The Road To Wrestlemania…I Mean Comic Con

Jews have Hanukkah, WWE fans have Wrestlemania, and I guess NFL fans have the Superbowl (and of course, those commercials).  But what do geeks and nerds have?  Well, they have a lot actually.  There’s Wondercon, Fan Expo, PAX, E3, the list goes on.  However, the granddaddy of them all is the San Diego Comic Con International.

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It’s the biggest nerdfest on the planet, and for me, it’s the happiest place on Earth, though I’m sure Disney would disagree.  Founded in 1970, San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) has grown from a three day event in the US Grant Hotel to a four day (five if you count preview night) extravaganza that fills the San Diego Convention Center and spills out into the neighbouring Hilton and Marriott hotels.  It is now the place to go for a network or company involved in anything related to nerd consumption (tv, movies, comics, action figures, etc.) to promote their product.  Comic Con is where you will find the first preview of things like the Iron Man movie, or the first screening of the recent CW series, Arrow.  At Comic Con, there are panels, autograph sessions, and of course, the Exhibition floor, where companies like Hasbro sell their products, and major broadcasting companies such as Fox, will hand out swag and organize limited signings from cast members of shows on their network, such as The Big Bang Theory.  San Diego, specifically the Gaslamp Quarter, has since embraced Comic Con and supported it. Pubs will paint pictures of Marvel heroes, and restaurants will have trivia in exchange for a discount coupon or some other deal.

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Comic Con also spills out into the streets.  The Hard Rock Hotel redecorates with movie posters.  Sy Fy took over the cafe at the Hard Rock Hotel and turned it into Cafe Diem from Eureka (when the show was still running at least).  Lou Mickey’s, a steahouse across the street, turns into the CNET recharging station, where you can recharge your tech, play some games, and have some free food (love their sliders).  It goes even farther, up to Market street, and right to Petco Park.

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In 2011, I was forunate enough to purchase a resale badge, and I lose my Comic Con virginity.  I’ll be a honest.  I’m a miserable person.  I’m rarely happy.  But at Comic Con, I’m like a starving glutton at a free Three michelin starred buffet.  The next year, in 2012, I had another opportunity to go to Comic Con.  Both times were great.  I got to meet actors like Robert Picardo (The Doctor on Star Trek Voyager), Lara Vandervoort (Supergirl on Smallville), Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop on Fringe), and those are just some of the people I got pictures with.  I saw Brent Spiner once.  Brent freakin’ Spiner!

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Once again, I managed to snag a presale badge for 2013.  And I will be returning to Comic Con for a second time (unless I can’t get the time off work).  It’s a total cliche, but in the following weeks leading up to Comic Con, I’ll write more entries on the topic, and I’ll provide my dos and don’ts, as well of course, restaurant recommendations.

Michelin Starred Kimchi, With Wine Pairing

Well, no, not really.  I didn’t have kimchi during my meal, and I didn’t order wine. “Wait, what the hell are you talking about?” you ask.  Jungsik is what I’m talking about.  The Michelin starred Korean restaurant (possibly the only one in the world) in Tribeca, specifically, the in space formerly occupied by the now closed Chantrelle restaurant.

When i was constructing my New York restaurant list, I browsed some of my go-to blogs.  And in doing so, I stumbled on the The Wandering Epicures’ blog entry about Jungsik.  It immediately caught my attention, and after reading their blog entry, I put Jungsik on the list, at a medium priority.  A Korean Fine Dining restaurant.  For me, it was new.  I was curious to see how it would be.

I made my way to the restaurant on the Red Line, and walked up from Chambers (no taxis for cheap ol’ me).  The hostess showed me to my table in the very white dining room (“very Korean” I thought).  My captain came over with the menu and explained the format.  The menu has five columns: Appetizer, Rice/Noodle, Fish, Meat, Dessert.  Each dish, with the exception of desserts, is offered in a tasting size as well as a full course size.  Alternatively, A ten course tasting menu is available.  I made my selections a la carte, and sat back, waiting, wondering how this meal would turn out.

DSC_8469Things got kicked off with an amuse: (clockwise from center) House-Made Tofu with Eggplant, Fried Chicken Burger, Crispy Rice Cake, Sweet Potato Crisp, Rice Cracker with Yuja (Koreans say yuja, not yuzu).  The tofu was delicious, and it was probably the best soft tofu I have ever had.  The crispy rice cake was a reference to tteokbokgi, spicy rice cakes served at street carts.  A version of this is served at Momofuku Ssam Bar, and I believe Momofuku Daisho in Toronto.
DSC_8470Three kinds of bread were offered with butter: raisin roll, rice sourdough, and olive ciabatta.  The Raisin roll reminded me a lot of the buns my eldest aunt would buy and serve for breakfast in her home when I spent time there.

