January 18, 2016

A New Year Do-Over

I’m not one for huge New Year celebrations. At least not those of the raucous and over-the-top variety. Smaller celebrations and more intimate parties are my preferred way to ring in the New Year; enjoying the company of those nearest to me preferably with the inclusion of a nice meal and well mixed drinks. Being in New York City over the festive and holiday season I was of course asked if I would be in Times Square for New Years Eve and I really cannot think of one place I’d rather not be at that time. At the best of times I don't rather enjoy Times Square!

Even in consideration of what did end up going down on New Years Eve, I'd still not have a Times Square ball drop at the top of my list. Without divulging too much of the specifics, of course to protect the identity (or perhaps more appropriately, the dignity) of the unfortunate party, most of my New Years Eve and the early hours of the first day of 2016 were devoted to the care of two badly cut fingers. Unfortunate though fortunate they were not my own fingers. When it comes to the sharp blades of a mandolin, man will lose every time, and of course man will blame woman (that being me) for the inattention that caused said fingers to fall victim to the blades.

Some of you are likely squeamish when it comes to tales of blood and other gory things, so I will hold back on the imagery but let’s just say I have never in my life seen so much blood! While concerned over the injury and how nothing seemed to quell the free flow of blood, I was also silently cursing that the spotless bathroom that I had cleaned earlier that day in anticipation of starting the new year with the apartment being all fresh and clean now had big splotches of blood all over the tiled floor and even the bathroom mat. Together we cobbled a makeshift dressing and made it to a friend’s party just in time for the countdown, and I do mean just in time. As I walked into the door, twenty seconds were left to the countdown at Times Square which was being shown on the TV.

We made it to the countdown, passed out the obligatory good wishes and then left for the hospital. A tetanus shot, a lesson in wound dressing and a few hours later we were done and discharged with only a couple hours of sleep to be had before we had to prepare for the dinner party that we had invited a few people to later that evening. Talk about great timing.

By the end of the first night of the new year, everyone was well fed and I had washed more dishes in one night than I probably would in a week. Having two cut fingers certainly does get a person out of a few chores. I rolled into bed exhausted, thanking my lucky stars that tomorrow night there would be no dishes to wash or any time at all needing to be spent in the kitchen because we had a much anticipated reservation at one of the best restaurants in the city. It was to be the perfect do-over for a slightly catastrophic ushering in of the new year.

Depending on who you ask or what list you consult, you could say that Eleven Madison Park is the best restaurant in New York City. It has three of those highly sought after Michelin stars, currently sits at number five on the San Pellegrino Top 50 list and of that list, it is the highest ranked restaurant in North America. Impressive stats. Offering a tasting menu, it was an almost four hour heavenly dining experience. As you would expect of such an awarded restaurant, the dishes were all impeccably created from the concept, to the taste, to the techniques through to the plating. The service was perfection. Highly attentive as you would expect but far from intrusive, which is what you want.

I won't even attempt to put into words or describe the composition and execution of each dish. What I will say is that it surely was an exceptional evening. Without a doubt, it is a costly night out but if you love your food and appreciate the sheer talent and mastery of chefs that are on top of their game, you will not be disappointed. I believe we were served fourteen dishes in total and I lamented that by the end I was actually quite so stuffed that I could not completely finish the last couple of dishes despite how delicious it all was. The duck was superb and I even had to fob off the last little forkful. Sometimes people scoff at tasting menus, despite the multiple courses, due to each dish being on the small side but it definitely all adds up in the end. After all, one of us had to undo the last buttons on their shirt...and it wasn't me.

Stand out dishes of the evening included the smoked salmon sabayon we were served as our second course. Superbly airy and frothy with an unbelievable flavour of the smoked salmon infused throughout. The restaurant's interpretation of the classic eggs benedict wowed. Served in a gorgeous little tin, the creamy hollandaise sauce sitting atop caviar and quail egg. The beautiful, beautiful duck which was shown to us tableside as a whole bird before taken back to the kitchen to be carved. Covered in a spice rub and festively stuffed with lavender flowers into its backside, it was just gorgeous. Lastly, one of our sweet courses which was on one side a serving of a delicious late harvest riesling and on the other side, a deconstructed dessert embodying all the flavors of the riesling. I could not believe how perfectly they pulled this one off. The sweet almond flavors of the riesling which ended with a hit of gingerbread (yes, actual gingerbread!) was recreated in this perfect quenelle of almond icecream and gingerbread crumbs. It was bliss.

As a final treat, the night ended with a game of guessing the milk used in making four different bars of Mast Brothers chocolate. Despite my penchant for chocolate, I let myself down this time and ol' Edward Scissorhands walked out the triumphant winner with all guesses correct.

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