Friday, October 17, 2008

New York, part 4

After Del Posto, Heidi and I decided to see the Statue of Liberty at night from across the water and take pictures. On the way (sort of), we passed by the New York Stock Exchange during its calmest hours, just days before it started falling apart. The building looks pretty solid, though, so at least that's not going anywhere.

As we neared a very dimly lit Battery Park and saw tons of police officers just hanging around the periphery (though not a foot inside it), I remembered that Battery Park is often used in Law & Order, where all the bad stuff happens at night. We saw a very small, faraway glimpse of the beautifully lit Statue of Liberty, but that was as close as we dared get. So we hopped back on the subway, and that wrapped up our evening.

Day two of two started with a plan to head up toward Jacques Torres soon after it opened (9 a.m.), find some pastries or something for breakfast, and then look around Central Park and the general area before lunch. Instead, as we headed over to the Times Square subway station (a block from the hotel), we walked right into a huge outdoor market that wasn't there on Friday. It was a really nice surprise. Heidi and I really weren't that hungry (surprise, surprise) after so much food the day before, so we split a smoothie from a vendor made from freshly chopped mango, oranges, some pineapple juice, and ice. It was delicious, especially since I prefer to start my day with a smoothie. Then we shopped a bit: I bought a tie for Mark, a cashmere scarf for me, and a pashmina shawl each for Emily and me. I think the total, with smoothie, was about $25. Not a bad deal.

We then headed up to Amsterdam Avenue and the irresistible Jacques Torres chocolate shop, which you can read about here (if you haven't already). (By the way, I've added a picture of the cookies after I made them at home, and they are as delicious as the ones at the store!) After indulging in chocolate, we took a peek at Central Park, looked for some painkillers for Heidi's headache (to no avail), and visited L'Occitane, one of the very best little stores on the planet with several locations worldwide. Though I'm not a huge shopper, if I had lots of extra money, I would probably buy everything in that store. Or online.

After a bit of shopping, we headed over to Trump Tower to lunch at the Nougatine Room at Jean-Georges. Once again, I don't have access to the menu we ordered from, so I'll have to do my best at explaining our selections.

I took a picture of my roll, by the way, because the crumb was so nice. The bread was airy and chewy and slightly crusty, and deserved a photograph.

Heidi and I went for the very affordable $24.07 prix fixe menu, which meant we each ordered an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. The prix fixe menu was separate from the regular lunch menu and had two options for each course.

For the first course, I had the soup: a spicy tomato broth with cockles and kafir. Cockles would be a small shellfish, like the Irish song "Cockles and Mussels", and kafir would refer to very thin leaves from the kafir lime tree. The tomato soup was poured over the cockles, kafir leaves, and a few other greens at the table, which was a lovely presentation I very much enjoyed. I was expecting and hoping for a light soup, since it was called a broth, but there was definitely a touch of cream (though certainly nothing like 50%). It was very good, and nicely offset the rich chocolate from the morning.

Heidi opted for the salad, Romaine hearts with a balsamic vinaigrette (I think) and spicy pickled plums. They were very interesting, and they packed quite a punch! I thought they were delicious, and I'd love to try making some maybe next year, as they're great for salad. Maybe not so punchy, though, as Heidi couldn't finish the dish due to her burning mouth.

Our entrées were beautiful. Heidi ordered the beef tenderloin (I think it was tenderloin...) served over broccoli rabe and corn purée of some sort. (I don't remember what they called it.) The beef was topped with a black pepper butter. I thought the whole thing was delicious and would have eaten hers had I not been full from mine, but it didn't appeal to Heidi quite as much. In the dish's defense, though, she had a splitting migraine by this time and was not enjoying much.

