Per Se (Food in New York — Part II)

When it came down to food, New York was full of more happy surprises this time around. I’m sorry to say that we barely made a dent in our list of places to eat while we were there. This means: we have to go back. But you aren’t shocked. And I like having lots of reasons to return.

As Dave would say, this is the view from 30,000 feet. I won’t subject you to a play-by-play on each and every course of each and every meal, with each and every wine this time. But I would be remiss not to mention that we paid a little visit to Per Se. That we even got a table was a miracle, but we did and with much anticipation and curiosity we arrived at Thomas Keller’s urban spin off of The French Laundry out in the Wild West. Located in the Time Warner Center, we were greeted by a blue door. Not to be confused with the blue door in Yountville (this one doesn’t actually open), it is but a nod to the inspiration behind the restaurant. We walked instead through the glass door and into a fantastic world of food and service. We expected a gorgeous restaurant, and it was. We expected amazing service, and it was. What was a surprise was the way in which everything was so relaxed. Instead of formal chairs, we were  seated side by side on a crescent-shaped bench for two, with pillows for lounging, facing large windows overlooking Columbus Circleand a dancing fire. Our server arrived to explain the wine list which was quite cutting edge being all on iPad and then the menu which changes daily: a chef’s menu and a vegetarian menu to choose from, both nine courses. Our first course arrived along with our server to explain: “Okay, so here’s the deal…” And so it was with warm California-style hospitality we were served course after lovely course of an incredible meal which was so artfully done and so easy to enjoy because the typical formality of such a place was missing. As for the food; well, it was delicate and it was decadent. A perfectly cooked “calotte de boeuf” was a discovery, and is best described by Dave:

Even when you order a prime rib or ribeye steak medium rare, there’s always the outside cap, which although nicely marbled and full of flavor, is inevitably well-done. Believing this should not be so, Thomas Keller roasts the ribeye cap (calotte de boeuf ) separately until medium rare. They are constantly innovating with the preparation, and ours came with bone marrow pain perdu (french toast!), young onions, romaine hearts, “Pomme Mousseline” and Borscht. The classic wine accompaniment for beef is Bordeaux or other Cabernet, but Brunello is a favorite red (and maybe THE favorite, if pressed), so we went with a 2006 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino, which was a pairing to remember.       

The meal finished, dessert done, we sat back to enjoy our coffees and catch our breath. But not so fast! Out came the Parisian style macaroons, the chocolate covered hazelnuts, the fresh buttery caramels wrapped and mounded together, and little striped candies of every color. Not to forget the truffles. I thought I might die of pleasure . . . and of pain! We ended the night by closing the place down at 1:30 in the morning and bid the wonderful staff of Per Se good night.

You would imagine that after a nine course meal ending in the middle of the night, one would never desire food again. But we were magically hungry for more the next day. Breakfast was early at aforementioned Sarabeth’s (a wonderful recipe inspired by that delicious breakfast will surface on this blog eventually). 

Then we had been missing our friend Eataly, so we headed back over for a late lunch of salumi, cheese, and sashimi style fish. Even at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Thursday, the place was bustling, and the food was again perfect in its simplicity. With the obligatory visit to the gelato stand on the way out, we said “ciao!” to Eataly.

We were looking to get off the beaten path for dinner that night, and headed down to Tribeca for dinner at The Harrison which was the perfect place to kick back, savor time with old friends, enjoy great food with a Mediterranean twist, and good wine. My appetizer was so fabulous that I’ll be sharing my take on that recipe very soon. We were a bit busy masquerading as “normal” people, so skipped out on pictures this time around — but check their site for a glimpse of the place. Or better yet, go for dinner or some small plates and wine.

And finally, we got wind that Daniel Boloud’s flagship restaurant Daniel does a pre-theatre three course prix fixe dinner. It didn’t take us much more convincing for our last night in town before our date with the NYC Ballet. The dining room is stunning, complete with Corinthian columns, and fine art. The food was wonderful, as to be expected, but the white asparagus flown in from France was exceptional — some of the best we’ve ever had. I couldn’t help but wonder why it had to come all the way from France, but then again, California isn’t so close to NY either. Anyway, Daniel was a great experience. Once again after coffees, we were deluged with a slew of confections, chocolates, and so on. Having had a similar experience at Per Se, we decided that such “grand finales” — reminiscent of the last hurrah in a fireworks show — must be trendy with the Michelin crowd just now. But after so many days of hedonism, I was maxing out. I could barely find the will to try more sweet treats, but then . . . the piping hot madeleines arrived.

They were bite sized, they were pulled from the oven seconds before, they were heavenly and absolutely addictive. I had one (because they were so cute!), and then two, and then three and before I knew it, I was scarfing down madeleines like it was my last hour on earth. I later read that Daniel features “Cocktails and Confections” at their bar which showcases their basket of hot madeleines, petit fours, chocolates plus your dessert and a drink all for $25 per person (Mon-Thurs after 9:30 p.m.). I would do that in a heartbeat and hope that day isn’t too far away. The only thing that could drag me away was knowing the curtain call was a few short minutes away, and so ended this chapter of food for us. New York, until next time!

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10 Responses to Per Se (Food in New York — Part II)

  1. MB says:

    mmmmm – Thanks for the armchair travel experiences, Stephanie! It all sounds so divine!! Looking forward to seeing the recipes you have developed from all this inspiration!!

  2. rita says:

    What a stimulating adventure! A delicious way to “seize the day” and night!

  3. Tío says:

    Going to Daniel’s on Thursday!

  4. Stephanie says:

    Sally — it appears that it may be just as much fun to work at Eataly as it is to eat there!
    Adam — HOORAY! Would love a follow up report on your night at Daniel.

  5. Tio says:

    The madeleines- If there was ever to be something that existed within the world of food that defied its own material existence by surpassing the sensational capacity of the human mouth only because of its superior quality in flavor and texture, it would have to be these madeleines. They are not to be recognized as “food.” Food is what you eat when you are hungry. Food is a necessity. These madeleines, are individual experiences gifted unto you, from God, as cherished gifts in life.

  6. Stephanie says:

    So — Adam — you liked the madeleines? ha! ha! CANNOT wait to read YOUR post on your evening at Daniel, etc.! (Btw — so glad someone else understands why I had to use the word “scarf” to describe how I ate these).

  7. Tio says:

    Just had the lemon ricotta pancakes! Magnificent! Absolutely the best pancakes in the world. So thick and sensational, masterfully flavored. Best ever. Yum. Yum. Yum. Crazy yum!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Adam — YES. Lemon ricotta pancakes is right. So glad you enjoyed Sarabeth’s!

  9. Pingback: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes | The Triangle Plate

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