2013 New York City Letter 3

a luncheon to remember

Sunday, 20 October 2013 3:19 pm

The very much-delayed report on Lunch at Eleven Madison Park

….as ever, I’m running behind in fully reporting on our travels and eating habits. However I issue a health warning, if you’re not into food, perhaps move on now!

But for the rest of you who have suffered the report on our lunch at Fat Duck a few years back, here is one on the New York equivalent. Eleven Madison Park is both the name and address of this sublime restaurant. It’s a twenties art deco high-rise building overlooking the park. The dining room is on the ground floor, with soaring 30 foot ceilings, huge windows, acres of polished terrazzo floors and superb use of timbers. It’s very hush, hush and grown up! What was to be an intimate luncheon for two, our friends Dorothy & Roger, as a pre celebration for Dorothy’s forth coming birthday on their return from Canada via New York, sort of got high jacked! First, our mate Jan was going to be in NYC for a few days before embarking on a trip up the Hudson River to check out real estate formerly owned by long dead New York glitterati. We then decided to visit the big apple and suddenly our little group who would normally meet at State Theatre shows in down town Adelaide where all arriving in the same city within 24 hours of each other. Another reason to celebrate.

This place has more stars than the galaxy and was just named in the top five restarts in the world, so getting a table is not easy, they open the books 28 days in advance and within minutes its all booked out, but by luck we snagged a table for lunch, which in fact I would suggest as it is much better than dinner, when you have one of the most beautiful little parks in New York City to gaze at, why do dinner! Roger & I had done retail therapy the day before and had very smart new jackets (his pink, mine Aqua-ish) to lift the occasion to even higher planes, the lad wore his best, and the two girls did us proud, it’s the sort of dining experience that needs a bit of colour and movement.

The dining room and one of our waiters

The dining room and one of our waiters

The menu is set but they ‘deal’ with those who have needs and the only course that had a choice was mains, either duck or venison, we went all deer like. They did not offer a wine match and we left Dorothy the task of dealing with the 100 page wine list, I needed no stress at this luncheon! First up a bottle of French bubbles and sorry, I can’t tell you who’s, but they were exceptionally nice crisp dry ones and very French. A little box arrived tied with string that happily matched my jacket. It contained five little ‘cookies’. Small round and ‘iced’ half black and half white, bit like a black and white minstrel show in a box. They were cheesy with apple over tones, nice with the bubbles. Next a single oyster with a grape sorbet, some bulgur and sorrel cream, also nice with the bubbles and then the final ‘nibble’ was a sea urchin number with shrimp, a chervil foam and a touch of Foie Gras, and yet again worked well with the bubbles, well done Miss Dorothy!

A new wine was needed, this time an Austrian (as against Australian) Riesling, 2010 vintage but yet again I’m a let down, it was very nice, a little gewurztraminer-ish on the palate, but worked well with the very neatly trimmed egg shell that arrived in an egg cup naturally, with a sabayon of Sturgeon and chive infused oil, this was a two part dish, the second part came as little jars of pickles, thinly slice toasted bread, some lightly poached quails eggs and salad greens, cans of crème fraiche topped with seriously good caviar and a covered glass dome containing lightly smoked sturgeon that was still being lightly smoked at the table. The next little number was more Foie Gras, and we were given a choice, a terrine with bitter almonds and plum chutney or in my case a seared slice of Foie Gras on a bed of something nice (I’m now 60, I’m allowed to forget something), a jus and very baby sage leaves. At some stage beautiful bread rolls arrived in their own little sacks, with a duo of butters, sweet and brown.

Moving right along we then moved to a crisp little chablis,  premier cru, Cote de Lechet, (there should be a few accents here but I can’t do it on my laptop) Laurent Tribut, proprietor, amazing what you remember when you remember to take a photo of the label, pity I did not include the vintage! With this came the ‘show off’ dish of the day. It’s over the top. They screwed a little cast iron mincer to the table (just like everyone who is over 50 grandmothers would have had  (X’s & Y’s will never have seen one). We were all then presented with a wooden tray with lots of itty bitty bowls to hold condiments, two tiny bottles of mustard oil and vinaigrette and then our very own chef preceded to mince a bunch of carrots that looked like they had just been plucked from the soil but in fact had been ‘sous vide-ed’ at a very low temperate for many hours. It was a ‘Tartare’ of carrot, and we created our own version with with condiments like pickled quail egg yolk, dried horseradish, chives, mustard seeds, toasted sun flower seeds and many others. It has been and continues to be the talk of the town, this appeared in the current New York Time Out Mag and will probably explain it far better than my dribble.http://www.timeout.com/newyork/food-drink/high-performance-plate-eleven-madison-parks-carrot-tartare-gif?cmpid=Feed+101613  This was followed with a Maine lobster dish, but before it arrived we had a visit from another chef with a preview of the course to flow the lobster, as one does! It’s close to Halloween, so it was to be a pumpkin dish, so the whole thing came to the table with a sour dough collar to seal the cap that was cooking the chanterelle and cranberries, very pretty, very harvest thanks giving! But meanwhile the lobster came lightly poached with crisp baby Brussels sprouts and guanciale, a sort of unsmoked pig cheek bacony thingy. The pumpkin re-appeared as little pieces roasted, with a puree and tiny pieces of the flavoured sour dough, a very nice gravy and baby water cress shoots.

