was so tired from the trip already and barely tottled my way there in my heels without falling down a sewer grate and having to become a chubby blonde ninja turtle.
We chose to have the Omakase menu, chef’s choice tasting menu. The food was beautiful, creative and oh so fresh. My favourite dish of the night was slurping down super soft and sexy Kumamoto Oysters– they made my eyes go Manga-big with happiness. I never understood why oysters were considered and aphrodisiac until then, because DAMN SON. Sexy. My second favourite were these skewers of warm crispy black rice soaked in ponzu that you dipped in seaweed salt and cover in snow crab salad. Warm, cold, salty, sweet, soft, crispy, umami, yuzu up the wazoo. YUM.
The next morning we woke up and immediately went on the hunt for espresso based coffees. Oh soy lattes, how I have yearned for you..
We headed out to meet up with one of Tims chef friends and share some brunch at Momofuku’s Saam Bar. While we waited I jumped into Milk Bar and literally bought one of everything. The girl at the counter looked at me square in the face and said “I love you”. I replied that I in fact, loved her too, and ran out with a bag of cookies, crack pie, and bagel bombs. To be honest, they were pretty meh. It made me a bit sad.. oh well! The food was mediocre but I still love that place because its fun.
ONWARDS! TO BRUNCH!
Firstly, I ordered a Sangria and then followed that with EVERYTHING ON THE FUCKING MENU.
I may have overdid it. This was what I ordered:
– honeycrisp apple kimchi with maple labne, jowl bacon, sesame
– country hams with red eye gravy
– kimichi pickles
– fried duck & waffles with maple, quince, mascarpone
The best thing was that everyone ordered something different from the menu and we just kind of laid it out in front of us like a beautiful buffet and then the chopsticks started flying. I’m now kicking myself for not getting a picture of the table full of food, because it was a really gorgeous sight. This is the last bit of my fried duck & waffles. Crispy little morsels of moist duck meat on sticky sweet waffles. Sososososososo amazing, I will dream about it forever. I ordered all three desserts.. which wee also a bit meh, but had really interesting flavour combinations.
Dessert was a bit of a let down, so Tim’s friend Vera took us to her favourite Gelato shop il laboratorio del gelato. She recommended the mascarpone and I coupled with with Strawberry. AMAZING. I was so full though I couldn’t finish mine. You know I’m proper full when I throw away ice cream. My heart aches for it still..
The gelato place was right next door to Katz’s. The guys were jonesing for some pastrami, having not made nearly as much of a pig of themselves as me. But they were so packed you couldnt get into the door. Next time, Katz’s.. Next time you will be mine..
Another one of Tim’s chumpals popped up at the gelato shop and took us a few blocks over to this bar called Freemans. Located at the end of a sketchy alley in the Bowery and decorated like a hipsters wet dream. It’s like stepping into a Wes Anderson movie, only with more taxidermy. Self described as a “rugged clandestine colonial tavern.” It was unbearably crowded with beautiful people eating beautiful brunch and sipping beautiful bourbon based cocktails and to be honest I kinda bugged out. It 100% was a place I didnt want to be and triggered my flight or fright. Totally ran away like a baby. Not my cup of tea. While the guys squeezed into a corner to spend $25 on a boiler maker, I went for a walk around Manhattan by myself. The city is different than I remember it. Cleaner, and maybe even.. friendlier.. It felt good, and had a nice time!
Love this totally graffito-bombed old building.
Didnt get to visit Staten Island, but did find some Wu Tang!
Interesting juxtaposition of cemetery at St. Patricks and new WTC building, hrm.
HOODOOS! Too stuffed for street meat, so sad!
Meanwhile, back at the pad, this was happening…
That night we went for drinks at The Nomad on 28th and Broadway. The bar was packed, and you could SMELL the money. The drinks had perfectly square ice cubes and I had the best Manhattan of my life there. If you are ever in New York definitely go for drinks or you will REGRET IT.
Then it was a short cab ride to Midtown to have dinner at Daniel Buloud’s restaurant, aptly named Daniel. Very french, very old school, Daniel Buloud has earned himself 2 Michelin stars (was 3, and after eating there it should be 3) and the Bucose D’or so he knows his shit. It was amazing to walk into his restaurant and find him waiting to meet us. He shook our hands and took us for a tour of the kitchen. He took us up a narrow flight upstairs to “The Box.” A small glass room overlooking the kitchen pass, so he can keep his eye on things. It was decorated with pictures of him shaking hands with everyone from Obama to Andy Warhol. I patted his golden Bocuse D’or on the head and when down for dinner.
There was a moment at each of the places where we had dinner, that I felt just like I was in the beginning sequence of American Psycho, where the waiters are rhyming off this list of ingredients in a hushed, monotone voice and it made me so so happy hahaha
Even though it had a surreal, almost goofy quality to it, this was probably one of the best nights of my life so far. It makes it a bit hard to put into words. It was suprising, flawless, delicious, perfect in excuction, with a great amount of sophistication. On the way into the dining room we passed by this little silver urn with a crank on top. I didnt even notice it but our Chef did, and he touched it lightly and went “oooh a Duck Press, I havent ever seen one of these, that would be amazing.” Daniel Buloud just says in a very french way, “Maybe we have a duck.”
