Category Archives: NYC

The Beast, with a little help, takes Manhattan

The Beast was weary, like many before him, about turning 30. He had bouts of depression and anxiety over the milestone birthday, which he’s tried to alleviate by just looking fabulous and which I tried to remedy by taking him to New York City. We talked about going somewhere together, just the two of us, to lift his spirits. After all, eight years ago we celebrated my 30th birthday in Grand Bruit, NL, with a cake that the Beast made from a box, and the wind howling so fiercely outside that it felt like our little house might blow away to sea. We threw around destinations as diverse as Las Vegas to renting an isolated cabin in the Shenandoah Valley. In the end, Manhattan won.

He’s only been once before. I took some of his requests, like the American Museum of Natural History, into consideration but he left the rest, including restaurant reservations, up to me.

When I travel I follow roughly the same formula: Quick and easy breakfast, followed by museums and galleries, while you’re still fresh-eyed, followed by lunch, followed by explorations, which may include a cocktail or espresso stop, followed by adventures, some of which should be unplanned, and more explorations, followed by refreshing up at the hotel, followed by a late-night dinner. We didn’t exactly plan that these late-night dinners would be well after 10:00 p.m. every night, but those were the only reservations available.  In the end, it worked out perfectly because we were never ready to eat at 7 p.m., or even 9.

There were celebrity sightings, no breakdowns, meltdowns or fights, plenty of laughs, a few blisters and one or two stops that we didn’t make it to. All in all, “The Beast Takes Manhattan at 30” trip, with a loose theme of “let’s pretend like we’re early 20th century millionaire industrialists cocktailing, wining and dining about town, with a side of Uniqlo every day,” was a success.

Here’s our itinerary, photos and recaps, which I will try to keep short.

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Shanging it at Madeline’s

We finally did it:  we went out for a non fast-food dinner, and it was glorious.   I caught wind of one of the many recession specials in the city last week via “Chuck,” a lovely young guy who’s a regular at the restaurant where I work.  Chuck works for Susur Lee and mentioned that Madeline’s (Susur’s newish restaurant) was doing a five course tasting menu from Shang (Susur’s other newish restaurant in NYC), for only $60 per person.  Even better was the dollar corkage fee Monday through Wednesday nights in April.  But best was when Chuck told me to include my last name when I made the reservation so that he could “V.I.P.” me.  I don’t know what that means exactly, but I needed to find out.  

So the last night that the special Shang menu was on offer, the Beast and I reserved ourselves a table.  

Foodie:  I’m going to ask about the corkage fee, just to make sure it’s for real.  Will you look at this table!  It’s an amazing table, don’t you think?  Do you think we got this table because we’ve been V.I.Ped?

Beast:  Stop being such a spaz!

Foodie:  I’m just excited!  We haven’t been out in eons.  The tasting menu looks amazing. Thank God there’s nothing formerly feathered being served because if there was duck or squab or pigeon, I mean, I’d have to try it but I’d be so upset about the whole thing.  We are in luck mister oh yes we are!!!  Let’s order cocktails!  

img_0751Beast:  (looks frightened.)  

Ordering was easy:  two Shang tasting menus, no allergies and no finicky tastes; one gin martini for the Beast and a rhubarb & gin concoction for me.  Our server was young yet professional, but not too professional as to make us feel funny for being in a fancy restaurant.

Foodie:  She was lovely, don’t you think?  You read all sorts of stories about bad service at Susur’s restaurants.  I’ve never had bad service here, or at Lee.  And she didn’t even make me feel funny when I asked if the corkage fee was really only a dollar.

Beast:  Why would she?

Foodie:  This is my first time corking at a restaurant.  Did you like that?  I just made that verb usage up.

Beast:  It’s good.

Foodie:  I suspect that corking can kind of be like a thorn in a server’s side because instead of us paying lots of money on a bottle of wine, which we would presumably tip on, we brought our own bottle in and we’re just being charged a dollar for it. I think servers get especially annoyed when people bring in a seven dollar bottle of some Argentinian malbec to save a buck. Civilized people like us bring in a special bottle that might not be available on the restaurant’s list.  That’s why I brought that bottle of Burgundy you gave to me in my Christmas stocking.  