DSC_8472Bibim, Tomato, Arugula Sorbet.  A play on bibimbap.  In this case, Chef Jungsik Yim (the restaurant is named after him) took the word “bibim” which means “to mix” and applied to the flavours of Tomato, Arugula, Romaine, and Potato.  The arugula was served as a sorbet, and the potato was fried  thin and crispy, which added a nice crunch to the dish.  While it didn’t evoke any memories, it was a great dish, and I thought to myself “a big bowl of this would be great in the summer”.

DSC_8475Spicy Ramyun, Pork Belly, Savory Broth.  Every Korean has had ramyun in their lives.  I remember having cup ramyun with my family during trips to White Rock and Tofino.  Every Korean (except the adopted ones) have a memory of ramyun.  Koreans consume the greatest amount of instant ramyun per capita….or so wikipedia says.  I would have to say though, that this was my favorite version of ramyun.  It hit all the notes.   If I wasn’t in a Fine Dining restaurant, I would have picked up the bowl and tilted it back.  My one complaint is the tableware bowl itself.  It was too narrow and high up that I couldn’t get my spoon in their for the last little spoonfuls of delicious broth.  One other thing that I need to mention, is their S.A.  Now, I use my right hand for my fork and my left hand for my knife, which is the complete opposite of almost everyone in the world.  Every time my cutlery is replaced, I watch and see if they would put the fork on the right side, and the knife on the left.  The S.A. took notice and placed the fork on the right side.  For me, it’s a bit of a big deal in the “details” department.  Moving on…

DSC_8482Smoked Pork Jowl, pickled ramp.  As I kept tasting the broth, it reminded me of something, until finally, at the end, once I had almost finished eating the dish, I realized what it was that was so familiar.  It was the pickled ramp broth, which reminded me of my mom’s pickled garlic scapes.

DSC_8483Galbi Ver. 2, Wagyu Short-Rib, Chestnuts.  Served with Red Pepper, Chow Fun (which they prefered to call rice noodle), and Jus.  The kitchen team scored the emotion/memory evoking hat trick as the streak of good food continued.  I did however, feel that the red pepper had no place in the dish.  When my captain asked how I liked the dish as he cleared the plate, I wasn’t sure if it was better than my mom’s or not.

DSC_8487Quince Trifle.  A play on Sujeonggwa, a (primarily) cinnamon flavoured drink, served after the savory meal.  In this case, Jungsik made a layered trifle consisting of (from top to bottom) vanilla, persimmon, cinnamon, and chestnut.

DSC_8491Green Tea Cremeux, Sweet Red Bean, Roasted Bean Ice Cream.  Deconstructed Patbingsu.  Simple as that, but done with finesse, and without sweet rice cakes.  Patbingsu is a Korean dessert consisting of shaved ice, sweet red bean, condensed milk, rice cakes, ice cream, and sometimes if not usually, cereal (like lucky charms, not frosted mini wheats).

DSC_8493Chocolate Pot De Creme.  My least favorite course.  It wasn’t bad, I’m just not huge fan of chocolate.

DSC_8498I was given three last bites to end my wonderful meal.  (left to right) Mugwart Financier, Chocolate Covered Mango, Ginseng Macaron.  The Macaron impressed me the most because of the balance achieved with the flavours.  It wasn’t overwhelming with ginseng, but it still had a strong presence, contrasted by the chocolate in the centre.

My fears had left me, and I was left happy, and hopeful for the future of Korean food at Jungsik.  It’s just a really great place to eat.  The food is fantastic, and if you’re Korean, or familiar with Korean food, you get that extra bit of pleasure from the memories their food will evoke.  The food at Jungsik, for me at least, is the food your mom would make if she were a classically trained chef.

Jungsik
2 Harrison Street
Manhattan, NY
http://jungsik.kr/#index

The Best Lunch Deal In Manhattan

When you think three michelin starred food, and the cost of it, you expect it to cost an arm and a leg….and maybe a kidney if you get wine.  But during lunch at Jean Georges (not Jean George Nougatine.  Make sure you go to the right one), you can have your marshmellow, and eat it too.

