Monday, December 17, 2007

holiday dinner at freemans

"hey, save sunday for a hurliday* dinner, i'll make a reso somewhere and send out the info this week." those were my friend colin's words last weekend. colin is in the core group of 8 that includes the gays and a few lady friends. 

tuesday i get an e-mail, "i need your address to messenger you the invite." a messenger shows up and i sign for a padded envelope that contains a gorgeous invite sheathed in rice paper with gold labeling. it announced a "christmas sit down" at freeman's, "black and white holiday attire." and just like that, our casual dinner was turning into an event. colin also got to plan the menu.

we showed up and there was another party in our room. colin kind of pulled the "don't you know who i am" card which worked like a charm because his company does a lot of business at the restaurant. we were bought a round of drinks and the other people were kicked out to make room for us. colin disappeared and then reappeared to guide us to our private room where on the table he'd scattered pictures of us and had put photos of each of us, individually, in little stands at each place setting acting as our place cards. 

we took turns talking about our fondest memories of the past year. our goals for next year. we regaled each other with tales of parties past. recounted our many nights of debauchery. talked about how lucky we felt to be in each other's lives. 

on the menu: cheddar toast with watercress, endive and pear salad, pork with sauteed apples over a creamy polenta, mac and cheese, apple crisp and chocolate cake.

the food was phenomenal but the company was clearly the highlight of the evening. 

*my friends have recently started talking like the target lady. all the time. i can no longer decide whether it's funny or annoying. also, tried finding a link to the target lady and can't find one anywhere on youtube! but if you haven't seen her, trust me, she's amazing. 

Friday, July 20, 2007

heaven part 2: in which i taste thai jewels

see here for part 1.

jean-georges is a bit of a celebrity in my book. see #15 on my 100 things list.

i've been to spice market a few times before. in fact, it is in the same building as the soho house (that god awful place where i used to cocktail), so all the employees shared an entrance. what i also wish we had in common? uniforms. spice market servers get to wear clay colored linen pants and airy cream linen tops. soho house attire? oxford shirts, ties, vests, ick, ick and more ick.

i went with 5 of my gay boys and we were sat in a tucked away little room that made us feel like we were in a private dining room with the restaurant all to ourselves. we were also hoping we weren't shoved out of view because we were too ugly. who am i kidding? me and the boys are beautiful. i'm sure they were just tucking us back there so the paparazzi wouldn't find us and disturb our meal!

our server was pixie-ish and lovely, the service was good (even though there were a few missteps). in lieu of bread they bring papadum to the table. we started with curried chicken samosas in that spicy indian yogurty mint sauce. next was cod on top of a tomato puree with me rice. for dessert, the elusive pichet ong thai jewels. i suppose they're not really elusive, it's just that in all my times there i wasn't informed enough to know that this is ong's most famous dessert there. it wasn't what i thought it would be but i'm always intrigued by textures. this was diced exotic fruit over a small puddle of slushy coconut milk. simple but interesting.

i would always highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a good meal. but make a reservation, it's always packed. as are all of JG's places...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

heaven part 1: in which danny meyer buses my table

taking advantage of restaurant week here in new york involves strategy. many restaurants always do cheap prix fixe lunches or pre-theater dinners so what's the point of going when it's busy with people who don't know any better? Many restaurants aren't even worth the $35 you'll pay for a three course dinner. Getting resys at the ones that are worth it require calling one month in advance of the numerical date you'd like to dine.

many true foodies avoid it altogether claiming that none of a restaurant's best food is ever offered on the menu (you get two to three things to choose from for each course). that may be true. what is also true is that if a restaurant is good, whatever they're cooking, they're doing it well and it is almost always worth it for the price.

eleven madison park is probably my favorite restaurant in the city. i think it is meyer's best.

nb: meyer is also the man who brought to new york a chicago-style hotdog, even shipping in vienna beef dogs. and for that, i could kiss him. especially since i hear this year that they've finally FINALLY stopped putting lettuce on them, but i digress.

the room is large, bright and airy. the service is immaculate. i started with tuna tartare with slivers of steamed white and green asparagus, garnished with good olive oil and minced tricolored peppers. next was roast chicken. the skin was crispy and flavorful and it rested on top of fresh peas, a pea puree, diced morels and a morel puree. it was brilliant. last was my old standby, panna cotta with fresh berries and a macerated strawberry juice. it was accompanied by a gratis glass of moscato d'asti.

just as i was finishing i looked up at a man standing next to my table. he was taking in the dining room, standing confidently with a grin on his face, looking quite like a proud father at his daughter's college graduation. "he's good looking...and really tan," i mused, "and don't i know him from somewhere?" then it hit me, "oh my god, that's danny meyer!" at that point, he turned to look at me and asked how my meal was. i told him it was excellent and that i proudly restrained myself from licking any of my plates. "oh no! don't hold back! lick away!" he said as he took my dessert plates and flatware off the table. "thank you so much for coming!" he said as he scooted away with my dishes. so not only did i get a glass of free wine, but one of the most impressive restaurant moguls this city has ever seen just bused my table.

in all, it was lovely. i would eat there every single day if i had a few million dollars to waste away...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

i was super late to work today

because of some serious after-partying with chefs/foodies after the james beard awards had me drunk drunk last night. a good friend is an executive chef at a nominated restaurant.

a decent summary of my evening can be found here:

Beard After-parties: Hawaiian Tropic Zone, Momofuku Party Bus, More
The James
Beard Awards after-parties presented special challenges which could only be solved by the liberal use of an open bar. The place to go was the Hawaiian Tropic Zone, whose bikini-clad waitresses and go-go dancers, serving at the behest of chef David Burke, provided a welcome dose of vulgarity after the high-class Beard gala.
But the truly hot ticket was the Momofuku party bus, which, if David Chang & Co. were to be believed, was a chartered party vehicle where the most intense celebrating would be done. Regretfully, though, it was closed to press. "Sorry, dude," David Chang told us, dazed and blissful and still unbelieving in the wake of his victory. At the Zone, Burke held court, taking pictures with Terrance Brennan,
various bikini girls, and both at the same time. Unnervingly suave celebrity chef Todd English worked the room with his conversational magic, talking up everyone in a dress. ("Oh, he's such a perv!" we heard one woman say. "But he's so handsome!") English didn't stay long, though, as the biggest and latest of the after-parties was at his restaurant Olives NY. There, to the pounding sounds of a disco sound system, a crowd made up of Beard attendees and generic party hogs squished against each other.
There were pockets of relaxation, though — Jean Georgepasty chef Johnny Iuzzini, looking dapper in an all-black suit, was at the center of one cluster, martini in hand; Maremma's Cesare Casella, in a colorful striped shirt and dark jacket with rosemary sprigs in the breast pocket, was at the center of another, trying to recruit people for a third after-party, and, when we refused, giving us a mean boozy noogie; andSsäm Bar's towering manager, the six-foot-five Corey Lane, popped around in his usual good spirits. "The bus is real," he told us. "Why weren't you there?" That's the question we're still asking ourselves.
i read this and thought i'd written it myself. todd english is hot AND flirtatious. also, i couldn't get onto the chang bus either. poo. on the upside, they had a brilliant omelette station with lobster AND goat cheese, my two favorite things. see kids? always a silver lining...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

eavesdropping amongst foodies

so i scored a 6:30 reservation at new Keith McNally place Morandi last night. and, unsurprisingly, it was a bit of a scene. however, i had major problems putting names with faces tonight.

justy and i walked into a nearly empty restaurant at 6:30. hosts were pleasant and the staff was attentive, all except our server, who seemed to make it his job to notice that we were waiting on him, just so he could walk away. with menus closed, we waited a good fifteen minutes before the guy came over to take our order. and did the same thing when we were done eating and waiting to get dessert menus and again while we were waiting to order dessert...totally unacceptable.

our only guess as to why we were getting the blow off was because there were so many recognizable people being sat on top of us (and, literally, the tables ARE that close to each other). and though i say they're recognizable, that doesn't mean i know their names. in fact, it's killing me to find out who some of these people are. i'm good with faces and i'd seen all of these people before either at the fancypants club where i used to work, or at any number of foodie events or restaurants i go to (i eat out at least 5 times a week). i notice the name of the check left on the table by a familiar face with tortoise shell glasses: curt gathje. a four-top behind us were getting things sent over every five minutes that were "compliments of the chef." it was anne burrell.

a table was sat to my left, a skinny blond and a rather rotund, distinguished and very familiar looking man with the initials JRP (or maybe TRP) stitched into his pocket. "oh, there's george and his son, and sasha" they say, pointing to the four-top with all the free food. the two tables wave at each other and exchange greetings. distinguished man says to skinny blond, "so, what do you think about the chodorow thing today? do you think it was a joke?" skinny goes on and on about how kobe club is a good restaurant (sidenote: i've been there, it's not) and how it got "all these great reviews!" (it didn't) and how it wasn't fair of bruni and how ruth really is the best critic. skinny ends her stump speech saying she's "on jeff's side."

obviously this woman had no idea what she was talking about. i start to eavesdrop on plump blondie's table. "i totally agree with bruni. all the tastes just meld together so well and i love all the pickled vegetables mixed in. he totally deserves two stars."

in between my eavesdropping i'm filling justin in on the food drama of the day, giving him a summary of the nytimes dining section and trying to rack my brain as to who the hell all these people are. i go back to skinny's table. "in my business..." JRP says as he leads into a commentary about critics/chefs/owning restaurants/etc. so, obviously, he's a food somebody too.

a woman with dark red bobbed hair and cute plastic framed glasses sits kiddy corner to us. McNally goes straight to her, hugs her and says, "i saw your son last week!" and they continue a conversation i can't hear (not for lack of trying). McNally then goes over to plump blond's table, they chat. he comes over to JRP's table, they know each other too. skinny and JRP get up to leave and we hear the server say, "goodbye mister pilo."

that doesn't help. it's a totally unrecognizable name. damnit! plump blonde's table left and a threesome was seated in it. one man, even recognizable to justin, had a salt and pepper beard and mustache, smallish build and, again, seemed to know everyone there.

for as much as i consider myself "in the know" with nyc gastro-news...i obviously have a lot to learn...

onto the food!

we started with an upscale mimosa our server pushed on us. prosecco with blood orange puree. shrug.

appetizers: burrata (creamy mozzarella salad) and fried artichokes. both were good, unexciting.

mushroom risotto with blueberries, exactly what you'd expect. the blueberries hardly added any depth to the dish. there were four of them and they had such a neutral flavor that i wonder what their purpose really was. i suppose it added the slightest hint of tart, but only in the four bites that were lucky enough to catch a berry.

the branzino (bass, roasted whole with lemon) was excellent. the meat was moist, the lemon wasn't over powering and it was served over some salty pickled greens.

dessert: chocolate pudding with a dollop of ricotta whipped cream and drunken cherries.

verdict: i wasn't wowed and i wasn't inspired BUT i feel fairly certain that i'll never have a bad meal on any trips back. which is just about where i'd put all the other McNally restaurants. though a bit predictable, they have consistently good, solid cooking. and for the prices (very reasonable), it's a safe bet any night of the week. though, with the entirely annoying meatpacking crowd that will inevitably make their way over, i doubt i'll be spending too much time there in the near future.