Beast:  You did?  I thought you brought a normal bottle.  

Foodie:  Say again?

Beast:  Well I’m fairly certain I paid about $85 for it.  I wrote down all the words from that other bottle of Burgundy you have in the cellar (that’s the Ikea wooden shelf thing that sits on top of the fridge) and brought it into an LCBO and a nice employee told me you’d flip over this one.

I need to address this Burgundy bit.   Having worked in an Italian restaurant that only serves Italian wine (albeit, incredible Italian wine that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Toronto), I know next to nothing about wines from other countries.  I’ve heard that a place called France makes pretty good juice.  And I learned this unequivocally about a year and a half ago in NYC.   Michelle, one of best buddies, and I were there for our birthdays visiting a mutual friend, Brie, who at the time was working as a wine agent.  To celebrate our big day(s), Brie took us to the Waverly Inn for dinner.  (Mom, the Waverly Inn is like the coolest restaurant ever.  It’s so cool they don’t even have a listed address or phone number. Paparazzi wait outside because so many celebrities eat there.)  Anyway, the night will always hold a special place in my heart not only because the lovely staff treated us like Beyonce and her posse, and because of the incredible food (mac and cheese with obscene amounts of white truffle shaved on top tableside) but also because of the wine, in particular, a bottle of 1995 Burgundy, Nuit St. Georges, Cru Coron Pere et Fils (I wrote it down).  It changed my life.  It contained everything I crave in a wine:  red, bordering on ripe, black fruit, like the first cherries of the season and black currents, tons of herbal bits, a smack in the face of anise, and aged just long enough in oak to detect it, but not so long so that the wine tastes like dessert.  I became slightly obsessed with Burgundy afterwards. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to replicate the experience with purchases of bottles under $50.  The Beast, dear thing that he is, wrote down the specs from my night at the Waverly, which is how I ended up with a bottle of Burgundy in my bag.  

img_0752The first course arrived during our cocktails:  It was white peppercorn marinated skirt steak with pinenut brown butter, parsnip potato puree and some frisee greens.

Server:  Shall I open up your bottle of wine for you?

Foodie:  Ah, sure.  How do we do this?  Do I just give it to you out of my bag?  That seems a bit crass, no?

Server:  No, not at all.  I just have to bring it through the restaurant to make it legit and come back with glasses.

Foodie: Well then, here you go.

Server: (examining the bottle).  Very nice!  I’ll be right back.

Foodie:  Did you hear that?  Are you going to drink some too?  You can order beer you know.

Beast:  Not on your life.  

The Shang tasting menu was constructed in typical Susur fashion:  we began with the heaviest course and finished with the lightest.  We were both shocked at the substantial portion size of our perfectly cooked skirt steaks.  

img_0755The server came back, opened the wine without fanfare and away we went.

Foodie:  Okay.  Oh my God.  Oh my God.  I’m going to cry.

Beast:  Is it okay?

Foodie:  (Fighting back tears.)  This is perfect.  It’s what am always trying to find during the week for my home-time wine but I can never make it happen at $15 to $20 a bottle.  

Beast:  Wow.  This is good.  It’s delicious in fact.  What wrong?

Foodie:  I’m just so happy you like it!  You get it now, right?  And this calibre of wine would sell here for at least $250, which means we would never be able to experience what we’re experiencing right now; this combination of remarkable food and memorable wine, if it weren’t for us corking.

Beast:  How many more times tonight do you think you can use “corking” in a sentence?

img_0753The second course, sauteed black tiger shrimp served on artichoke szechwan ratatouille with a celery root blini, was just as satisfying as the first.  

Beast:  Whoa.  This is spicy.

Foodie:  Too spicy?

Beast:  No (gulping down water.)

Server:  How is everything here.

Foodie:  It’s wonderful.  This is nice and spciy.

Server:  Yes it is but don’t worry-we cools things right down with the next course.

img_0754And that they did:  sashimi of big eye tuna in a spoon with marinated artichoke, a potato puff ball, and a truffle vinaigrette.  It was hard to get the whole thing in your mouth, but worth every effort.

