Sunday, February 11, 2007

Two-year-old NYC food thoughts

Today, noodling around in my documents folder, I discovered a file called "What we did on our seventh annimoversary weekend." What we did was go to New York. I'd completely forgotten that I'd written a report, but apparently I did, on the Amtrak trip back home.

Reading it, I realized that I'd written almost exclusively about where and what we ate (no surprise there, I guess). Here are the highlights:

We’d made reservations for
Les Halles for 9pm, but when we arrived it was clear we’d have to wait; there'd been some problem in the kitchen, and everyone was backed up. I think we were overlooked, because we ended up not being seated until almost 10:30, by which time we were so tired and hungry that the food was almost not quite excellent.

Still, having spent an hour and a half inhaling the aroma of garlic butter, there was no chance we were going to bail for the McDonald’s across the street. We started with the escargots, then I moved on to the boudin noir with pureed potato and grilled apples (again), and The Boy—discovering February was choucroute month—had the duck choucroute, which was quite fabulous and included a foie gras sausage, duck confit and the most melty-in-the-mouth gizzards.

The restaurant was pretty loud—not helped by the yahoo couple sitting next to us, the guy of which kept insisting they were at “Daniel Bolod’s” restaurant. But when we left, there outside was Daniel Bol—I mean Anthony Bourdain, looking as lanky and leather-jacket-former-junkie-cool as he does on the tee-vee. Yep, I'm a rube.

* * * * * *

Mansfield Hotel, Sunday. Didn’t sleep too well, woke up bleary and dehydrated. Stumbled down to breakfast late (after 9), so we weren’t able to get a seat in the bar (where breakfast is served). We grabbed some pastries and juice and coffee and headed across the lobby to the club room, which had a roaring fire and original 1930s club furniture (the cherry arms of the sofa were scarred from generations of gentlemen dropping their brandy snifters and/or monocles in surprise as they heard about some world-changing event or other). Roaming the bar was their contemporary cousin, a short, moustachioed gent who kept declaiming the outrageousness of there being no bananas. I was hoping he'd sing about it, but no.

* * * * * *

Relaxed for a while before heading down to the East Village to meet the Christies. Found them at a restaurant on E5th called
Lavagna—a small, cozy Italian place. Richard was on antibiotics for a chest cold, so (!!) wasn’t drinking (!!)—he just had a couple of glasses of wine.

But the food. Oh my goodness. First, there were fabulous olives in a rich olive oil, with excellent bread. Then grilled asparagus, roasted artichoke hearts and proscuitto appetizers. Then, as Heather and I were both torn between two entrees, we got one each and shared.

The papardelle with rabbit, thyme and olives was, I think, the best pasta dish I have ever had. Ever. The other dish—salmon with black lentils braised in red wine—was pretty great, though it didn’t quite compare. The Boy had pork chops with a citrus glaze and creamy polenta, which were really good, and Richard had fabulous ricotta/spinach ravioli in a gorgonzola cream sauce. So rich that even he couldn’t finish them all.

Snow was starting to fall outside, and we ordered dessert—a citrus cheesecake, a gianduia cake and the bestest, most custardy panna cotta ever.

* * * * * *

Union Square Café. This one was a Christie recommendation, so we had a good feeling. We were seated upstairs in an out-of-the-way corner overlooking the tables below. The framed print above our table was of a can-can dancer bending over and showing her butt—The Boy was happy.

Appetizer: we shared a dish of fettucine with prosciutto and truffles with truffle butter. Creamy, rich and good (though still didn't compare to last night’s rabbit …). With it, a half-bottle of 2001 Montepulciano (a little too heavy for the pasta, but still very good).

Entrée: I had grouper topped with a reggiano gratin, with black-olive mashed potatoes. Which made me wonder why I’d never thought to do that before. The Boy had scallops in a citrus sauce with acorn squash that had a Caribbean spice note to it—very yummy. We drank a half-bottle of Albert Boxler 1999 Riesling Grand Cru ($38) and would do so again, if asked.

For dessert, we shared a pineapple-rosemary upside-down cake with rosemary ice-cream and butterscotch sauce, which was an unusual, delicious flavor combination. And The Boy had a glass of 1996 Sauternes, which smelled (to me) like nitrous but had a nice apricot flavor. Oh, and the women’s restroom had a vase of fresh lilacs on the sink

* * * * * *

February 21 is our ninth annimoversary. We're going to
L'Espalier. I am so frickin' happy.

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