a little pumpkin number in honour of Halloween

a little pumpkin number in honour of Halloween

We need red, red wine, and believe me it was nice, but by this stage I was not going to question anything Dorothy chose. The main course was the afore mentioned venison and came two ways, a loin cooked in a salted crust and served with Sunchoke skins and pear and a jus and then a sort of smoker arrived at the table (think high tech hibachi BBQ) with venison sausage kebabs with baby pearl onions, lard and baby corn heads, nice, very nice! Well, after all that you need a cheese plate. Well, we got a cheese picnic hamper delivered to the table. It had specially brewed beer, freshly baked chewy pretzels, grapes and a little wooden box with very smelly but very tasty wash rinded cheese (well I think it was wash rinded) called ‘Greensward’ . By this time we are slowing down just a tad, the lad is on selling some of his food and we are feeling very mellow. Next we are summoned to have a tour of the kitchen (at this stage I should explain that I had pushed the fact that three of us where celebrating/about to celebrate serious birthdays and another had just had a birthday, and as poor Rog was born in the wrong half of the year so he did not count, I wanted to be sure the Dorothy had the best day, so I hope it did not over play it). I was not aware of any other diners being taken ‘out back’, but who were we to argue. We saw what I can only describe as a mind boggling kitchen with more staff than there were on the dining room floor, with every surface suited to brain surgery, and if that was not enough, they had set up a little ‘bar’ and proceeded to prepare a ‘cocktail’ for us than used liquid nitrogen to ‘cook’ an egg white concoction, set sorbets and with various other liquids and fruits. I had trouble taking it all in as I was too preoccupied planing my next kitchen……..

The 'famous five' being fed in the kitchens of 11 Madison Park

The ‘famous five’ being fed in the kitchens of 11 Madison Park

We then returned to the dining room feeling very special and bonded with our hostess who just happen to be Italian, Roger Dorothy & Michael had a lot of fun being ‘Italian’. Time to get serious, the savory tummies where full, but the special dessert tummy was in need of filling. First up was a type of refresher drink, milk, with malt, vanilla, egg and Seltzer water as sort of fizzy light weight milk shake/spider. Then came a pastry disk, filled with a bay leaf infused creme brûlée wrapped with a fresh candied apple slice, a hibiscus sorbet and other little bits and pieces. (four deserts came complete with candles aglow, each carried by a separate waiter, thank god no one broke into song!) Fresh, clean and delightful! One can’t possibly come to the USA and not have cheese cake.  A simple glass tumbler, with biscuit crumbs, a light honey and chestnut filling and shards of sweet potato was the next dish. When you think you have had enough, out comes a little stand with salted sweet pretzels dipped in the deepest, darkest chocolate and our very bottle of apple eau de vie to help cut the richness. As if!  Coffee, and chocolates, but even those had a flair of showmanship, a game of cards, with each one of the 52 cards was a flavour of a different chocolate, by slight of hand we all chose a card and where then asked to pick up our sauces and underneath was a tiny bowl with a chocolate, each chocolate different, each persons matching their chosen card. Show off sure, but very, very impressive! Finally the little box returned, again tied in string, and inside where five little cookies, looking very much like the ones we started with, but no these where their sweet cousins. As we departed we were given a little shopping bag with a jar of their own granola, our menus and for the birthday kids, a little box with two delectable chocolate coated Turkish delight.

Dessert no 2, bay leaf infused creme brûlée wrapped with a fresh candied apple slice, a hibiscus sorbet and other little bits and pieces.....

Dessert no 2, bay leaf infused creme brûlée wrapped with a fresh candied apple slice, a hibiscus sorbet and other little bits and pieces…..

Don’t ask, it was not cheap and neither is should be, but it was brilliant, it was an event, it was the stuff that memories are made on, we would love to go back!

Well its now again well after mid-night, and for the second night running it have been one finger typing, so as ever I leave you all to spell check!

From he asleep and me over due for sleep, till the next up date

The boys in New York

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