Wednesday, September 19, 2007

To New York City, we go.

Oh, New York City.. you fed me well. I think I am still full. And. I think I love you. I love your endless energy, your endless noise, and your endless options for a good meal. I love your people too. People who, unlike Seattlelites, actually stop to ask why we are standing on the sidewalk outside of the James Beard House at 11:30 pm, looking happy, relieved and exhausted, with our 6 humongous igloo coolers, waiting for 3 separate cabs to transport us back to our hotel.

“Is there any beer in there?”

“Wow, you have been here all day. We saw you arrive at 8:30 this morning. What’s with all the igloos? ”

Contrary to what I always thought about New Yorkers, they actually do notice you, and contrary to many Seattlelites, they actually do care. This is shocking to see, in a city that moves a mile a minute.

We arrived early on Thursday morning, via the red eye and upon our arrival to the hotel, only one room was available, the smaller of the two. So, the four of us: my boss, her 3 year old son and my coworker, plunked down our 6 igloos, our 6 suitcases and ourselves, squeezed into 2 tiny beds and ordered room service. Then, we slept. I could already tell that we would bond this weekend, given that we were so cozily cramped and napping together in this tiny NYC hotel room.

In Seattle at the airport, our trip began with quite the excitement, so we were somewhat relieved to have actually arrived with all our things in one piece, minus the box of chicken stock that was haphazardly stuffed into the outer pouch of my checked bag, now burst and dripping all over my unmentionables as I heaved it off the baggage carousel in Newark.

It turns out; the airline has a policy that you can’t check anything over 70 pounds, at all. And so, our igloos that were packed so tightly and with such forethought, had to be all rearranged. We were “those people,” the ones that cause all the congestion in the check in lines. The ones you huff and roll your eyes at. Frantically, we had to unbungee and rearrange our items so that each of the 6 coolers weighed less than 70 pounds. This meant, pulling that tin of olive oil out, putting it in Stu’s bag, pulling that bottle of Barolo out, and putting it in my suitcase. It meant switching around the bags that we were going to check. So much was going on, that we lost track of what was in our checked luggage and what had been transferred to our carry ons. So, it wasn’t at all shocking when we walked through the security line, two of us without incident and the third sparking a haz-mat emergency call and a crowd of 10 TSA officials, gathering around the x-ray screen. It dawned on me that I had stuffed a bag of flour into Stu’s bag, so I thought for certain that that was what the hubbub was about. Upon searching, they unveiled our 10 pound tin of olive oil, and whoops…all of Stu’s kitchen knives. This must have been the highlight of the day for TSA. One official even told us so. I can imagine that it gets boring there, repeatedly busting people for having 4 oz of lotion instead of 2.5.
So, ours was quite the find. I mean, who else would try to get through security so blatantly, with a gallon of liquid and a bag of knives?

And so we napped, and then we ate a nice meal at 11 Madison Park, and then we napped again. That night we ordered room service and planned our attack for the next days prep in the James Beard kitchen. I was nervous because I was the one that had the most work to do the next day. I was to make all the bread and crackers, two kinds of hand dipped truffles and an extra large batch of Panna Cotta. I do this most days at the restaurant, but usually, I make it in batches of 12, not batches of 65. with all that gelatin to contend with, I was a little nervous that something would glitch, and that my dessert, my whole reason for being invited to cook with at the Beard house with my boss and coworker, would either be a puddle of sweet cream, or a jello brick. So, the next day, I was sure to have some coffee. Then, I was careful, so so careful. Prepping was such a breeze that we even had time to break for a nice leisurely lunch at the Fatty Crab. Who couldn’t love a place that serves a beer called “Porkslap” with a photo of two pigs slapping their belly’s together? We reconvened back in the kitchen after lunch and began getting ready for our dinner. The evening went so smoothly, and the guests seemed rather pleased with all the food, and my dessert turned out well too. Phew! I have the admit that I was a little worried when I pulled the tray from the fridge and H. let me know that she was worried the Panna Cottas weren’t set up enough. But she did say that she wanted them very softly set, and that is exactly how they jiggled on the plate. Ah Relief.

Celebration was in order, so we cleaned up at the hotel and headed back out to Momofuku Ssam Bar. Oh man, this place was so delicious. It is such an experience to eat out with someone who really knows food and knows just what to order. Who would have thought that pig’s head would be so delicious that we would order a second helping? Really, it was that good. We ate and toasted with some sake, and I sank happily into my chair.

The next morning, we had an 11:30 reservation at Per Se. I think that I went to bed around 3:30, so time to get up came a bit early and I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to start the day off with more wine. But, my worries diminished pretty quickly after the first glass of bubbly and a toast. It was here where we spent the next 5 hours. Eating. At this table. Oh man. So so wonderful. So much food. So many courses. I think that I counted about 20. After the first 5 courses, I knew that I might be in trouble when I was already starting to fill up and the server told us that ‘now the real meal begins..’ so much great food and wine was had that day, but a few standouts included the signature “oysters and pearls” which consisted of tapioca pearls (my fave and a recurring thing in my meals in NY) and oysters in a buttery, custardy union with caviar on top. Oh man, it was so very good. I think that the most interesting dish was the foie gras and peanut butter and jelly terrine. This was something served to the men at the table while the women enjoyed a less whimsical preparation served with a selection of about 15 different salts. The desserts consisted of the signature “coffee and doughnuts” which was a coffee semifreddo, with milk foam and doughnuts on the side. I remember doing this dessert in culinary school, along with a few others in the French Laundry cookbook. My teacher for the plated desserts portion of our course was the thinking behind that dessert, for he was the pastry chef at French Laundry back in those days. This dessert was quite delicious, the semifreddo had the creamiest texture…one I hope to duplicate on a menu someday soon. After the multiple dessert courses, they had the nerve to bring out more. Truffles, 15 different kinds for us to choose from. And, then, more. Nougat, cookies, caramels…oh stop. Now.

As the sun was beginning to slightly dim in the sky, we exited Per Se. So full. So grateful for this experience, the whole of it. Being here in NYC and experiencing all the great food and representing my restaurant at the James Beard House was so amazing. I was actually moved to tears when I called my parents to leave a message about the trip. Everything about the weekend was so memorable. NYC is so memorable.

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Anonymous said...

Great description and what a fabulous trip! Thanks for the details and taking us along. You're a talented one my friend!
Love, Abby

Sara said...

Thanks!! Glad to see you keeping up with me :)