Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Chef's Tasting at Per Se

So, we're okay enough friends right now for me to let you in on a little secret:  

I am old.

I officially turned old in June.  I've been crying myself to sleep ever since.  But before those tears were shed, Diana and I celebrated the occasion with the only thing that makes sense for such an event:

The Chef's Tasting at Per Se.  

Naturally.  Who needs booze to wash down our sorrows when we can wash them down with oysters and pearls?

Our meal started as many have here, with gruyère gougères, little pâte à choux bundles of cheese and love.

Salmon coronets, smooth salmon filled in a crisp, black sesame cone.  I took a minute too long to take this picture, and the server urged me to please eat it, as the condensation would ruin the taste.  Condensation !  These are indeed quite delicate.

We were then buttered up with two delicious versions: fleur de sel from Vermont and Straus family butter from California, who have six cows and produce butter exclusively for Per Se.  Cute !

The butters were to be paired with bread, selected from a lovely basket containing four / five different varieties - I opted for the leaf shaped baguette and the pretzel.

Diana grabbed one that looks like a twist of poop.  It did not taste like it, which goes to show that you cannot judge food by its cover.  The bread was incredibly crusty, and despite wanting to devour the butter in a most violent way, we tried to limit ourselves for the sake of our poor stomachs.

And then the meal began !

Thomas Keller's signature "oysters and pearls."  Divine decadence of butter, tender tapioca, silky oysters and briny caviar.  I am instantly in love.  Good oysters are the ultimate way to my heart.  (All boys interested in a cheesy face like mine should duly take note.)

A salad of Hawaiian hearts of peach palm with juicy Brooks cherries, endive, toasted pistachios and a lovely schmear of black winter truffle coulis.  A perfect little combination of crunch, cream, sweet and savory.  

A wedge of Atlantic black bass, with a crisp layer of skin, was fresh and flaky, topped with a melange of julienned bell peppers.  The dish was brightened by the olive oil / navel orange sauce at base.

Butter poached Nova Scotia lobster wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, with adorable little radishes and celery root puree.

The lobster tail was wrapped round and tight, making it as meaty as a filet.  Diana and I could die absolutely happy after consuming this; the little tiny grapes popped in our mouths and contributed to our extreme ecstasy.

Four Story Hill Farm's poularde served on Basmati rice with peas and Madeira cream.  Poularde references a young hen that is fattened before meeting sexual maturity, producing a meaty bird, tender and moist.  (Jonathan Safran Foer fans of Eating Animals, please do not take note.)

The meat was quite compact, like a chicken sausage.  The overall dish, with its Asian / Indian flavor, was creamy and comforting.

A cube of sirloin steak served alongside Diana-declared "best tomatoes ever," dainty little fingerling potato slivers,.  and an artichoke cap stuffed with a type of charcuterie.

A wedge of Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk cheese, made from the Straus family dairy milk, was full of rich, ridiculous cheese-flavor.  Diana and I are not cheese connoisseurs or lovers by any sense of the word, so this dish remained mostly wasted in a sad, sad way.  We are completely unrefined.  The gazpacho was most tart and refreshing though !

Sake-soda.  Crystallized champagne grapes and green tea ice cream composed one of Diana's favorite dishes of the meal.  Foamy and fresh, this concoction was an absolute delight.

Then it was dessert time, which seemingly took us an hour in itself to indulge!  First, a little birthday cake treat of creamy chocolate mousse and caramel ice cream.

Gateau Marjolaine, a chocolaty layered dessert specialty of French chef, Ferdinand Point, who, when traveling, would visit the kitchens of restaurants to see whether the chef was heavyweight before deciding to stay.  I like the man's style of never trusting a skinny cook. I also like the man's chocolate cake !  Crispy, creamy, light and refined.

Strawberry "tea" with whipped birch syrup, strawberry sorbet, mint genoise and Rooibos Bavarian cream.  This dish tasted like a brilliant homage to summer, so amazingly delightful and bright.  

The desserts did not end there.  Of course.  Petit-fours were presented in a trio of rounds.

Fudges in shiny gold-colored wrappers.

Macarons, that were totally on point in creaminess and crispness. 

And truffles, which included a root beer flavor as well as a lemon that was lovely.  We mourned not being able to eat more from these trays and wish we had known that we indeed could have asked for these to go like others have!

One of my favorite moments of life now includes being presented, by a most dapper gentleman rocking a similar calculator watch like mine, a wooden box filled with dozens of chocolates.  "Pick whichever you would like," he purred (in my memories, he purrs).  Oh, we indeed would like them all.

But we will stop ourselves at five or six to be socially acceptable.  These are the moments when I say who needs social acceptance?  With chocolates like maple pecan and cinnamon smoke?

