Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Travel Tuesday . NYC . Summer 2014 . Day 2

Visiting NYC with Lulu means lots of time at parks! We essentially had 3 picnics on day 2... brunch in Central Park, a light snack in Bryant Park, and then a "picnic" course at Eleven Madison Park.

We also visited B&H, which is an incredible camera store! It's super efficient and it's also a lot of fun to go through the process of purchasing something. If you like camera gear or gadgets and find yourself in the area, I highly recommend you check it out. Keep a look out for conveyor belts above your head that seem to magically transport products around the entire store.

For more details on what we did on day 2, here is a short vlog. The rest of this post will jump right into our 15 course meal at Eleven Madison Park! If you plan to go to Eleven Madison Park, I'd recommend not watching the vlog or reading this blog post any further - part of the fun of dining there is all the little surprises. :)

Now let's talk about our amazing meal at Eleven Madison Park! The food was delicious and creative. Service was very efficient. We really enjoyed the experience. The restaurant itself was a little hard to find as our taxi driver pointed us in the wrong direction. We were about to go into a bank building to ask for directions when voila - we found ourselves right in front of the restaurant's revolving doors. The interior is gorgeous with super high ceilings and a lot of light.

We had an early seating at 5:45pm and it's definitely the way to go. Being one of the first tables, we were surprised by every course that came out. When we dined at Alinea last year, we were the 3rd table seated in our section of the restaurant, so we saw a lot of the courses come out to other tables before we received ours... the surprise factor this time was really wonderful. We were seated at a really nice corner table. At each table, there is a little envelope with a knife. Our waiter directed us to open it, choose the flavour that interests us the most, and punch out the little symbol associated with the flavour. My hubby chose coffee and I chose celery.

Next, we ordered our drinks. My hubby doesn't drink alcohol often so he chose a non-alcoholic cocktail. I chose the Manhattan Cart, which is basically a drink that is mixed by the bartender table side. I would normally order a gin cocktail but I'm a sucker for table side service so I chose that instead. I was presented with a menu with 6 different variations of the Manhattan. Since I've never had a Manhattan and I couldn't pronounce any of the ingredients (cynar is not pronounced the way it looks lol), the bartender recommended the classic, which I really enjoyed. What I particularly liked was that the bartender sampled my drink (taking a bit of it out with a little straw) before serving it. I feel better when restaurants taste the cocktails and wine before serving them - I first saw this at the now closed Alex in Las Vegas (waaaah, I loved this place) and it really made an impression on me.

Course #1
Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple

Our first course came in a little box that was tied with a string. This is the restaurant's homage to NYC's black & white cookie. Being the first course, this was actually a savoury version of the classic cookie and tasted to me a little like Goldfish crackers due to the cheddar (sorry if that comparison makes you cringe but I promise you it's not a bad thing!).

Course #2
Baked Potato Ice Cream and Caviar

This was once of my favourite courses. The oyster was so fresh and the ice cream really tasted like a baked potato. Plus my hubby and I love caviar whenever we get a chance to eat it so this course was very much to our liking.

Course #3
Custard with Maine Sea Trout Roe

I'm not a huge fan of mushrooms but it's mostly due to the texture. Since this course was presented as a soup, I actually really enjoyed it! It was very flavourful and the roe provided a nice salty/oily burst on my tongue.

Course #4
Warmed with Meyer Lemon and Egg Yolk

This was another one of my favourites. Simple but so beautifully presented. Light and summery. The texture of the egg yolk (flakes) was really interesting.

Course #5
Pastrami with Ramps, Rye, Mustard, and Celery/Coffee

My favourite course! This was Eleven Madison Park's homage to the classic New York deli. I love all of the flavours presented so this course was perfect for me. This course was also customized with different flavours of soda. My hubby got coffee soda and I got celery soda... both were delicious. I love celery and now I know I even love it in soda form. :)

The bread came out next and it was presented with 2 different types of butter. I don't remember the specific details (one of them involved duck fat perhaps?). The salt in the middle was some kind of fancy salt.

