10 August 2009

a dinner at: Eleven Madison Park

Five hours: the time we spent transitioning from one divine taste to the next.

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of taking dinner with M at Eleven Madison Park. The vaulted ceilings, christening lights and soft foliage offered a encouraging commencement to our evening. M took the initiative to order a half bottle of Puligny Montrachet (1997) for sipping while considering the menus we might venture through. Very few Chardonnay grapes agree with my palate: however, the creamy element of the Puligny secured my affection. For amuse bouche, we nibbled: sweet breads, foie gras with tart strawberry compote, mini onion tarts and cucumber with salmon & dill.

We decided that the Tastes of Summer Prix Fixe ($125ea) with wine pairings ($95ea) would compliment our shared interests. Having caught wind of my adoration of foie gras, M took the thoughtful initiative to request an additional plate with appropriate wine pairing (for a supplement).

For our first course, we peered into a pristine white sea urchin shell- which revealed a vibrant orange Sea Urchin Cappuccino. Light and spiked with plump pieces of crab, the dish complimented the Japanese Sake's well defined green apple notes.

In a well choreographed dance- we placed our spoons down, waiters swooped in, and with a blink revealed our second plate: two porcelain spoons with orbs: one creamy, one clear. The waiter carefully addressed our curious eyes, explaining that the orbs were molecular gastronomy versions of buffalo mozzarella and tomato. Having not experienced this particular preparation before, I paused before slipping the first orb in my mouth. With a light pressure from my tongue, the sphere exploded with an intense, natural flavor. While both were delicious, I favored the tomato.

We interluded with a bread course: two petite baguettes for me, and the same for M, with the addition of an olive bread (the waiter has taken note at the beginning of the meal that I wasn't so much a fan of black olives). To dress the loaves, we were offered an unsalted butter from Vermont and a sheep's milk butter from California.

Oh my goodness: the Heirloom tomato course. The plate consisted of an outstanding line up including a superb foam over cherry tomatoes in a cool dressing, a dense slice with a curious texture and the ingenue- tomato sorbet with granola. A Rose from Provence offered brilliant compliments to each taste we explored.

The Organic Rabbit Terrine came next, and in a portion a bit too rich to finish. Three types of cherries (Rainier included), pickled onions and grilled pistachio bread offered a fine balance to the dense rabbit. We sipped on a dry Riesling and prepared ourselves for the next temptation.

Foie Gras: you are my sinful lover. I like to take my time with you. Small bits- pushing around on my tongue. Plums dressed the plate, lending a tarty refuge. M admitted his belt was tightening, joking that he'd be undoing a few notches to prepare for the remaining courses.

We transitioned to a gorgeous full tail of Newfoundland lobster- poached and nestled in a light sauce of buttery ratatouille. A tender, juicy tail- much superior to the one at Bouley- marked excellence with hints of lemon verbena and Saffron.

Segue to the perfectly pink lamb chop settled before me. Accompanied by jus and picholine olive orbs. The meat acted with tender affection in my mouth.

We decided on a cheese course, rather than the assigned dessert. All were gorgeous, pungent and suiting to the aggressive Cognac on the table. Macrons were also offered, M asked to have some wrapped for me to take home. With a quick nod, she settled us.

Eleven Madison Park is the idyllic New York Dining experience. It's not something that I need often, but a pleasant evening that lingers in your mind for some time.

Gorgeous update from Frank Bruni.

Images: Bloomberg, Food City Bites, Wined & Dined.

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