Foodie:  Oh look–it’s Arsinoe whatchimicallit.  She’s married to…you know…that director…Exxotica…

Beast:  Atom Egoyan.

Foodie:  Yes!

Beast: Stop staring.

Foodie: Don’t worry.  I used to serve them all the time and their little boy who’s so sweet-

Beast:  You know, just because you’ve served famous people doesn’t mean you’re friends with them.  

Foodie: Well, I think Renee Zellwegger might beg to differ–

img_0756The arrival of the fourth course saved the Beast from my “Serving Celebrities: an Autobiography.” monologue.  It was steamed tofu custard with creamed spinach, shitake, king erangi and wood ear mushrooms, and soya juice.  I must admit, I thought this vegetarian dish would be a flop-especially to the Beast.

Beast:  Okay, this is my favourite one.

Foodie: Are you fucking serious?

Beast:  Never in my wildest dreams did I think tofu could taste like this.

The Beast was bang on.  This tofu just sat on your tongue and then disappeared into mouth heaven leaving just a pleasurable memory of what it had once been.

Foodie:  You know what’s sad is that all the people who read my blog won’t be able to experience this because today is the last day.   But I think everybody likes reading more about our relationship than the food.  I think that’s what makes my blog unique.

Beast:  Ah, I don’t think it’s unique.  First of all, you lie about everything I say and steal my jokes to make you look more clever, and second of all, didn’t that Julie lady talk about her relationship in her Julie and Julia blog?  

Foodie.  Fuck that was a good idea.  (This Julie cooked all 536 recipes from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days, and she blogged about her kitchen–and relationship–adventures and mishaps along the way. Then she got to write a book and now there’s a movie coming out starring Merryl Streep as Julia Child.)  Maybe somebody will make Foodie and the Beast into a movie!

Beast:  Dermot Mulroney will play me.

Foodie:  What?  No, Robert Pattinson will, from Twilight.  And I’ll play myself and I’ll get to kiss him.

Beast:  That would be really inappropriate.  You’re probably 15 years older than–

img_0758Foodie:  Oh look!  Here’s dessert.

It was a warm molten chocolate cake with hazelnut chocolate crunch and vanilla bean ice cream.  I must admit to being slightly snobbish when it comes to all these fucking lava cakes served up everywhere–only because I believe that one of my best friends, Giovanna Alonzi, makes the ultimate version:  her torta calda al cioccolato served at a restaurant called “Terroni” is my benchmark for every chocolate bomb.  The Shang molten cake was a very close second to Gio’s, which is still pretty darn good.

Foodie:  (To our server)  Would you mind bringing us two espressos and the bill please?  I didn’t realize we’d been here for so long and I know you folks have a pretty tight reservation program.  I’m sorry-

Server:  Are you kidding?  You two can stay all night!  

Foodie:  (To the Beast)  Do you think she said that because we’re V.I.Ps?

Beast:  (Just shakes his head.)  

Doesn’t matter.  From the food to the service to the corking, we had a perfect evening.

Foodie:     ****

Beast:     ****

NYC Part II; Casa Mono, The Spotted Pig, and a Catastrophe at Katz’s.

If you don’t mind sitting at a restaurant’s bar, more often than not you can score a seat in any of NYC’s busiest restaurants.  And so it was with Mario Batali’s Spanish spot, Casa Mono.  After a 15 minute wait (that breezed by while we waited out front), the Beast and I settled into two bar seats facing the tiny kitchen.  It was by far the best seat in the house.   From our perch, we witnessed three cooks orchestrate their prepping, cooking, plating and finishing a number of gorgeous little dishes.

I know little to nothing about Spanish wine, so  I played it safe and ordered a glass of Castano 2007 Yecla, Monastreel, Garnacha.  I don’t know what any of that means but it was a Rosato and I was still hung over and dehydrated from all the salt we’d been consuming.  Somehow Rosato makes everything feel better for me. From the short but sweet menu, which specializes in Catalan-style cooking, we settled on mussels with Cava and chorizo, potatas bravas, bacalao croquetas with orange alioli, pig’s feet with rainbow chard and cranberries, skirt steak with onion marmelada, brussels sprouts a la plancha, and artichokes with mint.  Those artichokes might have been my favourite dish.  We both wished we had room to order the lamb shank with garbanzos and harissa, and octopus salad with fennel and grapefruit. 