During my first trip to New York, I was so blown away by my lunch there that I made a return trip a week later (my captain even recognized me).  So, it was an obvious choice to return to Jean Georges for a second time.

I knew what I was going to order before I even crossed the US/Canadian border: Foie and Chicken.  The captain (thank gods he wasn’t French) took my order, and I waited for the fun to begin.

DSC_8313I was given a trio of amuse to start.  Squash Soup, Dashi, Parmesan Foam.  Beet, Toasted Rye, Pecan, Ricotta.  Tangerine with “snow”.  The soup was actually really good, and the dashi added a nice umami to the soup.

DSC_8317Three kinds were offered; Swedish Rye, Rye Sourdough, and Ciabatta, as well as a normal butter.

DSC_8314Foie Gras Brulee, Dried Sour Cherries, Pistachioes, White Port Gelee.  It was a small torchon with a bruleed disc of sugar and toasted brioche on the bottom.  It wasn’t as good as the first time, but it was still good.

DSC_8320Parmesan Crusted Organic Chicken, Artichoke, Basil and Lemon Butter.  The first time I had this dish, I met Jean Georges after the meal and asked him to put it on the menu at Market at Shangri La in Vancouver.  I never went to eat there because I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to make it exactly like the one in New York.  This time around, I had artichokes instead of salsify.  It worked well together, and the acidity from the lemon elevated the dish.

DSC_8325DSC_8329DSC_8324I opted to skip dessert.  An assistant captain came cover with the marshmellow cart and a small plate of chocolates.  i tasted a couple and asked for the rest to be packed up (for my hostel roommates) as well as a copy of the menu.

If you find yourself in New York, reserve a table.  To my knowledge, this is the cheapest three michelin starred meal you can have in the world.

Jean Georges
1 Central Park W, New York
http://www.jean-georgesrestaurant.com

Wylie Fun Time

The day following my return to Eleven Madison Park, I went to WD-50.  No, WD-50 is not the next gen. version of WD-40.  It stands for Wylie Dufresne (the name of the chef) and 50 Clinton street.  During my last trip to New York, I was surprisingly blown away by the food.  However, when you have such a high expectation in your head, there’s a greater chance of dissapointment.  However, this was not the case.  If anything, it was better.

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WD-50 offers two menus; a ten course Chef’s tasting, as well as a Five Course (as well as an amuse and mignardise) tasting menu “from the vault”; past dishes from their repetoire.  Also, they offer a two course prix-fixe menu at the bar for $25, and $15 for each additional course.  I chose to order the Full tasting menu, and let my server know about my seafood aversion, but she managed to talk me into having one seafood course.

DSC_8084I was given a copy of the menu so that I could follow along with the meal.  I didn’t like this.  I kind of hate it when a tasting menu has menu items on it.  It ruins the surprise and wonder of what’s to come.

DSC_8047The meal started off with Seasame flatbread.  Thin, crispy, messy and delicious, but not at all filling.

DSC_8053Then came the amuse.  Turnip with sunflower seeds and roasted red pepper.  Delicious.

DSC_8054This was my first substition.  I believe it was picled fennel with deep fried ricotta.  Yeah, deep fried ricotta.  It was amazing, and the best thing about that dish, but not to say that the rest of the dish wasn’t as good.

DSC_8058Pho Gras.  An obvious play on pho.  The broth was poured table side and i slide the torchon of foie gras into the broth, as well as the noodle.  It tasted nice, but I don’t like my foie gras in broth.  The crispy tendon was there for texture.

DSC_8062Bone Marrow, Potato, Pomegranate, Pepper Streussel.  The potato was cut, hollowed out, and confited into deliciousness.  I didn’t like the green purees.  It just tasted like raw spinach.

DSC_8064Veal Brisket, Apple, Mustard Wafer.  This was another substitution.  And it was freakin’ delicious.

DSC_8071Pinenut Cassoulet, boudin blanc.  I liked the idea of this dish, but there were too many bites of pinenut that it got to be too much.  Thomas Keller spoke of diminishing returns; after two or three bites, you kind of lose that “wow” factor.  That was certainly the case with this dish.  It was good, but after three or four bites, it got to be too much.

DSC_8073Pig’s Tail, Artichoke, Olive Oil Jam, Hazelnut.  This was an amazing dish.  The pig meat was bound together (probably by transglutaminase aka. “meat glue”) and fried.  The Hazelnut was a “cheese”.  It was emulsified and frozen, then grated.

