Posts Tagged ‘Bouley’

A Rekindled Bouley Affair

When I read that Chef Bouley would be closing his flagship restaurant, I felt like I was hearing second-hand that my boyfriend was breaking up with me. Why did I have to read about this on the popular EaterNY, where everyone else would know at the same time? We had a bond, Bouley and I, even though we hadn’t yet met. I’m sure he doesn’t recall our rendezvous during my 11th wedding anniversary. I returned a year later Rosmarie & Evyfor him to meet my mother. Okay, really it was just to celebrate Mother’s Day with a five-course lunch tasting. So you see, the two most important people in my life had been introduced to him.

Still, he sold his longtime home but didn’t leave town. In fact, I found out quickly where he resided, and so he left himself open to being stalked by a nostalgic gourmand. Truthfully, the restaurant Bouley sealed its significance in my heart when I lost my husband unexpectedly in 2016. I vowed not to return there yet, and now it’s a forced issue. But somehow, I received digital notification of an educational dining event taking place at Chef David Bouley’s new venue Bouley Botanical, an urban farms event space with over 400 species of edible plants growing in the window gardens, which are directly used in cooking the dishes served. It was a chance to reunite with my love affair – the man who epicuriously turned me on without getting near. He delivered his love to me through his food creativity.

My income doesn’t quite allow me to fulfill being a bon vivant, but I make other sacrifices of luxury to live like one occasionally, and this occasion was suitable: Inside-Out Health: Eating for Optimal Athletic Performance” with Dr. Robert G. Silverman, Duke University Defensive Lineman AJ Wolf and Chef David Bouley at Bouley Botanical. How did they know I was an athlete? Would an educational dinner take the enjoyment out of the food experience? Would it turn eating for me from an art to a science? I took a chance and made a reservation for one. Daniel would have enjoyed this immensely.

The room had one long communal table with no assigned seating. It was bright green from the glow of chlorophyll.  I felt healthy already and selected the end seat closest to the kitchen. I wanted front row on the culinary action. I took handwritten notes on nutrigenomics and how to maximize fuel based on the type of sport you play. The mention of gut rot, however, didn’t seem conducive to pre-dining conversation. I was also uncomfortably cold with the air conditioning blowing upon us on a 50-degree evening. When someone asked the event coordinator to adjust the temperature, his response irked me: “The kitchen staff gets warm.” I mumbled to myself sarcastically, “We’re more concerned about the employees’ comfort than the patrons’.” I later asked another gentleman kindly, and he immediately obliged. The diners slowly uncrossed their tight arms, and we were now ready to ingest these healthy foods that we listened so much about.IMG_4762

IMG_4769

The first plate – Last of the season Chatham Wild Blue fin, matsutake mushrooms (which had a floral fragrance upon the tongue), and golden Osetra caviar.

The second plate came out not long after  – Organic Connecticut Farm Egg steamed in Artichoke Heart, Cesare Casella Prosciutto and Fava Beans.

Then I thought I heard a drumroll, but I imagined it because the culinary rock star slid discretely into the kitchen area and was standing off to the side until he was officially introduced. He came out to applause and spoke a bit about the ingredients used this evening and their benefits and was accompanied by a slide show. He was thrilled to share what he learned from his visits to Japan. While he spoke, a plate of Dayboat Chatham Skate sat in front of us (Eat it, wait, don’t eat it, wait?). My excuse was to not lose the temperature at which it was served. My skate skated off the plate and into my mouth before he finished speaking. Then I got up and had the honor of shaking

hands with the man who IMG_4772unknowingly participated in my culinary affair. I held his hand while we spoke, and he didn’t even know that he had helped me cheat on Eric Ripert. I didn’t want to let go of those masterful tools.

The next course piqued my interest because I have never been a fan of salmon except in sushi form. This was Wild Alaskan Salmon with buckwheat pasta, and an array of mushrooms (wild porcini, trumpet, shiitake). Blindfolded I would not have guessed salmon. The question is, however, how does the general consumer obtain that type of wild hooked salmon. Dr. Silverman commented that it would basically be too expensive.

IMG_4773

The first of two dessert courses was light and refreshing – Biodynamic Concord Grape

Sorbet, Coconut Butter, Chestnut Honey. Dessert two was more than satisfying as the  final chapter: Cocoa Sacher Cake, 70% Valhrona Chocolate, Almond Milk and 10 Exotic Fruit sorbet, and a hard sugar-coated almond, just to put a bow on the package. But the bow wasn’t tied. A mignardises plate of about 15 assorted minis (three of each kind) was placed at our end of the table. Five of us on the end were attempting to sample one of each until we realized it was the only plate on the long table and maybe we were supposed to pass it along. Oops, where does chocolate fit into my nutrigenomics? I didn’t really want to know that answer. I pretended to want to share, passing the plate down with three tiny bites remaining for the 15 or so other people. Fortunately they all looked too full to care.IMG_4782

I walked away with energy, not feeling overstuffed and lethargic – mission accomplished. I will likely implement half of what I was educated on, half of which I was already aware. The other half I will reserve for happiness. How could I ever eliminate fresh baked breads from my palette, particularly the types Bouley used to offer? The bigger question is why would I want to be miserable?