Dudes. 18 courses. WITH WINE PAIRINGS.My mind was so blown. The food.. is indescribable for my puny mortal brain. I remember sitting in the dining room quietly bouncing and clapping and whispering “I am having so much fun.” The waiters looked like they were having a good time serving people who were having SUCH a good time.
And then 6 waiters rolled out 2 little carts, one with a burner and one with the beautiful silver duck press. It looked like something out of Countess Bathory’s collection. It turns out, they had a duck!
“Pressed duck (Canard à la presse) is a traditional French dish. The complex dish was developed in the 19th Century in Paris and consists of various parts of a duck served in a sauce of its blood and bone marrow, which is extracted by way of a press
First, a duck (preferably young and plump) is asphixiated to retain the blood. The duck is then partially roasted. Its liver s ground and seasoned, then the legs and breast are removed.
The remaining carcass (including other meat, bones, and skin) is then put in a specially-designed press, similar to a wine press. Great pressure is then applied to extract duck blood and other juices from the carcass. The extract is thickened and flavoured with the duck’s liver, butter, and cognac, and then combined with the breast to finish cooking.”
All of this was done by waiters, beside your table. The event took about 20 minutes, and it was like watching a Japanese Tea Ceremony. The entire dining room fell silent and watched the perfectly deft movements of these waiters, and they performed their task. It was like watching a little slice of food history come alive. We were transfixed.
One waiter expertly butched the whole roast duck with a very sharp knife and a fork, as if it were made of butter. He lay the legs and breast in a copper pan over a low flame to keep it warm. Then he placed the remaining duck into the silver press, and begin to crank. Dark, red, beautiful “sauce” flowed from the spout into a silver goblet.
That was then handed to a second waiter, who added it to another copper saucepan, and very slowly stirred it with a whisk until the blood and marrow naturally thickened the sauce. Blood thickened sauces need a fair amount of expertise, and this was very impressive.
It was also, incomparably delicious. The meat was soft and unctuous, covered in this amazing dark duck jus.. it was… a transcendental experience. I transcended my dentals. I watched myself eat, from 8 feet away in the air, on a cloud of stinky french cheese fumes. Pretty cool.
My favourite dish of the night though, had to be this. A thin slice of toasted baguette studded with hazelnuts covered in thick runny blobs of extremely aged Harbison cheese. A waiter then came by with a white truffle the size of a baseball and shaved thick slices on top. I may have made some noises, but he smiled so it was okay. The effect was crunchy and nutty with sweet, herby melty cheese and woodsy white truffles.. they came together to make an altogether new taste. It was so special.
We left the restaurant feeling like well fed rock stars. There is this kind of quiet comfort that comes into my stomach when I am watching someone perform tasks they have done so many times that they are just moving like breathing. Automatically performing something very difficult. Like watching ballet. It was very zen.
AND THEN in the morning THERE WAS PASTRIES!
In the morning I woke up very early, groggy and still a bit drunk from the night before. My burps smelled like truffles. I snuck out of the house while the boys slept and walked up to the two placed I was most wanting to visit. Laduree, and Franois Payard’s new york bakeries. I was not disappointed by either of them. They were both wonderful. I could not find a single fault with anything I brought back.
– hazelnut praline napolean
– pistachio religeiuse
– chocolate Gateaux St. Honore
– beautiful canelles
From Francois Payard:
– Orange blossom & almond Brioche
– Gateaux Basque
– Plain, chocolate, almond and ham & cheese croissants
– vanilla eclair
– Papa Payard apple cake
– The world’s most perfect Apple tart Tatin
Payards location is not as stunning as the window at Laduree which is done up with velvet curtains and towers of brightly colours macarons, but just as nice.
Between the two locations sat Dominique Ansell’s bakery.. but this was the line up around the block for fucking cronuts and it was not even 8am yet. I skipped it.
I brought back giant lattes and a pile of baked goods and they were very happy boys. We cut everything into quarters and shared a bit of each. It was a nice breakfast. It just got us ready for lunch!
And it was back to The Nomad hotel for brunch!
This was just about the most perfect spot to eat if you have a hangover, ever. Subdued, natural light, quiet, comfortable chairs, lovely food. I had a house made gingerale with a shot of rum and because I hadn’t yet gotten tired of the novelty of beautiful fresh truffles I opted for the tagliatelle with cream sauce and a “ridiculous amount of black truffles.” Chef got steak and eggs with a cast iron pot of crispy thin fries for us to share. The boys had pork belly and brussel sprouts with lentil salad, and smoked salmon with toast and pickled veggies. And about 2L of beer!
Afterwards we definitely needed to walk, so we took a meander down to the habour. We saw the statue of liberty, but then we started to get thirsty. So we walked up The Dead Rabbit.
This bar has been called the best in the city right now. It was great inside, if not a little TOO “Gangs of New York.” But the drinks were very special. To make our caesar, he squeezes the pulp out of fresh tomatoes. I had the Irish coffee, which was coffee and irish whiskey covered in whipped cream, with a little nutmeg. It was perfect.