DSC_8077Mediterranean Bass, Squash, Cherry, Juniper, Cous Cous².  My least favorite dish.  The flavours didn’t work for me.  The fish was cooked perfectly though.

DSC_8082Squab, Tomato Hummus, Pickled Turnip, Tzatziki.  The hummus deep fried and the tzatziki was a wafer.  It was a nice dish.  Not one of the most memorable ones, but certainly a good dish.

DSC_8086Flat Iron, Mushroom Jerky, Grape, Verjus.  The mushroom really was a jerky.  I don’t know how they did it, but I wish I could have a large bag of it as a snack.  I would say that this was probably my favorite, if not second to the Pig’s Tail.

DSC_8090Coconut, Cucumber, Pineapple, Chartruse.  My pre-dessert.  I could’ve done without the dice of pineapple hidden under the disc of cucumber juice, but all in all, it was great.

DSC_8094Walnut, Sweet Potato, Coffee, Plum Wine.  Meh.

DSC_8097S’mores, Bitter Cocoa, Meringue, Blackberry.  First off, that marshmellow is actually ice-cream.  This is probably one of the best s’mores you could ever have.

DSC_8099Beer, Malt, Pretzel.  I forgot what the red thing on the right was.  It was a perfect bite of sweet, savory, and beer.  I wish WD-50 would mass produce it and sell it.  Cause I would buy them like M&Ms.

Unfortunately, I am writing this blog almost a month after the meal, which is why I’ve forgotten a lot about my meal.  I can however, tell you that WD-50 should be on your list, and near the top of it.  The food was amazing and fun, and my server was so good, if I were a restauranteur, I would have tried to poach her her then and there (despite how douchey that’s considered to be).  So go make a reservation, and if need be, book a flight to New York, because you’ll have a great time there.

WD-50
50 Clinton St,
Manhattan, New York

The Layovers: D.C. and Toronto.

When I first planned my trip, I had only intended to go to New York and London.  But D.C. was so close, and I wanted to take some pictures, as well as go to the Smithsonian.  But most importantly, I wanted to eat.  Jaleo was there.  The original Jaleo.  The flight was cheap, so I thought, let’s go.  Turned out to be a good experience, but I didn’t budget it.  Good thing was that I had plenty of money to cover it (I stress the past-tense, sadly, but worth it).

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I like to fly overnight, if not early.  That way, I don’t waste the day flying.  So, the night before my flight, after a late dinner at Cafe Boulud (review to come), I packed my things and then joined some of my new found hostel friends at a nearby pub for a drink.  I stayed up all night because I was afraid I might miss my alarm if I slept.  I paid for that later.  I fell asleep easily on the shuttle bus to the airport, but things got a little worse.  I fell asleep at the airport (unintentionally of course.  Thank god my things didn’t get stolen).  i ended up waking up 10 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart.  I woke up to the sound of the PA calling my name.  I ran to the gate, and barely managed to make it to the plane.

I made it to D.C. and I took a bus and metro (beautiful stations) to my hostel.  After dropping off my things, I took a taxi to “Spike” Mendelson’s “Good Stuff Eatery”.  After lunch, I walked my way through the national mall, making a quick detour to the national archives, around capitol hill, straight through the Smithsonian Institute, past the Washington monument and reflecting pool, finally stopping at the Lincoln Memorial.

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The next day was more of the same.  The national mall is someting that requires probably three days and one night to see.  I only visited the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum, and the Museum of American History, where I got to see Julia Child’s kitchen.  It was there that I also found a great deal.  A Jaques Pepin cookbook valued at $40 was on sale for $15.  I didn’t plan on buying books, but that was a steal.

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I spent the early morning shooting photos of the sunrise.

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And my last night shooting long exposure shots

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Then it came time to say goodbye.  My time in DC was over.  It was time to go to Toronto.  Now I would never go to Toronto.  There was nothing that really appealed to me, other than the fact that I have friends there.  They were the only reason to go. I didn’t even have restaurants planned.  The journey to Toronto was easier, but more of a headache.  My flight was delayed by at least an hour because the airport was incapable of properly de-icing the plane.  However, but the time they de-iced the plane, the temperature was above freezing, and the de-icing fluid was at that point, unecessary (all that for nothing…).  I seem to have a light case of “The Travelling Ivon”.

