January 23, 2017 § Leave a comment
The first and only other time I’d ever been to Eleven Madison Park, temple of gastronomy and world-class service, was as a Cahill summer associate, when the world of fine-dining was still brand new and, frankly, very intimidating to me. Cindy and I finally managed to get a 9:30 p.m. reservation towards the end of our summer and stayed until around 1:00 a.m., after finishing one of the most memorable meals ever.
So it was only fitting that, when Wes was deciding which restaurants he wanted to visit before leaving us for Austin FOREVER, he chose Eleven Madison Park as one of them and rounded up a crew of Cahill’s most delinquent current and former associates for one hell of a dinner. I arrived early and tucked into a Start Me Up – bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon, orange bitters – at the cozy bar (where you can order a shorter tasting menu, first come, first serve) and then we were seated and started with these black and white savory cookie with apple and cheddar, basically a fancified version of Cheez-its (in the most delicious way possible).
Next, a tower of beautiful wooden boxes that slowly revealed parsnip pie; celery root with black truffle; rutabaga with celery and walnuts; salsify with garlic and thyme. The parsnip pie, with its super delicate crust, was particularly delicious.
Caviar Benedict with smoked sturgeon, ham and pickled egg yolk – a supremely elegant and expensive version of an Egg McMuffin, presented in the most beautiful tin, a replica of which we got to take home with us.
Bread course. Note also the Jono Pandolfi ceramics, all of which I wanted to tuck into my bag and take home with me.
Foie gras – seared with Brussels sprouts and lemon. You can choose between a cold terrine and the seared, though to me it’s a pretty obvious choice. It’s a small, perfectly cooked portion of foie jam-packed with flavor and a nice hit of tartness.
Lobster – butter-poached with rutabaga and pear. Gorgeous to look at and the lobster was super sweet and tender. I don’t usually care for fruit in savory dishes but liked the earthiness the pear lended to this dish.
Our next course was a vegetable course of celery root with truffle jus that was prepared table-side a la Paul Bocuse in an inflated pig’s bladder.
The plated celery root braised with black truffle. Deceptively simple looking but for a vegetable course, had all the richness and savoriness of a meat dish. The black truffle jus didn’t hurt either.
A classic EMP dish: duck, honey and lavender glazed with turnip and huckleberry. Stunning and served with some some of the lightest potatoes I’ve ever had. They tried to prematurely clear the dish and I had to reach out my hand to stop the server so I could finish the last couple bites.
Our cheese course of the cutest little cheddar tart with apple and mixed greens. Honestly, at this point, I would’ve been happy to end on this note since I don’t usually really care for dessert but we had a surprise waiting of us.
Baked Alaska, set aflame at the table, with citrus, vanilla and rum
Towards the end of our meal, we were taken on a tour of the kitchen and served the last dessert course – an ice cream with a honey-colored dessert wine made from noble rot (botrytis) grapes. Felt so lucky to have a chance to see the workings of the kitchen (which was beautiful and spotless) and the giant Miles Davis photographs they have hanging on the walls for inspiration.
Fancy food with fancy friends
The wines we’d had that night – we’d opted to order bottles instead of the pairing, which was the right decision. A Keller riesling to start and then two different, fantastic bottles of Clos Rougeard. Our meal finally came to a close with chocolate covered pretzels and a guessing game of which chocolate was made from which milk (cow, goat, buffalo or sheep), which I failed miserably.
No matter – in the end, we all came out feeling like huge winners. Such a wonderful experience, top to bottom, from the warm and friendly staff to the perfect pacing and explanation of each course to the food itself, which was beautiful, whimsical and most importantly, downright delicious. A huge thank you to the Eleven Madison Park for exceeding all expectations once again…I cannot wait to visit again.
The beautiful dining room at the end of the night.