And then it was on to Per Se… ohhhhhh maaaannnn..
On the way up. Ironically this is what I would look like when I came back down.
Per Se.. what to say about Per Se. The dining room was dark, comfortable, with a nice roaring fire and a view out to Central Park. The table was a big big and we had a hard time talking to each other without shouting. It also made it hard for us to share our dishes on the DL, ha. It started with Thomas Kellers famous salmon cornetto, and I could see on the guys faces they were having a hard time comprehending that they were actually eating at Per Se. It was so cute. They looked scared, hahaha
There were many.. many courses. Possibly too many. All of them very rich. Here are a few of the highlights for me:
Chestnut “Potage”. The guys didnt like this, they thought it was way too heavy, especially to start a meal. I loved it though, I could have just sat there and eaten that all night and been happy. Thick chestnut puree, very rich, very tasty, with sunchokes, cranberry marmalade and bursts of fresh green watercress.
Oysters and Pearls. A Thomas Keller standard. This is a “sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek Oysters, and Sterling White Surgeon Caviar. It was so.. sex. It was sex.
Hen Egg Custard. Another standard– it seems I preferred the old stand bys. I guess when you make something 300 times a day for 15 years it becomes Pretty Good. This was a ragout of black winter truffles served in a hollowed egg shell. Creamy.
Picatta battered jade tiger abalone. Salsifis roti au beurre, melted savoy cabbage, pearl onions and juniper berry reisling emulsion– Do not ask me what any of this is, but it was fucking killer.
Four Story Hill Farms Poussin – this was a whole chicken presented to us with skin stuffed with butter and truffles and it’s ass stuffed with sprigs of thyme, and then taken back to the kitchen and roasted. It was served in a perfect little square with tiny perfect buttery hakurai turnips, french leeks, apples and dijonnaise.
It made me Dijonnaise in my pants.
Coffee and Doughnuts! FAMOUS. Perfect. Delicious, soft cinnamon doughnut with a cup of espresso custard. Piles of cookies, and sweets, a little silver tired container of caramels, nougats, and macaron. The best cup of earl grey tea I have ever had.
Like at Daniel, we were the last diners left in the restaurant, and they took us back to see the kitchen. It was spotless, like a showroom. We met Chef Eli Kaimeh, who seemed tired and shy. They had a big tv screen on the wall that was a life feed to The French Laundry, so that they are always connected during service. I think thats so nice.
We got gift bags!
With CHOCOLATES! And a copy of our special menu, and TK’s magazine Finesse, and a few other things.
Man I am getting tired just remembering all this stuff.. what did we do next.. I remember going to FAO Schwartz, and buying CB a cool medical model of a human skull. I also got us 2 nerf guns and a million nerf bullets which we have been attacking eachother with since I got home. Oh yeah, Aquavit!
Lunch at Aquavit.
2 Stars. Nordic inspired cuisine with a lady chef from Sweden taking the helm. The only female chef to ever attain 2 stars!
They have a $42 prix fixe lunch menu, which is amazing. I had the homemade gravlax, followed by the Swedish meatballs which were so gooood. For dessert the offering was banana mousse which I didnt find particularly nordic so I opted for the sorbets and ice creams. Seabuckthorn, Blueberry and Espresso. They were nice.
So far aside from Per Se I havent been blown away by desserts..
After lunch we explored the city, had some drinks, of course. And then came the Finale. The grand daddy of our dining extravaganza. Eleven. Madison. Park.
*puts on sunglasses*
We were a little excited. Contrary to their nature, they aren’t even drunk in this picture!
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!
So this meal like.. kicked the ass of all other meals before or after it forever. It was intense. And wonderful. We were very very much wined-out so we opted for a beer pairing. We had our own private beer sommelier. I think he enjoyed punching us in the face with beers all night. Incredible beers. Did you know you can buy a bottle of beer for $1400 if you want? HAHA! Its very special.
One of the courses.. this chef brings out a pan of liquid and floating in it is a giant, greenish balloon floating on top. It is a pigs bladder and inside they were cooking croquettes.. it was the weirdest, and tastiest, thing ever.
I didnt take any pictures, but I couldnt resist on this course. They took us into the kitchen, where there was a tall table set up for service.
We ate a dish of Lion’s Mane mushrooms served 3 ways, while talking with the Chef. Took some pictures. Watched the highly trained ARMY of cooks working away quickly in silent unison. Intense.
Those are the lions mane mushrooms set in front of us. Those yellow tribble looking things. Tasty!
There’s always room for cheese. Goat, Sheep and Cow all represent! There was a particularly stinky one that smelled like God’s butthole and I wish I remembered the name because damn son.
The bathroom was lovely. Someone handed me a towel. What.
Im so tired now hahaha. That was a lot of typing and name dropping. Phoo. I’m still sweating out truffles so I better go lay down.
Thanks, New York. Next time I’ll be back with CB for Shake Shack cheesy fries and greasy $1.00 pizza!
*Drops Mic, Walks Away*