I wish I had more money…so that I can just get a $50 cab to my locations.  Travelling with heavy luggage is not fun.  It’s a little awkward too.  Toronto was a blur.  3 days and 3 nights seemed more like 2 days.  I got in touch with people I know there and made plans.  But, to quote Jayne from Firefly, “what [I] plan and what takes place ain’t ever been similar”.  Plans got pushed, restaurants were left unvisited, time was wasted.

I gotta say though.  Once you get over the size of the Eaton Centre mall, you get over it and realize that it’s not all that special.  It’s just another mall.  My friend, who works at the Oliver and Bonacini company, hooked me up with a tour of their catering and production space within what I believe was The Bay tower.  it’s a giant space.  It’s big enough to supply a hotel.  It’s bigger than the Olympic Athlete’s village.

I found myself in the Kensington Market area the next day.  I expected it to be indoors and kind of organized like the St. Lawarence Market, but it wasn’t.  It was like someone took the food shops of a hipster-ish neighbourhood and compressed them into a 1 car lane alley-street.  Cool, and hipster, but, not really my thing.  I made my way back to my hostel through Chinatown, picking up a mediocre banh mi and chinese baked goods along the way (Oh Maxims and T & T, how I miss you).

I never expected to like Toronto, possibly due to a rivalry bias against the city since I’m from Vancovuer, but, I honestly might move to Toronto one day for 3 seasons of work.  I hate the idea of spending time in Toronto during the summer, so, go there in the Fall, and the leave at the end of spring.  Toronto, DC, hopefully, I’ll see you both again.

Travel update

It’s been a while, I know.  i’ve been busy eating, shooting, drinking (really should’ve had a budget for that), walking (my feet could use some physio), and according to a rumour, having sex in the bathroom of a hostel with a cute girl (wish that was true). 

Restaurant reviews will come soon.  Once I get to London, things will slow down a bit for me, and I should have more time.  But hey, at least I have a lifetime (unless the internet dies first from some sort of apocolypse like Revolution or H+ or of course a zombie apocolypse) to write my blog :).  Joe, I don’t know how you do it, especially when you travel. 

Boarding now…I’ll update again

New York Cuisine

When the judges on Top Chef say that they see a chef’s soul on the plate, I never really understood what they meant by that.  That was the case until my return to Eleven Madison Park.  In my previous visit, they had only one Michelin star (I didn’t understand why.  They were clearly at the three Michelin level at the time) and it had been less than six months since they had changed to the grid menu.  Since then, they announced that they would do away with the (controversial) grid menu and serve a multi course tasting menu.  Like always, people were split on the idea.  This time, Eleven Madison Park wanted to showcase New York, and in my opinion, they did just that.  Be warned.  If you intend to go to Eleven Madison Park before at least the summer of 2013, do not read it.  It will spoil the surprise.  Just know that it is worth the money, and that you will have a great time.  Also,  if you’re with another person, get the duck.

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After misreading the time, I realized I had only an hour to get to Eleven Madison Park.  There was also a super snow storm that was supposed to hit the city.  I was determined not to miss this meal.  It was the meal I was looking forward to most, and there wasn’t a power in the ‘verse that could stop me from eating at Eleven Madison Park.

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Once I arrived, I was asked to wait at the bar as the service team was still having their pre-service meeting, which they concluded with a loud, unified “oui”.  Once at the table, a captain explained that it was a tasting menu and asked if I had any allergies.  I notified him of my aversion to seafood.  I’m simply not a fan.  It’s like Daniel Boulud and bananas.  I wish I enjoyed seafood, but, it’s still a grey area that I’m trying to explore.   Also, as I was in a bit of a rush, I had left my pen and notebook in my hostel room, and so, I was not able to write down the details of the dishes, and am replying on memory and photographs to recount my lunch.

