We spent Thanksgiving in New York, the mecca for a theater buff, art lover, entertainment guru, wine lover and of course, extreme foodie….and we took it all in and then some. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade to incredible dinners at some of the hippest New York bistros to classic New York establishments, a lingering vist to the Met, a stay at the Waldorf Astoria with Bloody Mary’s in the morning, street shopping and pretzels, and, of course, fantastic theater with American Idiot and Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in Driving Miss Dairy, to ending with an 18 piece orchestra at Jazz Standard, we loved every minute of our get away.
Mainly, the gourmet extravaganza. In essence, we ate our way through New York…well, not really, but we did dine…and when I say dine, I mean dine. Gary and I love just hanging out at a bar, ordering a good bottle of wine and an appetizer…no more. Not this trip, we experienced some of the best flavors we have had in a while; all while snuggling at tiny two tops with locals loving every bite of their meal along with us.
First up, Marc Forgione’s.
Yes, we did see him on The Next Iron Chef on Food Network and we were intrigued by both his use of fresh, local ingredients and the stunning combinations he put together. We made our reservations many weeks ago, it was just our luck that he won the big competition, so when he was there, Mohawk and all, the night before Thanksgiving we kind of kicked each other under the table.
To our delight, he was lovely.
We got to talking with our neighbors over a generous donation of a piece of their parmesan crostini slathered in one of the special appetizers of the night – two free range eggs over Brussel sprouts and delicata squash with some sort of creamy sauce and freshly shaved truffle by Chef Forgione. The couple and son were regulars of Forgione’s well before the Food Network came calling, and raved about their experiences when asked. We have to agree. The wine list was minimal, but smart, with solid selections from across the world. Though we knew our mains would be fish, we opted for a bottle of Bordeaux from Margaux..2006 Chateau Moulin de Tricot. Silky, with good tanic structure and balanced flavors that enhanced the flavors of our meal without being too bold.
Our starter was the special for the night, lobster with a spicy sriracha and butter based sauce that was firey good, served with a slab of Texas sized toast for sopping up the decadent sauce. This was the star of the night. Mains included wahoo from Hawaii with a meyer lemon sauce and charred sea scallops with bacon in a saffron sauce. Both big flavors which matched well with our wine, but both of us agree that spicy lobster starter was one of the best flavors of the weekend.
Thanksgiving dinner was a Prie Fixe at Le Cirque….yes, very old world New York, but actually rather holiday reasonable and worth every penny for a lavish, beautiful holiday meal.
We went French on Thanksgiving again, starting with a Loire Valley Sancerre for me and a White Bourgogne for Gary, both of which paired beautifully with our first courses. Gary started with a Foie Gras, bacon and duck terrine….well, what about that can be bad…yes, it was beautiful. The crisp, mineral rich Rully Chardonnay was an ideal match to his terrine. Anything bigger would have masked the fatty flavors; it needed a mineral rich wine, with good acidity and structure to balance the rich flavors. A beautiful salad with pomegranate seeds and fresh greens for me.
The prawns had clean, salty flavors of the sea with sweet, caramelized spaghetti squash and just enough Thai influence from the coconut to make a perfect second course.
We didn’t go conventional for Thanksgiving mains, instead opting for a beautiful tenderloin of beef with a flavor rich mushroom ragu and greens for Gary, the house specialty Le Cirque fish with a creamy lemon aioli for me; both served with traditional sides like roasted chestnuts, Brussel sprouts, cranberries. We paired these with another Bordeaux, this one a little firmer, earthy and bold, 2000 Chateau Labegorce Margaux. We let it sit for a while as it needed to open a bit before enjoying, which we did with gusto.
After pumpkin pie and crème brulee we enjoyed an 18 year old Macallan and glass of Champagne in their welcoming bar and thanked “Mr. Le Cirque”, Sirio Maccioni, who even after all these years was greeting guests at the front door.