Although we conversed very little, I’ll always remember my night at Casa Mono with the Beast.  We were pleased as punch with our theatrical seats, the food was fantastic, the service delightful, and best of all, I saw the Beast, for the first time ever, shutter with disgust at a food item:  cock’s combs.  Sort of wish we tried them now.

The Beast and I did our own separate things in the morning:  he went to the Natural History Museum, and I went shopping.  We decided to meet at the perpetually busy Greenwich village spot, The Spotted Pig, for a late lunch, with the hope of missing the crowds. I arrived first, but not before running into a fellow Canadian out front of this Michelin starred restaurant, Mark McEwan.  He was with a small film crew and they were just about to load themselves into a car.  Now, with my track record in front of celebrities (I once brought  Sofia Coppola a glass of water that she didn’t request just so I could stutter something about watching a certain trilogy of movies her father directed every time I made spaghetti), I should have probably just walked right in.  But I’ve had a real good streak lately, so I decided to say hello.The Spotted Pig

 Foodie:  Oh hi there.  I’m from Toronto, so, you know, nice to see you.  Oh—and I work at X restaurant too.

Mark McKewan:  Fantastic!  We love X restaurant!  Nice to see you, and welcome to New York.

Foodie:  Thanks!  Oh, and you too!

 It could have been much worse.  Inside, I scored two seats at the adorable counter with ease.  Terribly hung-over I opted, again, for a glass of Refosco Rosato while I waited for the Beast.  The lovely and affable bartender and I traded stories about tourists who visit hot spot restaurants, but leave every drop of decorum at home.  We also chatted about Toronto and people in the restaurant industry who visit The Spotted Pig whenever they’re in town.  One woman, in particular, always sits at the bar and orders Aperol and white wine because we don’t have Aperol—an Italian aperitivo, similar to Campari—in Ontario.  Turns out it was Alida Soloman from Tutti Matti-a charming Italian restaurant serving up mostly Tuscan fare. 

When the Beast finally arrived, he was in a terrible mood.  Turns out he was far more interested in looking at dead animals than eating them, and he was feeling resentful that he had to leave his taxidermied friends at the museum to meet me.  He was also starving. Good thing I ordered the gnudi (dumplings made with sheep’s milk ricotta and slathered in browned butter, crispy sage and parmigiano) in advance.  As soon as he started eating, his mood changed for the better.  Choosing our mains was a no-brainer:  we had to try the Spotted Pig burger topped with blue cheese on a brioche-style bun, and served with shoe-string fries.  It was simply glorious, and it cured any remnants of a hangover. 

With our tummies full and moods lifted via beer, wine and The Spotted Pig’s overall warmth, the Beast and I went our separate ways again—he back to his home at The Natural History Museum, and me back to mine at Barney’s Co-op. 

 For our last NYC meal before flying home, the Beast and I agreed on Katz’s Deli.  Still terribly dehydrated from our absurd salt consumption, it seemed like a perfect way to leave with the big apple with a very loud bang.

I presume the man in all the photos lining the walls here is none other than Mr. Katz.  Not only does he pose with celebrities and politicians, but he also walks about the deli’s dining room saying hello to his customers, asking where they’re from, and if they’re enjoying their $15 Reuben sandwich.  Yes.  $15 USD.  That’s much closer to $20 CAD than I care to admit.  Nevertheless, the Beast waited in line at this venerable spot for a Reuben, a corned beef on rye and potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, while I held us a table.

 The sandwiches were stacked high with meat, and were delicious.  img_02681

But compared to Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal, the Beast and I agreed that Katz’s simply didn’t stand up.  A surge of patriotic smugness came over us, especially after we got the potato pancakes.