CHEDDAR
Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple

PEAR
Gelee with Shattered Foie Gras

BEET
with Goat Cheese and Cranberry

CELERY ROOT
Custard with Apple, Celery, and Chervil

SQUASH
Sabayon with Ginger and pumpkin Seed Oil
Smoked Dumpling Squash, Everything Bagel Crumble
Pickles, and butternut Squash Caviar

BREAD
Butter and “Beef Butter”

SALSIFY
Roasted with Bulgur Wheat, Mangalitsa Ham, and Hazelnuts

CARROT
Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments

POTATO
Baked with Lime Cream and Shallots

GUINEA FOWL
Roasted with Cabbage, Apple, and Quinoa

BEEF
Grilled with Mushrooms, Amaranth, and Dandelion Greens
Braised Oxtail with Foie Gras and Potato

GREENSWARD
Pretzel, Mustard, and Grapes

MALT
Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer

MAPLE
Bourbon Barrel Aged with Milk and Shaved Ice

EARL GREY
Sheep’s Milk Cheesecake, Honey, and Lemon

PRETZEL
Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt

CHOCOLATE
Sweet Black and White Cookie with Apricot

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The meal started with a white box, which, once opened, revealed a black and white cookie made of cheddar with apple.  It reminded me very much of a ritz cracker with the artificial cheese you could get in packs.  I do mean this in a good way.  Food always bring up different memories and emotions for people.  In my case, it happened to be ritz crackers and cheese.

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Next, a cook came out of the kitchen and presented this dish.  Pear gelee with pear, foie gras, and mint.  When I took a bit of each component and tried it, it was wonderful.  The gelee also had pockets of acid which, along with the mint, elevated the dish to another level in complete harmony.

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A classic pairing that Eleven Madison Park serves is beet and goat cheese.  Before the grid change, Chef Daniel Humm would serve it in two separate .  This time, the beet was served as a frozen “rubble” with the goat cheese underneath.  Dried cranberries added a tart element to the this.

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Surprisingly, CELERY ROOT was quite amazing.  It was served as a custard, with a green apple espuma, and celery root dice.  The dice of celery root, which I believe was cooked in butter…was freakin’ delicious.

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I was presented with an egg shell filled with Squash Sabayon, with pumpkin Seed oil in the bottom.  I mixed the delicious sabayon with the seed oil which gave it a nice nuttiness.   I was told that it was an introduction to my next course, which left me wondering what it might be.

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The same female captain came out with a glass dome containing smoke, and another runner or two  came out with the rest of the components of the dish.  I was also presented with a tin of butternut squash “caviar” (brunoise of squash), rye crisp, everything bagel crumble with quail egg, baby romaine and picked onion, and two kinds of pickles.  Before lifting the dome, she explained the history of smoked salmon bagels, referencing to Murray’s Bagel.  She lifted the glass which revealed two pieces of squash on a little grill rack above blackened wood. I wish there was more of the rye bread. It was really great.  While I may not have had salmon, it was easy to see the connection.

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Once my plates had been cleared, Zack, one of the Maitre’Ds of Eleven Madison Park, invited me for a tour of the kitchen, leading me through the Service room, into a place against the wall (a great view of the kitchen in service), where a pastry cook made what was essentially a cherry coke.

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Zack and I spoke about my previous visit to EMP, as well as the possibility of the Shackburger being a possible course in the future. Once i finished my cocktail, I was led back to my table, where two butters were waiting for me. Two rolls of bread were dropped on the table. They were like croissants without the flakiness. They were buttery and delicious. The captain explained that the “beef butter” was rendered fat from the ribeye. they serve. I only had about three bites so that I wouldn’t fill up.

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SALSIFY was one of the dishes that I could not connect to New York.  perhaps it wasn’t meant to, or perhaps it was just my limited knowledge of New York.  It was a nice dish, but nothing mind-blowingly good.

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A cook came by and locked in a grinder onto the table and left. It was obvious that the carrot tartare was next.

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This was, surprisingly, my favorite course.  A cook came out of the kitchen with the carrot, while a food runner carried the board and components and toasted bread to my table.  As the cook ground the carrot at the table, he explained this is the best carrot they could get, and that they sourced it from a local farmer in New York.  Once the carrot was ground and spooned onto my board, I was instructed to mix the tartare with the components to my liking.  I tried the carrot by itself before mixing in the rest of the ingredients on the board, and it was magical.  It was the best carrot I have ever had.  When I mixed in the rest of the ingredients and tried it, it truly was like a tartare.  When I first read about this dish, I was skeptical, but now, I’m a believer, and it left me wanting more.  Later on, when I spoke with Dining Room Manager, Adam Smith, I told him how much I loved the dish, and that if I dine at Eleven Madison Park again during my trip, I will be asking to sacrifice a course in order to have a double portion of the carrot tartare.