Course #6
Hubby: Seared with Fava Bean Marmalade and Sorrel
Me: Cured with Orange-Chamomile, White Asparagus, and Bitter Almond

We were allowed to select from two different preparations of foie gras so we chose one of each. We're not huge fans of foie gras but we definitely did not want to pass on this dish. Both preparations were nice but mine was more to my liking. :)

Course #7
Waldorf Salad with Celery, Rhubarb, and Walnuts

Much to my delight, this course was prepared table side. Our waiter gave us a little history of the Waldorf salad while he composed and plated our dishes. The salad included some slivers of blue cheese, which I gave to my hubby. He LOVES blue whereas it's pretty much the only cheese I don't enjoy. This course was really interesting because it was actually a Waldorf salad served two ways - one as a salad and the other as a soup. After you finish the salad, you remove the "plate" and underneath is the soup. While we were munching on our salad, we noticed we weren't provided with spoons... we wondered if the spoon would be inside and sure enough, there it was! What a neat concept.

Course #8
Poached with Beets, Ginger, and Nasturtium

This is the 2nd time I've seen the ingredient nasturtium in the past couple weeks or so. It's a plant with edible flowers and leaves - yum. I love lobster and beets so I loved this course!

Course #9
Braised with Potato and Black Truffle

When hubs, my friend, and I were at Paul Bocuse last year, there was a chicken cooked in bladder on the menu and we didn't order it but we thought it was pretty cool. Imagine my surprise when a bladder was brought to our table at Eleven Madison Park. This one was just for show (they don't cut into it at your table) but it was still neat. I wonder if the asparagus was actually cooked in a bladder or if they just use a similar method but show the traditional methodology? I've never been served one stalk of asparagus before. :) Anyway, it was delicious - I love the combination of potato and black truffle.

This next item wasn't on our menus and unfortunately I don't remember anything about it except of course that I ate it. It was crispy.

Course #10
Broth with Cured Duck and Watercress
Roasted with Rhubarb, Shallots, and Scallions

Mmmmm, love duck!! Before serving us this course, they presented us with the whole duck and explained the cooking process. We were then served a sliver of the duck breast, which was delicious. I think my hubby and I got slices from different ducks because the spice pattern on the skin is completely different. This was another choice you had on the menu - you could either choose lamb or duck and the whole table had to make the same choice. Since I don't like lamb, we went with duck.

Course #11
Pretzel, Parsley, and Picked Pearl Onion

This next course was so much fun and another of my favourites! This was our little indoor picnic. Our waiter brought over a basket and we got to unpack it. The plates in particular were really neat because they look like paper plates but are stoneware. The fresh cheese looked like a pat of butter but it was definitely cheese. It was very yummy!! Our picnic also came with a bottle of dark ale to share - I liked it a lot - it tasted to me like coffee. Hubs was ok about it.

Course #12
Sorbet with Caramelized Milk and Milk Foam

Now it was time for the desserts. This was my favourite one because of the flavours and the textures. I also love coldness in food so the sorbet was right up my alley.

Course #13
Baked Alaska with Rum, Caramel, and Celery/Coffee

Before this course was served, we were presented with a baked Alaska and it was set on fire in front of us. Another thing I love is flaming food... I guess I'm all about theatrics. This was another course that was customized. My hubby got coffee sauce with his baked Alaska and I got celery sauce. One of our waitresses asked us afterward which one was better and we both preferred our own so I guess we chose our flavours well. :)

Course #14
Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt

This course was served with Apple Brandy, which was very strong. We were poured a tiny bit and we finished it but didn't reach for the bottle for another pour. The liqueur went well with the chocolate covered pretzel.

Course #15
Sweet Black and White Cookie with Mint

And here we've come full circle with another box tied with string. Inside were two black and white cookies - this time, sweet. I think I preferred the savoury ones but only because I've been more into salt rather than sweet lately.

A few final surprises at the end of our meal... we were presented with personalized menus and two mason jars of granola to take home. The menu in particular is such a nice keepsake because I would never be able to remember all of the courses otherwise. Inside the envelopes were also the little flavour "tickets" that we had punched out when we started our meal - such a thoughtful touch. The granola was amazing and I'm so pleased that I can re-use the mason jars and have a little reminder of our lovely evening.

Overall, we loved our meal at Eleven Madison Park. We were there for a little over 3 hours and I enjoyed every minute. It reminded us a little of Alinea in terms of the number of courses, creativity, and keepsake menu. We enjoyed both meals tremendously; however, if I had to choose one to revisit, I would probably choose Eleven Madison Park. The flavours were more to my liking, I preferred the pacing/portion size, the service was a little more consistent as all tables seemed to get the same explanation of each course, there's an actual drink/wine list with prices, and the ambiance was a little more welcoming/warm/comfortable. That being said, it is all a matter of personal preference as both are fantastic restaurants that are well worth the hefty price tags.

If you are interested, click here for my full review of Alinea.

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