As if we had not eaten enough during our trip to upstate NY, we had to run up to NY for an event last weekend and I arranged for our third Relais et Chateaux experience
last week at the uber-gourmet ELEVEN MADISON PARK (elevenmadisonpark.com) where Will and I agree, we had the best meal we have ever eaten in NYC.
We entered the huge high ceilinged hall and at first I worried about noise levels, but we settled in and stared at the interesting menu with 20 words (each a main ingredient) on it.
We had no one real server, here the three Michelin star team work as a whole guaranteeing flawless and seamless service; nothing was missed.
Eleven Madison Park may not get a "29" for food from Zagat, but it does rate 28/28/28 making the decor and service combine to create a level of fine dining one can rarely experience
as a whole elsewhere!
We pondered the menu with its four leaves at the top (one looking a bit like a rearend with an serrate edge!) and were told these are the four leaves that appear in the trees in the park across
the street. There is an option for 4 courses for $125 or a tasting menu of 8 courses for $195. Accompanying wine pairings for all courses are $95 and $125 respectively). well that was a no brainer and
we ordered a glass of champagne each:
Will chose the Ledru Cuvee du Goutte Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru 2007 with huge yeast tones from its aging and vintage and I went with the more brut Bereche et Fils Brut Resevre N/V.
The water is filtered in house and the sparkling was soft and subtle-great for digestion.
Each course shall be noted with an all-CAPS heading which is the ingredient name from the menu.
Amuse #1 -arrived as Nicole brought us a box tied with a ribbon and explained it was a savory take on the traditional Black & White Iced cookie of the past, but here the cookies were more biscuit like with a parmesan
cream filling. The black and white icings being truffle flavored. OK, we were in heaven and from here it just got even better!
Amuse #2 -TOMATO-was a Parmesan Lavosh that came in its own vertical holder. Poured at table from an elaborate pot was Tomato Tea over Lemon Thyme with a "bouquet garni" style tied twig of Raffia (sp?), some type of hay.
The tea was a tasty, salty consomme with lots of tomato flavor that got our palates in a tingly tizz.
Amuse #3 -MACKEREL & SCALLOP-was a paired arrangement wtih Mackerel on Horseradish Chip with Lemon Gel, Mustard Citrus Vinaigrette, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Grated Horseredish and leaves of Lamb's Quarter (a local herb from Brooklyn!) AND
Scallop Chip (think shrimp chip from Chinese restaurant) with Sesame Puree, Sashimi Scallop, Lemon Yuzu Gel, Pickled Daikon and Maki Rainbow Sorrel. This was probably my favorite amuse as the textures were
all so different and melded into one mouthful of flavor explosion.
Amuse #4 -YOGURT & CHICKPEA-(you might wonder when these would end?)-Again a pair of items : Chickpea Panisse which was deep fried (like a kibbe) with yogurt dill and orange AND
a Frozen Greek Yogurt Lollipop with fried lentils and curry. The pops stood upright in a vase filled with lentils to keep them from falling over--INGENIOUS. The yogurt tasted like frozen salted butter
as the curry invaded the yogurt.
Amuse #5 -TROUT ROE-was a Marinated Trout Roe with Dashi, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, pickled Zucchini with Zucchini Bavaroise (think mousse made from heavy cream and gelatin), Watermelon Snow and Yogurt-Yuzu Snow which were
in dried powder form atop.
You might wonder what we were drinking through all these "amuse"-ments, and the fact is that Cedric, the super sommelier, kept filling our champagne glasses; never did we have an empty wine glass, making the experience even better.
For the first course of the tasting menu Cedric asked if we liked beer, so Will volunteered to have the Ithaca "ALPHALPHA" Ale from upstate NY which he said was super yeasty in taste but intensely fruity in the nose. I adored the Patrick Piuze Vaucoupin Chablis Premier Cru
2009 from Burgundy. I should note that each wine was carefully poured in the Riedel Crystal in advance of each course, so we could taste and savor it a bit prior to combining it with the food. Of course, if our glass neared empty, an extra pour was always
#1-CLAM- was an homage to the clambake and a major presentation in itself. A large ironclad bowl full of hot stones came with an hibachi-like grill in the center, an iron teapot atop this. A bowl of Clam Succotash with Seabeans, Corn, Chorizo and Tomato Snow
was presented first along with a piece of Zucchini Bread wrapped in a corn husk "tamale" style. Hot sea water and kelp was poured on the stones which steamed and sizzled and heated the pot atop which contained a divine Corn & Tomato chowder which followed.
We knew if the presentations continued like this we might be here until 3am, but it was FUN with great care and love for the ingredients as well as the show.
Swirl buns (looking like a cinnamon roll) made from Cayuga (where we had just been in Upstate NY) flour were flaky and tasty-think Pillsbury flaky biscuits improved 1000% were served with Goat's milk OR Cow's butter and a small dish of Long Island Seas Salt which was really tasty but not needed.
#2-COUSCOUS-came with smoked tomato, Various leaf herbs(basil, dill, etc), Compressed Watermelon, Greek Yogurt in a mozarella-form ball (Labneh) with dehydrated olive. Again flavors reigned supreme and we marveled nonstop.