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While not all dishes during the meal were fully explained to show its connection to New York, there were some dishes that made it obvious.  POTATO was an obvious play on a baked potato.  The skin was baked into a crispy chip, and the potato was served baked with olive oil and lime cream.  At the time, I did not realize that the lime cream was meant to be the “sour cream” in the dish, but, now I realize it.  I had a texture problem with the dish.  The potato skin was baked so I had a slightly difficult time chewing it.  HAD it been fried, it would’ve been easier to eat, but then it would not be a baked potato.

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While I was waiting for my next course, a cook came out with a big piece of ribeye.  He explained that it was a 140 day (locally) dry-aged ribeye that the Chef had selected through countless tastings.  Then he took it back to the kitchen to be cooked. (No, I did not get to eat all of that).

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Next came the GUINEA FOWL.  At first I thought it was pork because of the beautiful golden brown crispy skin, but, it was not the case (when the captain explained the dish).  It was served with Quinoa and Braised purple cabbage.  It was a really nice dish.  The cabbage went perfectly with the Guinea Fowl.

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The Beef, like the Squash before it, was served in two “courses”.  First came a broth of beef, which I found to be overwhelmed by celery, but it was still good.  It was glossy, as if I was drinking a diluted beef demi glace.

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Next came the actual beef dish itself, as well as a layered side of Oxtail, Foie Gras, and Potato.  The side dish was very rich (as expected) and could have been a course on its own.  The beef was great.  When you think of New York food, steak comes to mind, and they basically just served a tasting portion of a great, juicy steak.  Served with it was Maitake mushrooms, cooked beautifully, as well as a small, fatty piece of beef which I was believe was likely to be on the bone.  That little morsel was actually my favorite part.

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One, if not one of many great things of not knowing the menu ahead of time during a tasting menu, is the element of surprised.  For example, my cheese course, a picnic basket which was brought out and placed in front of me by my captain, who instructed me to open it and set it up, as if I was having a picnic (by my lonely ol’ self).

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I reached in, set my “placemat” and then pulled everything out one by one.  The plate was actually porcelain, made to mimic a paper plate used at any pizza by the slice shops.  the mustard, was actually a very sweet and delicious squash mustard.  The wooden box, once opened, revealed a lightly warmed, creamy cheese.  The captain returned and poured a French apple cider (I will have to pick up a bottle for myself soon) while explaining everything.  He also joked that I should stay inside for the picnic as it was snowing at the time.  This was my second favorite course, but, it had the biggest “wow factor”.  This was a perfect example of the words that hang in the kitchen: Cool, endless reinvention, inspired, forward moving, fresh, collaborative, spontaneous, vibrant, adventurous, light, innovative.

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My captain came over with a cart next.  As he began to make the drink, he told me about the “Egg cream”, a drink of New York origin, containing neither cream, nor egg.  It was essentially a vanilla malt flavored “milk soda”.

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My first dessert course was one that was familiar to Canadians, specifically, Québécois.  I was presented a dish of ice, and the captain explained the process of how maple syrup would be reduced and poured over ice, which then the children would roll up into a taffy.  I remembered learning about it in French class back in school, but never tried it myself.  She then drizzled some maple syrup over the ice, which then I mixed and ate.  It took me back to my Korean roots, reminding me of a modern dessert called Patbingsu. It was nice, but, it was nothing compared to the lemon dessert I had in my previous visit (page 300, Eleven Madison Park cookbook).

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My final dessert was New York Cheesecake.  It was an airy sheep’s milk cheesecake (like an espuma, if not that) with a little quenelle of Earl Grey ice cream.  I am not a fan of cheesecake, but it was awesome, this is my favorite cheesecake.   It didn’t just taste like a cheesecake, it tasted like the best, yet light, cheesecake you could ever have.  It is also, to quote WWE Superstar, C.M. Punk, the “Best in The World”.

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Two last bites were presented with the bill: Chocolate covered pretzel with sea salt, and another Black and White cookie, this time with milk and chocolate, bringing the meal to a full circle close.   I requested a copy of the menu, as well as a copy of the label of the French Cider.  When the captain returned, he brought out a bag with a jar of granola inside, as well as a copy of the menu, and a note with the label of the cider.

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Before leaving, I spoke with Adam again, and told him that as soon as I got back to my hostel, I would ask if anyone would like to join me for a lunch at Eleven Madison Park.  I wanted to return, and with someone else so that I would be able to get the duck.  It wasn’t a perfect meal, and my mind wasn’t blown every single course, but it was still great, and worth every penny.   Eleven Madison park achieved what they had set out to do: capture and present the soul of New York.