My birthday and Rocky’s are eight days apart. We’ve made a habit of making the celebrations span a few weeks. Last month, between our birthdays, on a beautiful February Sunday, we celebrated with an outstanding lunch at Eleven Madison Park. We showed up ahead of schedule and sipped some bubbles at the bar before sitting at our splendid corner table.
On the table was a knife we used to open an envelope containing two punch cards offering four different flavors: maple, cranberry, fennel, apple. We were told we had to pick a flavor that would appear later in our meal. Rocky picked apple. I chose fennel.
CHEDDAR Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple. To kick off the meal, EMP’s most recent adaptation of the New York classic. A cheesy savory biscuit complemented nicely by the sweet apple filling.
OYSTER Vichyssoise and Caviar. A dense Spring Creek Oyster, dotted with caviar, resting in creamy vichyssoise. The rich sauce was a good base for the dual salinity. Good stuff.
SCALLOP Marinated with Apple, Pine, and Water Chestnut. A solid enough East Coast scallop spiced up with horseradish and cooled off with yogurt. Some apple snow gave the plate a nice lasting acidity.
BEEF Tartare with Caviar and Smoked Bone Marrow. A decadent treat. Somehow the smoked marrow and raw beef didn’t kill the caviar with richness. Great balance.
BEEF Pastrami with Pickles, Rye, Mustard, and Apple/Fennel. An homage to NYC delis. Rye bread with mustard, black garlic, and endive, pickles, a couple slices of pastrami, and sodas – apple flavored for Rocky and fennel for me. A super fun and pretty delicious course. Both the sodas were awesome.
FOIE GRAS Seared with Sunchokes, Hazelnuts, and Solera Vinegar. At the outset of the meal we were each asked if we wanted our foie gras seared or cured. Naturally I wanted both but we ended up going one and one and I got to eat the majority of each. This presentation was fantastic. The foie was superb with the sweet and earthy accompaniments.
FOIE GRAS Cured with Sunchokes and Fermented Mustard Greens. The mustard seeds and fermented greens added a nice depth to the plate, but we both preferred the seared presentation.
APPLE Waldorf Salad with Celery, Cranberries, and Walnuts. Apple and celery root dressed in lemon mayonnaise with cranberries, blue cheese, and candied walnuts. The service cart that rolled up with the mise en place for this course was impressive. The story of the dish, the preparation, and the beautiful antique cookbook were remarkable. The salad itself was mediocre at best. Rocky asked me if she had to finish hers. Though beneath the salad in the two part bowl was a granola and yogurt reinterpretation that was pretty nice. The strong celery taste of the granola was great, but it was still just yogurt and granola. Too bad the food didn’t match the grandeur of the service for this one.
Rocky and I were invited into the kitchen and shown to a standing high-top table where we were served a modernist interpretation of a penicillin cocktail. Scotch, ginger, honey…boozy fun.
LOBSTER Poached with Razor Clam, Sea Urchin, and Kale. First, a cold plating of the course. Tangy lobster salad stuffed inside a claw, sea urchin panna cotta, and razor clam with pear, roe, and kale puree. The clam and pear slices were strongly flavored and were great with the earthy vegetal kale.
LOBSTER Poached with Razor Clam, Sea Urchin, and Kale. And then, the warm plating of the course. Sweet, rich lobster tail, sea urchin foam, meaty razor clam, a nice slice of pear, and an amazing kale leaf that tasted as if it may have been cooked in lobster stock and butter. A sublimely superb plate.
CELERY ROOT Braised with Black Truffle. A sphere carved from the core of braised celery root and doused with powerfully rich and fragrant black truffle jus. Alongside was some celery root puree under which sprawled black truffle puree. Wonderful intensity of earthy flavors.
DUCK Broth with Sausage and Gruyère. At the start of the meal, another choice we had to make was between duck or pork for the final savory. I’ll choose their honey lavender glazed duck every time. The bird was presented, then carved and plated while we had a small bowl of duck broth with a kick ass gruyère and duck sausage chip with some kickin mustard seed acidity.
DUCK Roasted with Lavender, Honey, and Rutabaga. An outstanding roasted duck breast with rutabaga and citrus duck jus. The bowl served beside the feature was something along the lines of confit duck leg with a dense foamy foie gras sauce.
GREENSWARD Pretzel, Onion, and Dried Fruit. A picnic basket complete with everything we needed to have a cheese course picnic. The feature was a cut of Greensward, a raw cow milk cheese by Jasper Hill Farms(Vermont) that is washed with Ithaca Beer Co’s Picnic Basket Ale and wrapped in spruce. Alongside was dried fruit, onion jam, and pretzel bread; the latter two were flavored with the aforementioned beer, a bottle of which was included in the basket. Good times.
SWEET POTATO Curd with Espresso Meringue and Orange Sorbet. A strikingly brilliant plate. Compelling compliments between multiple sweet and multiple bitter elements and the sourish citrus acidity. This had me going until the end: ‘Wow…what’s happening??’
VANILLA Baked Alaska with Rum, Raisin, and Apple/Fennel. Vanilla ice cream enclosed in a thick layer of meringue arrived on our table and was flambéed while our guy explained the history of the Baked Alaska dessert. It disappeared back to the kitchen and arrived again later plated up with Rocky’s and my preordained flavors of apple and fennel. Between the initial presentation and the final plating the portion curiously shrunk dramatically in size. I’m guessing the rest got tossed, but we sure did want to eat it.
PRETZEL Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt. A pretty delicious mildly crunchy, sweet, chocolatey pretzel.
CHOCOLATE Sweet Black and White Cookie with Cinnamon. To finish the meal, EMP’s current sweet iteration of the NYC classic. Oatmeal flour, Saigon cinnamon, and Mast Brothers chocolate.
And some handsome birthday treats to take home. They tasted like PB&J chocolates.
Some wines we drank:
Date of meal: February 23, 2014
Eleven Madison Park. 11 Madison Avenue. NYC 212.889.0905 elevenmadisonpark.com