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2011 from Provence made from Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault was a perfect foil to the acidity from the tomato and watermelon!
#3-FOIE GRAS-I asked Cedric why he chose a Pichler-Kreutzler Gruner Veltliner Loibner Klostersatz from Wachau in Austria for this dish. We have enjoyed sweet wines and even heavy reds with Foie Gras, sometimes a semi-sweet Riesling. He said the blackberry compote
needed something dry, but this was the only place on the entire menu where I disagreed with him. The Foie Gras was superb and marinated in Nepitella (an Italian "mint-oregano" herb) with a blackberry compote, Nepitella Mousse & Blackberry Meringue. Yes, lots going on here and the dish was sublime indeed. Lately many folks have gone off Foie Gras; this would bring anyone back!
We laughed as one of the guys cleared the crumbs from our table and he affectionately called himself the "crumber." Everyone here has a purpose and does their job well, everyone is friendly and indeed we always felt welcome.
#4-CORN-Here was where the wine was a dream come true. We told Cedric that we like Rieslings bone dry and he came through with the Trimbach, Cuvee Frederic Emile 2005 Alsace. Will is not a Riesling lover, although our recent Finger Lakes/Niagara foray has
opened up his taste buds. Well, we both asked for big seconds on this fantastic 7 year old white that drinks like creamy (yet dry) nectar. Roasted & Smoked Corn compromised this plate with roasted Chanterelles, Pickled Chanterelles, Chanterelle Puree a Greek Lime Yogurt with Dried Lime Zest. The menu we have says blueberries (but I don't recall those) and a broth of Lapsong Souchang Tea to bind the dish. As you can imagine this bone dry Reisling was indeed perfect with this miraculous dish.
#5-LOBSTER-I adore lobster and the tail poached in butter was cooked just to rare in a with grilled Avocado, a crust of Amaranth and a hint of mint, but finished with a Lemon Verbena Emulsion. It was one of the best lobster dishes I can remember in decades.
Add to this the Maison Deux Montille, Vireuil MERSAULT 2008 and you have perfection. Indeed, if there were not more, I would have asked for a second portion!
#6-VEAL-came in many forms: Roasted with Summer Beans Violet Mustard & Savory, Sous-Vide Tongue was sublime with the mustard. Sweetbreads were caramlezied and almost candied textured and t was all finished with a Bordelaise & Bone Marrow Sauce.
This dish used so many different aspects of the name, that it could have been five or six dishes! Paired with an earthy (needed the food for sure) Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino 2005 from Tuscany that begged for the heavy ingredients.
Our "crumber" returned this time with an antique iron travel iron that had been heated and proceeded to iron out the creases in our tablecloth; OK, I was impressed, but could not suppress a giggle.
#7-CHEVRE-a tart Domaine aux Moines Roche aux Moines Savennieres 2010 from the Loire was a tart Chenin Blanc that worked with the Meridian Chevre Rainbow Ridge from Bedford Hills, NY just north of NYC.
The soft goat has an ash rind and is aged only several weeks. It was served with green garlic puree, wild Tri-Cities Strawberries, (some of which were pickled) and a Pistachio & Summer Greens Salad. This was a cheese course
to remember, and all from within miles of NYC.
The end was nearing but a pre-dessert was in order as a team approached with a large cart to prepare their version of the EGG CREAM, one of NY's historic drinks. This was an orange version with cocoa nibs & Bronx Seltzer
#8-CHEESECAKE was made from Goat's Milk Cheese with Chamomile & Raspberry with Dehydrated Coconut....need you ask more?
#9-CHOCOLATE...yes they added extras (SURPRISE!) and the Milk Chocolate (we had specifically said we prefer milk to dark chocolate!) & Caramel Ganache came with Apricot Srobet & Foam as well as a crunchy cinnamon-y granola-like
topping with an adorable marshmallow and more of those cocoa nibs. The 1998 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes was 14 years old and should have retained less acidity, but perhaps it was not the best of vintages. It's beautiful rust color
made me yearn for a bit more sweet and less acid, but we still enjoyed our last "wine" as all the mignardises arrived:
First a box of Black & White cookies as a frame for the evening in the same box as the savory ones arrived in the start. They were QUITE sweet and I liked the Raspberry Filling, but they were not a touch on the Truffle ones from the start :-))
Chocolate BonBons, Popcorn & Peanut Brittle were more to my taste showing off the all-American flavors to their best.
We were then invited to see the kitchen, and I was quite shocked (I guess we owe you a big THANK YOU, Brenda?) as they took us in and showed us around. We were placed behind a small raised table and a sous chef approached with a huge vat of liquid nitrogen
and many ingredients only to explain that she would now prepare their take on the "Colony" a gin drink from the early 20th century made popular at the Colony in NYC. It was comprised of gin & cherries, but the twist here was the egg white was infused with gin and frozen into mergingue with the nitrogen. Pop rocks served as the sugar in the drink and the explosion of cold, sweet, gin and cherries in the mouth was a wonderful end to the evening, which in itself was a true explosion of local ingredients, great wines, super service and indeed the very best meal NYC surely has to offer anyone!