Or the hands-down best, black sesame and mango?  Which...they were nice enough to give us seconds of, because it simply was nothing short of divine, and we don't know how we lived our lives until this day without them.


And then, moment of truth, with my most anticipated part of the meal, the famous "coffee and doughnuts!"

The cappuccino was a surprise treat featuring the creamiest coffee flavored ice cream topped by a beautiful dome of foam.  The doughnut holes were fresh, bouncy and perfectly dusted with sugar, but might I be so bold as to say these doughnuts still would not beat the airy, yeasty loveliness of Voodoo?  I know.  Thomas is only human.

And so concludes our most delectable lunch to date, and has Diana and I immediately scheming as to how we can eat like this every weekend, for four brilliant hours, basking in the sunlight with a beautiful view of Central Park.  It is definitely a meal to remember.  

Thank you, Diana, my number one and most favorite eating partner in crime for life ! <3

10 Columbus Circle #4
New York, NY
Per Se on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Emma's and Toscanini's

Living and working in downtown Boston, I don't often get a chance to spend time in Cambridge. Which is ridiculous, because it is literally across the river, and easily accessible by subway, bus, or my own two legs. But I am spoiled by people like Hao who own cars and drive me to delicious eats. Such was the case a few months ago, when he suggested going to Emma's for some pizza.

It's an adorable little joint near Kendall Square. Cozy and unpretentious.

Hao says hi.

We ordered sodas, and these came.


Since we had already decided to devour two pizzas, we thought we should be good and start off with a salad. Thank goodness we did, because this salad was amazing.

The 'famous fling' salad: baby spinach, granny smith apple, red onions, gorgonzola, and their special house dressing. It was light, super tasty, and the toasted almonds gave it a nice buttery crunch. Who knew salad at a pizza joint could be such a hit?

Then it was time to get real. We started with the #4: crispy smoked bacon, roasted yukon potato, cilantro, dried cranberries, and mozzarella all piled on thin crust.

I absolutely loved this pizza. I'm a big fan of sweet and savory, so naturally I thought the dried cranberries were a fantastic complement to the smoky bacon and cheese. The potatoes were a welcome addition, cooked to a perfect texture as a pizza topping - just a tad chewy, and quite flavorful. 

Our second pizza was the #15: thyme roasted mushrooms, roasted red peppers, green peppers, and mozzarella on thin crust. (I say thin crust like it's an option - it's not. All pizzas at Emma's are thin crust - it's their specialty! Ymmm.)

While Hao liked this better than the #4, I thought this one was good, but sort of one-dimensional.

As if we hadn't stuffed ourselves enough, since we were in Cambridge already, we made the short drive to one of our favorite ice cream shops: Toscanini's. #2 on the U.S. News list of America's Best Ice Cream, Tosci's does not disappoint. Back in college, there used to be multiple locations around Boston. Now, sadly, there is only one location left. The good news is it's doing well, feeding hoards of hipsters and hungry students everyday.

Hao got the belgian chocolate (the first picture), and I got the B^3 = brown sugar, brown butter, and brownies. (Pretty sure Hao suffered from order envy.) While Tosci's does hold a special place in my heart making it difficult to withhold any bias, I can also objectively say that this ice cream is superb! There are always interesting, innovative flavors, and the texture is always dense and creamy... just the way I like my ice cream.

I really gotta get to Cambridge more often!

40 Hampshire St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Emma's Pizza on Urbanspoon

899 Main St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Toscanini's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breakfast at the Cornerstone Cafe

If you find yourself in Alphabet City, and you like delicious, well-priced breakfasts, well then mosey on over to the Cornerstone Cafe and put your fat face (it's cute! makes you look young!) into a pile of these pancakes !

They are lovely and light, absorbent of all things maple syrup, and can come in a variety of forms and fashions including blueberry, bananas and fresh fruit.  

They also make the perfect appetizer if you find yourself among a great group of friends who are willing to partake in a little carb-party.

Harry oversees Jean's pancake cutting skills, while Heather is excited for the fluff !

So airy and delightful!

After the pancakes, we each went our separate ways for entrees.  Jean dabbled in a tomato-rich baked egg dish with a side of home fries.

Harry went eggs benedict.

And I went traditional with scrambled eggs and sausage patties.  The eggs were not as fluffy as I had hoped, but I still managed to shovel the entire bunch down my maple syrup-lubricated throat.  The sausage was fat and fine.  Heather got a similar dish with a slice of grilled ham (in the background).

That morning, we drank from a pitcher of mimosas, and the day seemed our oyster !  And it was ! Get yours !

Cornerstone Cafe
17 Ave B
New York, NY
Cornerstone Cafe on Urbanspoon