We had theater tickets for the musical, American Idiot the next night and had planned on going to Birdland to see some jazz performed by the musicians that play the musicals. Unfortunately we were not able to get in, so instead walked over to Esca hoping that we would be able to get in. Esca is the fish focused venture by Mario Batali and Joe Basitanich with executive chef Dave Pasternack.
Gary had said he wanted to go to one of Batali’s restaurants….I am so glad this one happened to be the one. Though very Italian in influence, the menu was much more coastal Italy instead of heavy, heavy pastas (that would have put us out during American Idiot…even with an amazingly athletic cast.) We started with extra dirty martinis and then ordered an Italian white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Incrocio Manzoni and Pinot Blanc called Myrto. Light and crisp with balanced acidicty and elegant citrus flavors, a perfect pairing with the in season Nantucket Bay Scallops with fresh hearts of palm.
I usually am not a bay scallop person, opting instead for the larger sea scallops. Bay scallops have a tendency to overcook so easily and turn into little rocks….not these… perfectly seared with a caralmelized crust on the outside and soft, creamy center and lightly drizzled with olive oil. Gary loves a fish stew, pretty much any kind from chowder to chipino, and Esca’s was hearty and rich with a tomato and fish stock based broth, filled with white fish, clams, mussels and shellfish. The presentation was beautiful, the staff was friendly and accommodating and the food, excellent.
The next day we set out for Eataly, another concept of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, with his mom, Lidia Basitanich and founder/creator Oscar Farinetti. A massive eating and shopping hall built around gastronomy and designed to make any food and wine lover drool. After waiting about 15 minutes outside the doors with a crowd of people waiting to get in we were granted access. I felt like I was trying to get a bouncer’s attention at a hot night club in the 1980’s. But, smartly, they regulate the amount of people coming through the door to ensure that you are not over crowded during the shopping experience.
I had met the author of Mama Agata’s cookbook, Chiara Lima, a few months ago after she had been to New York and Eataly. Her advice on visiting the food play ground…eat everything. And though we didn’t eat everything, we certainly admired everything. After walking through a room filled with panatone, cheese and meats we grabbed a glass of Barolo and hunk of parmesan and walked the meat and fish counters, admired the bounty of fresh white and black truffles that had flown in that morning, had a slice of focaccia bread and found some balsamic figs and truffle paste that we just had to have. It is an amazing space, one that I hope to get back to again when we have more time to just mill around.
We went to the opening of DUO the other night, the new culinary venture by Lynea Fearing and Tracy Rathbun. Though DUO is more of a gadget, furniture and appliance store, the feel with an expansive professional grade kitchen, a smart selection of products and inviting feel reminded us of a cozy Eataly.
That night we had theater tickets for Driving Miss Daisy with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. Amazing…iconic actors, generous in their performance and engaging with both each other and an appreciative audience.
But a surprisingly short show; so afterwards we were determined to get our jazz fix (since we had missed Birdland) and a bartender at THE Arkansas Razorback bar in New York, Madhatters, had told us earlier when we were watching the Arkansas/LSU game that downstairs at Blue Smoke, a New York barbeque joint, was a great jazz club. We were skeptical…New York barbeque…barbeque and jazz….
She was right on the money. After waiting in the staircase to descend down into the club we walked into what seems to be quite the legendary set up; and an 18 piece orchestra set up for the Maria Schneider Orchestra. And, they had our favorite wine from Walla Walla’s LeCole No.41 – their Perigee from Spring Valley fruit. We had fallen in love with this wine earlier in the year when we visited Walla Walla and LeCole, so we thought it a sure sign that we had to order it…though the Shafer One Point Five Cab was really calling my name. What followed was some of the best jazz either of us has ever experienced. Wow…what a night.
Wow….what a trip. We both love New York, and the holidays are my favorite time of the year, one, but in New York it is extra special, with the parade, great windows decorated to celebrate the holiday, a chill in the air, supreme theater, amazing food, Waldorf accommodations, and of course, the one you love the most. If Yoda had been there we may have stayed till Christmas. Thank you Gary.