I ordered the salmon with napa cabbage, bacon, porcini mushrooms, and a miso mushroom broth. It was topped with mustard seeds. It's pictured below as a large picture because it was the very best entrée I had in New York, and I can't wait to have it again. Of course, that may be never, but maybe, someday, I can figure out how to make it. I'm not sure what the fronds and seeds are. Maybe fennel fronds? I think they're a little stiff for that. The mustard seeds were superfluous and did nothing for the dish other than top an otherwise ordinary-looking piece of perfectly medium or medium-rare, whatever is perfect, salmon. Not only was the salmon exquisitely prepared, the Napa cabbage was just perfectly sautéed with the mushrooms and bacon, and the miso mushroom broth was warm and soothing in every way. I loved this dish. Loved it.

Well, to make up for that, our dessert arrived. We both ordered the non-chocolate option, sure nothing could top what we'd had that morning. I don't know why we didn't learn from our trip to Del Posto and go with chocolate, since nice restaurants work hard at perfecting their chocolate offerings. Instead, we opted for something "refreshing". That would be yogurt panna cotta served over a sponge cake, gelato, and minted fresh peaches over a strawberry purée. The peaches and purée were very small but good. The yogurt panna cotta was inedible. Maybe too much gelatin in the panna cotta? Bad yogurt? It really was unpalatable. The gelato was far worse. I couldn't remember what it was supposed to be. Black pepper? Snot? Seriously, it was that bad. It reminded me of the bad additions to Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans in Harry Potter. Horrific is not going too far, I promise. And look at the picture. Is that a pretty presentation? If you think it might be, then, believe me, the camera did wonders for it. It was very unappealing from the moment it arrived. However, by this time there wasn't any space left anywhere in our bodies for food, so we didn't send the desserts back.

Anyhow, I don't fault Jean-Georges. He gave me one of the best entrées of my life, remember? I can forgive him. And the cost of the meal was amazing for a very high-quality restaurant with excellent (if a bit stuffy, okay not just a bit) service.

With the Nougatine Room behind us, the two of us headed out to continue our conquest of New York. We had gifts to buy for our kids, places to see, that sort of thing. We visited Rockefeller Center and the American Girl Place – without our girls – and admired how pretty some of New York is. We also tasted the chocolate at Teuscher Chocolates and opted to return to Jacques Torres for more take-home chocolate and take-home cookies. That was one of our best decisions on the trip.

We had tickets for the broadway show Wicked at 8:00, and we'd certainly had plenty of food since arriving in New York, so we opted to have a really light evening meal. I'd seen a great pizza stand at the food court at Grand Central Station. We headed over ther, where I ordered a slice with sausage and soppresetta or something like that. It tasted very rich for such a thin little slice. I was surprised how strong the meat was, but it was delicious and a great place to get a little pizza.

Then we headed off to Gershwin Theatre and Wicked. Since this is a food blog, I'm not going into that except to say that it was an amazing experience and we were thrilled throughout the entire performance. I wanted to stay in my seat and watch the whole thing again, but I'm pretty sure everyone was going home.

After the show, Heidi and I changed back into our normal digs and took the subway down to Chinatown. Once again, police officers lined the streets, so we were either very safe or not at all, and I chose not to worry. I didn't take my camera to that area, but there's a great disparity in how clean the streets are between some places and others in the city. I suppose that's true everywhere.

We went out for a late night dinner at Wo Hop, a 21/7 downstairs Chinese cafe in Chinatown. (It's closed from 7am - 10am daily.) The sweet and pungent chicken was good (made with large slices of pickles), but the steamed dumplings were really good. They were fist size, filled with a pork mixture, and looked like oversized potstickers. Six large dumplings came on a plate, happily nestled in potsticker sauce, a combination of soy and something sweet, I think.

Exhausted and happy, we returned to the hotel, chatted too long, slept very few hours, and headed to separate airports and back to our families.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

What a fabulous trip! I feel like I was there, oh yeah, I was. Very descriptive. The food was really the best part. The rest was the rest. It was a surprise to find a street full of vendors and get a wonderful smoothie. Wish I could get fresh mango like that here. It was delicious.