I suppose I expected them to be freshly made in-house with actual potatoes.  What we got was greasy, industrial-tasting shit.  Worse still was that I saw employees opening up pre-packaged boxes of these frozen monstrosities—and matzah balls—without shame on the counter top in front of everybody!  I certainly wasn’t going to fake an orgasm over them, that’s for sure.  (Mom, that’s a reference to When Harry met Sally, when Meg Ryan fakes the orgasm in the deli, which was filmed at Katz’s.  The reference isn’t very clever, I know.  I’m just trying to wrap this NYC post on a high note, or a sex note I guess.  But I don’t have sex.  Ever.  I love you.)

The Spotted Pig             Foodie  **1/2            Beast    ***

Casa Mono                    Foodie    ***              Beast   ***

Katz’s Deli                    Foodie       *               Beast   * 1/2

NYC Part I; Prune, the Peacemaker, and Poor Daniel

We did it.  The Beast and I conquered NYC.  We spent a grueling five days eating, drinking cocktails at noon, sightseeing, talking, shopping, walking, navigating the subway system like pros, and eating.  It was hard, wonderful work, and we’re counting the days until we can go back.  Until then, here’s a summary of the highlights.

For our first meal, we let our good friend Brie, with whom we stayed during our holiday, choose the location.  Barrio Chino, a tiny little spot in lower Manhattan on Broome, near Orchard, was quite slow for a Friday lunch.  In fact, the three of us were the only ones there.  It crossed my mind that Brie had lost hers, but then the house-made guacamole aTacos for Lunchnd chips came rolling out and my faith in our sweet host was restored.

Our server looked (gorgeous) and talked (too cool for school) like a real-live New Yorker!  She didn’t warm to us at first.  But soon she was recommending fancy tequilas for the Beast to sample and whipping us ladies up classic lime marritas served with crunchy salt.  Conveniently, the tacos are served in threes, so Brie had the tilapia version, I chose the shrimp, and the Beast, not surprisingly, ordered the steak, and we all swapped one with each other.  I can’t tell you which I preferred best.  All three varieties were deliciously seasoned and perfectly prepared.

It was an ideal meal that prepared the Beast and me for an afternoon that included touring the Tenement Museum, the New Museum, and The Whitney.  The New Museum (with exhibits featuring Elizabeth Peyton and Mary Heilmann) was a bit of a shock after the emotionally charged stories that haunt the flats of the Tenement.  

The New Museum

The New Museum

The Beast and I were outside the museum—which consists of varying sizes of white cubes stacked precariously on top of each other—discussing our mutual confusion over why Mary Heilmann’s paintings are considered “pioneering”, when along came a nice homeless man.

Man:  Spare some change?

The Beast:  I have, let’s see (rummaging through pockets) only 35 cents.

Man:  Hah! Beggars can’t be choosers!  Ain’t that the truth (laughing hysterically)!

Most people would walk away, even run, from this little man whose pants were trying desperately to stay above his bum, and who had difficulty keeping his saliva from sneaking out the sides of his mouth.  But not us.  We didn’t want to be rude.

Man:  Hey, let me ax you two a question.  You married?

The Beast:  (laughing) Oh no, not yet.

Man:  Hah!  That’s good!  Not yet!  Hah!  Now let me ax you this:  how does it work?  I mean, how you get things done?  Who’s the boss? 

The Foodie:  Well, I’d say it’s pretty much 50/50.

Man:  Hah!  You hear that?  50/50!  Hah!  Now that’s too good!  That’s priceless!  Now you listen here Jack (to the Beast).  Don’t you go hitten her.  I mean, I hit my bitches.  That’s different.  And when you feel the need and she says no, don’t you go and take her now okay?

The Beast:  O…kay.

Man:  That’s when you go lock yourself in the bathroom and have a cold shower!  Hah!  You take yo’ five fingers God gave you and beat the skin off that motha fucka!  Hah!

The nice man kept following us as we walked south on Bowery.  Real Life New Yorkers were watching to make sure we were okay.

Man:  You know what they call me?  They call me The Peacemaker.  Hah!   I’m famous ‘round here!  See these boots?  These is two-hundred dolla boots.  Yes, that’s right!  Say, let me axe you something…does she cook?

The Beast:  Yes, actually, she cooks quite well.

