Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Toasts | dossier of (golden) birthdays

26 on the 26th at Madam Geneva
Me, blowing out some birthday candles on the most delicious carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream at a little cocktail gathering at Madam Geneva.

Minus the crazy hours I was working as a bean counter, February had lots of toasting in store. I celebrated my golden birthday (they really do have a word for everything, don't they?!) with Erin, my oldest bestie, whose own golden birthday was the day before. Not only were our two birthdays in February, so were my mom's and Lisa's, my other BFF. Mix that in with Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day, and my life as a morsel marauder couldn't be any easier. I cannot wait to share the extraordinary meals I had last month -- arguably three that easily make it into the roster of the best meals of my life (not something I can say lightly about any given meal, let alone three!).

On the first Saturday in February, Marcus and I took my mom out to Chef David Bouley's Brushstroke to celebrate her birthday a wee bit early because my work schedule at the end of the month would've proved to be quite unpredictable and consuming. It was one of those meals where I consciously left my DSLR at home with a point to just enjoy the company of my lovely mother and my better half over the kaiseki cuisine we planned for dinner -- best decision! I got to enjoy every last bit of the meal as the favorable light of the table proved to make quick iPhone shots clear and bright. We opted for the six-course winter tasting menu (as opposed to the eight-course winter kaiseki menu) which was shorter but still had many of the highlights and options as the kaiseki, in addition to the many pretty much "tailor-to-your-own-liking-and-preference" supplements along the way. The six course included two starting courses, sashimi, a choice of a fish or meat dish, a choice of rice dish, followed by a dessert from the menu. The reason we brought her here this year was because she loves Japanese cuisine and prefers clean, simple flavors (essentially, not too much salt), so Brushstroke proved to be an instant winner with her, which let me just say, is a hard feat to accomplish. Also, Marcus and I had such a surreal time the first time we came here for our first anniversary (incidentally also the opening day for the restaurant) that we knew that same spark that won us over nearly two years ago would work its magic on my mom.

{1,2} inside Brushstroke

Starter courses
{3} winter bamboo shoots with white miso-mustard dressing, ankimon in tosazu gelée, apple-elderberry reduction, and sesame cloud / {4} chef's sashimi platter (from Chef Ichimura himself next door!) with a daily selection of five or six season varieties (including toro, mirugai, red snapper, Spanish mackerel, caviar, etc.) -- note this was an additional supplement in lieu of the regular sashimi course / {5} Shimeji

 egg custard with truffle ankake sauce (I think they threw in some golden crab for good measure -- something that's typically only found on the kaiseki menu) / {6seared Maine lobster with somen noodles, creamy uni broth, crushe duni flakes, and shredded nori -- this was sent out on the house in dedication to my mom's birthday that evening (another course usually only on the kaiseki menu)

Fish/Meat course
{7} garlic-chive marinated Chilean sea bass with black sesame smoke (my main course) / {8} select treasures from the sea: yuzu-perfumed akamutsu (i.e., grilled rosy sea bass) and akamutsu tossed in camelina, giant clam, and uni with caviar (my mom's main course, which was an additional supplement in lieu of the regular fish/meat dishes) / {9} Japan-raised wagyu steak with Tasmanian mustard, angkar pepper, and red wine reduction (Marcus's main course, also a supplemental dish)

Rice course
{10} golden crab and lobster zousui rice with sake-kasu broth (Marcus's rice course) / {11} winter mushroom in anikake sauce over rice (my mom's rice course) / {12} Alaskan king salmon and season mushrooms steamed with rice in a donabe pot (my rice course, which was also a supplemental dish)

Dessert course

Mirin ice cream and soy sauce ice cream
My mom and Marcus chose the most unique dessert offered -- mirin ice cream and soy sauce ice cream with dried cranberries and pistachio nuts -- ultimately a Japanese take on the salty-sweet combination Americans can compare to salted caramel and vanilla. I had (not pictured) the soy milk panna cotta with grenache coulis -- one of my all-time favorite desserts here. Another big happy birthday to you, Mom! Marcus and I had a fantastic time celebrating over this meal with you -- love you! :)

The next evening, Erin and I treated ourselves to a celebratory dinner at Koi SoHo inside the Trump SoHo Hotel. Thought it was a bit overpriced for the portions we were given, the food was very decent, and the cocktails even better. Here were some of the highlights:

{1}"Pear"-idise martini with Absolut pear, Asian pear purée, and lime juice (Erin's cocktail) and The Earl with Bulldog gin, housemade Earl Grey syrup, and lemon juice / {2foie gras on seared tuna with white truffle oil / {3} main dining area of Koi SoHo

A little less than a week later, Lisa and I were able to nab (with the biggest stroke of luck!) two seats at the dining counter at Atera in Tribeca. If I could surmise our experience in very few words, it'd be "surreal, extraordinary, and redefining urban cuisine in New York City." I'll be making a separate post on this soon -- so much to share about it! Happy Birthday once again to both of my besties!! :D

With Valentine's Day around the corner, even though Marcus and I don't like to make a big fuss about the over-commercialized holiday, we see it as a nice excuse to go out, trying a new restaurant, and enjoying a nice meal together. The catch? We NEVER go out on the actual day -- cranky waitstaff, subpar food, and ridiculous crowds aren't our thing. We always make it a point to go out the weekend before, which is what we did. Just a disclaimer though -- in the three years we've been together, the times we've attempted this "Valentine's Day" dinner, we've both always gotten sick from the food or had a horrible time -- Marcus seems to think it's in the way we're choosing restaurants (which I will have to agree). So this time around, we were cautious not to do anything too crazy: we chose Tori Shin in the Upper East Side based on our mutual love for simple Japanese cuisine and the casual ambiance it had to offer -- just like any other date night. It turned out to be a successful choice, so I'll be reviewing it in a separate post to follow in the next week or so.

Marcus and I made ressies for the last weekend in February to celebrate my twenty-six years at The Modern: Dining Room. I have been to The Bar Room at The Modern quite a few times, but was never able to make it to the dining room, so I thought my birthday would be the perfect occasion to check it out. I almost feel guilty saying this, but I may have found my new favorite restaurant in the city here (sorry, Eleven Madison Park!). We loved absolutely everything that was served to us, down to the last morsels, remaining drops, and leftover crumbs. You can say we licked our plates clean (as well as we could with the restrictions of fine dining etiquette, that is :P). You can bet your bottom dollar that a post is in the works! A big thank you to Marcus for making my birthday this year so spectacular -- I love you more than words can say!

The last few years, I haven't made a big deal about my birthday or anything (just a nice meal with Marcus was more than enough celebrating for me :P), but turning twenty-six years of age on the twenty-sixth (of February) only happens once, so a few friends met up with me at Madam Geneva (right next to Saxon + Parole) in NoHo for an intimate celebration over libations and banter. I first stumbled upon it when I saw Alice's shots in Serious Eats: New York for its coverage of the cocktail bar. It was the photograph of the signature punch that tipped it over for me. I had to celebrate here. An awesome surprise came that very evening when the bartenders told me that a jazz band would be playing throughout the evening -- what a totally crazy bonus that I couldn't ask for a better ambiance than that! Also didn't realize until later on that the name Madam Geneva comes from the eighteenth century English term for gin (i.e., the focused spirit at this cocktail bar).

Madam Geneva
{1} the romantic bar and space at Madam Geneva / {2} Madam's Horse & Carriage Punch with Beefeater 24 gin, Combier, St. Germain, Chamomile tea, lemon juice, citrus sugar, nutmeg, and fizzy stuff -- still swooning over it! / {3} one of the many photographs from a short evening filled with lots of laughs, catching up, and ginny drinks -- here's one with me, Dani, and Lisa

What a gorgeous space it was and what a helpful and hospitable service team they have there (if you happen to be coming here for a drink, be sure to ask for Rich or Tim!). I highly recommend working with AVROKO Hospitality Group for any private events you may have on the horizon -- they are fabulous and so easy to work with!

Findings: I am so unbelievably lucky to have such great family and friends in my life that made February (however grueling) that much more special to me. I love you all :) here's to another great year ahead! Cannot wait to share the details of these February meals in further detail!

Price point: $85 per person for the winter tasting menu at Brushstroke with an additional $22-48 for each supplemental dish; $14 for each cocktail and $28 for each starter at Koi SoHo; $60 for each bowl of Madam's Punch at Madam Geneva.

--February 2/3/24, 2013

30 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013

Koi SoHo
Trump SoHo Hotel
246 Spring Street
New York, NY 10013

Madam Geneva
4 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012

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