I’m sorry I haven’t posted much here lately. Mark has been kind enough to hold down the fort while I’ve dealt with some personal issues. To me, food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and when I’m sad, it just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s like trying to go to a party when you’re depressed. You know you’ll just sit there and have a miserable time, so you’d rather just stay home and watch movies in bed.
I’ve never been the kind of person who finds comfort in food, who eats to make herself feel better. Quite the opposite and just as unhealthy: when I’m unhappy, I stop eating. For weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to cook. My refrigerator was empty. I wouldn’t eat until three in the afternoon when I started to feel dizzy and faint because I was so hungry.
But the last 72 hours have been a food reawakening for me. My mother came to visit this weekend and knowing how depressed I had been, told me that her purpose was to love me and spoil me as much as possible and let me eat whatever I wanted. (This is a lot coming from an Asian mother, a rare, sometimes bizarre creature who, all the while stuffing you full of food, mercilessly criticizes your physique and gives you incisive pointers about where you need improvement.)
Saturday night, she, my brother and I went to Jean-Georges for dinner. There are a hand full of restaurants in the city that might be described as perfect. Nothing and no one in life, of course, is, but allowing for human error and the occasional misstep, Jean-Georges is one of those places where the service is impeccable and the food is divine and you want for nothing.
The only mistake was one that I made in ordering. My brother had the Jean-Georges menu, while I and my mother had the Spring Menu, which was composed of seasonal ingredients. Like the rest of the world, I was taken in by the idea of seasonal ingredients and I was also intrigued by the idea of mace-scented lobster in an ice wine reduction with fresh lychees.
I have a big bag of mace in my pantry. Several people have come over, picked up the bag and asked what it was for. I tell them I usually just mull wine with it. I would never think to “scent” lobster with it and I would probably be right.
Perhaps I’m too “in the box” with my thinking about lobster, but I want it to be cooked with something fresh, something bright. The mace just made it taste… musty. I felt like I was eating a beautiful lobster dish in someone’s grandma’s dusty old attic with the trace of her old lady perfume lingering in the air. (Pardon the iPhone pictures, by the way, I need to start carrying around a better camera)
The first few dishes on the spring menu seemed just as good as the Jean-Georges menu, but it started to became painfully clear that I had made the wrong decision. And while the asparagus with the morels in hollandaise sauce was quite good, I looked on enviously as my brother had a garlic soup with frog legs that were meant to be dipped in it.
While we had a rather mundane veal dish, my brother had squab with foie gras. That isn’t to say the spring menu wasn’t excellent, it just didn’t look or smell or sound as good as the Jean-Georges menu and if I had to do it over again, I would have chosen the latter. Basically, dish to dish, pound to pound, if you were to pit the Jean-Georges menu up against the spring menu, the Jean-Georges menu kicks its ass.
What I would recommend from the spring menu, however, are the caviar dish (with two perfectly cooked egg yolks and fresh dill) and the sashimi (with cilantro sauce and sour cherries).
Dessert was quite amazing. You pick a category: rhubarb, strawberry, caramel or chocolate and get a delightful plate of things made with that ingredient, sort of like Iron Chef. I had the strawberry.
The highlight was watching my brother take a shot of something that had a “caramel bubble” inside. My mother and I watched while he drank it slowly and all of a sudden, his eyes widened for a second and a smile appeared on his face. I wish I could show you his hand gestures for describing the experience. (“I thought it would be like this [abrupt bursting motion], but it was like this [slow, flowery, fluid, spreading motion]”)
And after dessert was done, they came around the tables with a jar of homemade marshmallows, which they take out with a pair of tongs and cut with scissors at the table. The flavors were rose, ginger and vanilla. Yummy. They were incredibly fluffy. You haven’t had marshmallows until you’ve had these. I snuck the ones we didn’t eat in the tiny bags of chocolate they gave us to take home.
All in all, a lovely experience. Click here for another food blogger’s take on the two menus from last year (with much better photos):http://yaokui.blogspot.com/2008/06/jean-georges.html
Yesterday night was a much different experience in a different part of town. My friends Chrissy, Steven and I went to DBGB, Daniel Boulud’s casual venture mere blocks away from the former home of the legendary rock club CBGB on the Bowery.
I used to live around the block and during the few years I lived there, what was once a real estate no man’s land, was suddenly home to Whole Foods and the Avalon high rise luxury rental complex. I’m not trying to make a statement about gentrification, as my living there was surely a sign that the area had long been gentrified.
I only mean to say the area has changed a great deal in recent years, so Daniel Boulud opening a burger joint on the Bowery might have seemed unthinkable several years ago, but makes perfect sense given the way the neighborhood, and let’s face it: the economy, has changed. A $19 burger still ain’t cheap, but it seems more plausible these days than a $25,000 closing dinner at Daniel.
First of all, it’s a great space. NY Mag posted photos before the restaurant opened. There’s nothing really like it in the area. Prune, one of the neighborhood’s gems, just down the street, can’t have more than eight tables.
The place was packed. It was a strange mix of older, gray-haired Daniel devotees and young downtown types, all enjoying themselves and the food. Steven and I shared the Vermont sausage which is a smoked pork & cheddar link, served with hash browns (more like a dense latke), red onion crème fraiche. Amazing! It was probably one of the best sausages I’ve ever had.
Steven, with his particular extreme high and low tastes, has a special place in his heart for Hilshire Farms cheddar lit’l smokies and in a fantasy world, if you were the type of nouveau riche billionaire who wanted the world’s best chef to recreate a dish like the one you loved when you were nothing but a poor boy in a trailer park, then this would be it. It is just bliss in the most comforting, nostalgic and just plain satisfyingly delicious way possible.
We also had the Piggie burger (w/ Daisy May’s pulled pork, jalapeño mayo, lettuce, Cheddar-cornbread bun with mustard vinegar slaw). Very tasty. In some other reviews, people said the mayo was very spicy, but I didn’t think so and ended up putting the jalapeño slice, which may or may not have been a garnish placed atop the bun, inside the burger and it was much better that way.
We also ordered a side of ratatouille, which was very good (and DBGB is probably one of the few places where you can order excellent ratatouille as a side dish to your burger.) For dessert, Chrissy and I shared an ice cream sundae with apricot, pistachio and marshmallows. Yum.
The real highlight of the evening (besides the cute guy in the navy sweater with whom I am sure I had a moment… are you reading this, Missed Connections?) was seeing silver fox super hottie chef of Le Bernadin, Eric Ripert, dining with Tom Colicchio (of Craft and the Head Judge of Top chef.) I was giggling like a school girl and didn’t think it could get any better when Daniel Boulud himself went by their table to say hello. Wow.
So, all in all, another really wonderful evening with good food and good company. Am I still sad? Sure, but how sad can a girl be when surrounded by such an amazing family, such incredible friends and the best food in the world?