Peacemaker:  Well how do you like that?  You lucky motha fucka!  She cooks!?  What choo cook?

The Foodie:  Oh, lots of things really. 

Now I’m trying to get the Beast’s attention.  I just want to get to the fucking Whitney to erase the sour post-modern taste left in my mouth after the New Museum. My eyes are saying, “Can we wrap this fucking thing up Beast, or what?”

Peacemaker:  You cook ham-hocks, beans and collard greens?

The Foodie:  Not yet.  I’d like to learn though.

Peacemaker:  Hah!  You hear that (to the Beast)?  You gots yo-self a fine woman.  Don’t you go fuck it up now, you hear?

The Beast:  Yes Sir.

The Foodie:  It was nice talking to you Mr. Peacemaker.  We’ve got to go now though.

I’ve got the Beast’s arm and we make our way down the subway stairs, even though they’re the wrong subway stairs. 

The Peacemaker:  I know, I know.  You be good to each other, love each other now.  And God bless.

After the Peacemaker was out of sight, we back-tracked, cautiously, up to street level.  The Peacemaker would forever be engrained in our memories.

The Whitney, specifically the Wiliam Eggleston and Alexander Calder exhibits, the Edwards Hoppers, and the little installation by Charles Simmonds that’s always reminded me of a Tatooine dwelling, cured our curmudgeony attitudes. Completely arted-out, we navigated ourselves down to Prune, a charming eatery in the east village.  There was a cancellation that day, so we managed to score an 8:00pm reservation.  Our table wasn’t quite ready so the affable host sat us down at the bar and forced us to order drinks on the house.  I had a Campari with prosecco while the Beast sampled a calvados.  Before our aperitifs were drunk, our table was ready. 

Beast:  I have to have both the marrow and the sweetbreads.  I’m sorry.

Sweetbreads at Prune

Sweetbreads at Prune

Foodie:  Fine, but I’m ordering our sides for our main courses.

Beast:  Fine.

In reality, I was hoping we’d choose any appetizers save for the two the Beast chose, but there was a fire in the beast’s eyes like I’ve never seen before.  I’ve always known I’d have to someday get over my irrational fear of trying food that sane and rational people just don’t eat, and no better time like the present.

Foodie:  I don’t get it.  I just put a piece of a cow’s thymus gland in my mouth, and I ate it.  

Beast:   It’s amazing.

Foodie:  Is it?  I just don’t know.  I think the delicious coating they’ve fried it in is delicious, and so too is this caper and parsley bit of salad business, but it’s a fucking thymus gland.  I just don’t get.

The beast’s attention was turned to scooping out the bone marrow and applying it onto toasted ciabatta bread.

Marrow at Prune

Marrow at Prune

Foodie:  You know what?  I don’t get this either.  It’s fucking bone marrow.  It looks like snot.  If it tasted like, say, bacon, I wouldn’t care that it looked like snot.  But all I taste is the bread, the olive oil on the bread and the sea salt I’m sprinkling all over the marrow.  So I ask you, why eat bone marrow?

Like a great white shark devouring its dinner, the Beast’s eyes had rolled back so that only the whites were showing. 

And so arrived our main dishes.  The Beast ordered a lamb shank, and I ordered a grilled branzino stuffed with fennel and herbs.

Beast:  You know what?  What I don’t get is you having such a problem with eating harmless glands and delicious marrow, and NOT having a problem with THAT!

Feast:  What?  You mean this entire fish that’s on my plate?

As I spoke, I was cutting off the head and the tail of my perfectly cooked branzino, opening her up, and gently removing the bones.  They even brought me a little bowl filled with flakey flecks of sea salt.

Beast:  Yes!  That’s horrific what you’re doing!branzio at Prune

Feast:  Really?  It’s delicious.

And it was!  With our bellies filled with fat and far too much salt, we had no room for dessert.  Prune was good.  We felt as though our innards had been lightly coated with a slick of oil, but it was good.

Our next meal was the Big One: the Meal to End all Meals, but I’m almost too upset to speak of it.  Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s flagship NYC restaurant, has shaken up my little culinary world, which is a good thing.  It reminded me that sometimes the best food experiences can be had eating burgers and freshly-cut fries in the park.  One doesn’t require white linens, and unicorns drinking from champagne-flowing fountains, every night of the week.  But the temptation of eating at a three Michelin starred restaurant at least once, was too great for both the Beast and me, so we singled out Daniel for my official birthday meal over a month before our trip.  Maybe we expected too much.  Regardless, here’s how it started:

The impressive, newly renovated, Art Deco-inspired room was dotted with folks that looked nonplussed about being at Daniel.  Upper-west side families, straight out of a Wes Anderson film, sat around round tables as though they were in their very own 5th Ave. dining rooms.  Some men appeared to be on dates with much younger women.  And other men appeared to be on dates with their wives who invested in one too many Botox sessions in order to look like said younger women.  The Beast and I invited our host, Brie, with us.  She’d put us up for five nights—not an easy task for anybody—plus she’s a wine agent in the city and when we dined with her, we tended to be taken care of.  Daniel was no exception.  As soon as we sat down, the restaurant’s house champagne was poured into our flutes.  It appeared as though there were three employees per guest at Daniel.  The service was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.  After we all settled on the three course prix-fixe menu ($105 each), our charming sommelier offered her services for finding some wine to compliment all of our different dishes.  And she didn’t make me feel like a pauper for telling her our price range per bottle.  Her selections were both spot on: a $90 Savigny Pavelot Burgundy and a St. Joseph Rhone for $125 (Suffice it say, there weren’t many option below $100 on their expansive wine list!)

Beast:  How’s your lobster bisque?

Foodie:  I’m not sure.  Is it supposed to take like Campbell’s tomato soup? 

The Beast chose frog legs with heavenly potato gnocchi and pumpkin oil.  Brie had the an almond crusted foie gras terrine which was lovely.  Okay, I’m fibbing.  It was all gelatinous and tasted like glue.  I was just trying so damned hard to enjoy and memorize everything I put into my mouth.  I faired much better with my main: a duo of dry aged black angus beef; the first component was a red wine braised short rib with sunchokes and the second was a seared rib eye with hazelnut-potato croquette.  The beast chose milk-fed veal with chanterelles, served with endives, sweetbread tourte, and tête de veau.  (I don’t know what the fuck any of that means either.)  And Brie went light with her choice of the pan-roasted halibut with pine nut & grape chutney, celery and verjus.

I should also mention that other courses (two, I think) magically appeared on our table.  I’d like to tell you what they were in detail, but the mix of champagne, the pre-dinner cocktails at The Rainbow Room of 30 Rockefeller, and the two bottles of wine clouded my memory.  I do remember a singular raviolo that might have been the most flavourful bit of the entire meal.  These extra courses were most likely a result of sweet Brie’s connections, however I like to entertain the thought that our wide-eyed optimism played a part too.  For the record, we DID NOT behave like tourists.  (Yes, I did take pictures, but I did it discreetly.)

Dessert is, and was, an utter blur.  I know I chose a manjari chocolate bombe with Guiness foam and toasted almond ice cream.  I can’t tell you what the Beast and Brie had.  There was also a very special dessert platter filled with sweet little squares.  It was a very impressive display of sugar, but in terms of taste, a bit underwhelming. 

Dessert at Daniel

Dessert at Daniel

Jellies and Other Delights

Jellies and Other Delights

Okay, okay, Daniel was amazing.  But for just under a $1000 for the three of us, I wanted mouth fireworks.  I wanted angels flying to and fro between the chandeliers, farting out perfectly airy meringues.  I wanted to never forget the sensations of each course.  While the amounts of alcohol consumed surely played a part in me forgetting flavours, I think it has more to do with expectations.  If you eat like that once a week, I think you’d be more inclined to to sit back, relax, and enjoy the spectacle of both the scene and the food.  But if like both the Beast and me, it’s your first and last visit to such a fine establishment,
I think you need those farting angels. 

Barrio Chino            Foodie  ***            Beast  **1/2

Prune                        Foodie  **             Beast  **

Daniel                      Foodie  **1/2       Beast  **1/2