Chef Bouley, we will have another rendezvous when I stalk you at Test Kitchen one day.  You can’t hide those epicurean eyes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Italian Pastries

We all think of desserts in a different light. Some dream of deep-fried oreos, some envision a fondant-covered cake from Carlo’s Bakery. Me – I was brought up on good old-fashioned European-style Sunday desserts. We didn’t need colored sugar or a sweet toothache to get high off the delight of these desserts.

One could almost argue that they are the healthier version of desserts, usually laden with fruits. My mother’s signature is her pies/tarts: apple, pear, pecan, peach (see link above for more). Let’s just admit that Europeans are the rulers of desserts, and it could be quite a debate whether Italy or France would reign. When searching for special pastries that are American, we fall short in that we gear bakery items toIMG_6446ward children. When I close my eyes to get the connotation of “American bakery”, I come up with lots of unnatural colors, loads of sweetness, and icing – tons of icing – as in the no-textured messy dessert of cupcakes. Okay, so my connotation was extreme, but I think you will agree with my portrait of contrasts.

After taking my mother to an early Mother’s Day dinner at Bouley, I decided to take her the following week for a late afternoon dessert and coffee, and I knew it wasn’t going to be in New Jersey. Where do you take a woman from Europe who knows how to make some of the best classics and appreciates such high-end delicacies? I must ask another European who happens to own a restaurant, who happens to have worked at an upscale Italian restaurant, who happens to be Albanian (close enough). “Name two of the best places to sit down and have Italian pastries and coffee.” His response: “Roccos’ or Venerio’s.” So I drove her to Pasticceria Rocco on Bleeker.

We were seated in the back, which has an outdoor patio feel but is covered with a glass ceiling. Don’t look up because you will see dirt and leaves and sides of buildings. Just enjoy the natural light that peers upon you. Before our server came, we studied the cases up front to carefully make our selections. She couldn’t decide between the small lemon meringue pie and the multi-fruit and custard-filled puff pastry. Naturally, the only solution was to order both with a double espresso.IMG_6442 IMG_6443

Cheesecake is not usually my first choice, but the pistachio cheesecake whispered to me through the glass with its abundant chopped pistachio pieces. I watched my mother transform into a young child back at home, slowly consuming and savoring every bite as a rare treat. Time stood still for a little while as I glimpsed into the past.

 

IMG_6440

 

And Rocco’s passed her coffee test. Not only was the double espresso served in a small coffee cup, but the potency measured up to her standards. It is difficult to walk by all these desserts without taking some home “for Dad”. It was a good excuse to get another little taste the next day.

IMG_6524 IMG_6526 IMG_6527

You Say Boulud; I say Bouley, Just a Matter of Taste

It was the evening of an annual surprise location dinner. We were walking on 65th Street, not quite sure how much further, until I noticed the number 210. We had to go to 60. “How much further?” he questions. “It is already 7:30.” I mumbled something about it being in the next block. I wasn’t confident. But then, looking up, I saw the name on the marquee. It is his name too, so I quickly called ahead, before he could notice, “Daniel, turn around.” I whipped out my camera and asked IMG_5862him to pose while I smirked at the label above his head. He irritatingly responded, “Like we have time for this. We’re already late.” I basked in the pleasure derived from the revelation of a surprise. “We’re here, Daniel!”

The revolving door that says ‘keep coming back’, the lounge, and at last the dining room, which appeared  to me as a Roman atrium – all were inviting and not too imperial. However, an aura of affluence surrounded me when the waiter handed me the menu and addressed me by name. That was the golden ring of ambiance. All the while, as exclusive as Daniel was making me feel, I reflected momentarily on David and Eric. I had already been unfaithful to my first love Le Bernardin with Bouley, and now I am cheating on the guy I cheated with. One always searches for the greener grass, but I can tell you from the second I was teased with the amuse bouches (yes, we got two plates), this Daniel guy was going to have to work real hard at winning my taste buds because slots one and two are already full. The chickpea theme was a clever beginning and got my attention.

Bread is just as sweetly satisfying as dessert for me, so I take it seriously. Four small roll varieties were presented: olive rosemary, garlic parmesan, five-seed whole green, and a butter roll – served with farm-fresh butter with and without sea salt. I thought back to the bread “cage” at Bouley as I was biting into the five-seed role, and the image evaporated. At that moment, I believed it was the best roll I had ever tasted, but sometimes that is biased because it is the most current memory. At this point, doesn’t someone always say, “Don’t fill up on bread.” To which my response would be: ‘Shut up! I am swallowing every crumb of both rolls that I selected and am sampling the other two he chose.’

Then came our first courses:

SHIMAAJI “AU VIN BLANC” – Poached with Riesling and Celery Mustard Salad; Tartare with Northern Lights Caviar

SICILIAN PISTACHIO AND LICORICE CRUSTED MAINE SEA SCALLOPS – Gourgane Panisse, Spinach, Sauce Diable

Then our second courses:

OVEN BAKED BLACK SEA BASS WITH SYRAH SAUCE – Aleppo Pepper, Caramelized Red Onions;  Roasted Parsnip, Yukon Gold Potato Confit

DUO OF SUCKLING PIG – need I say more? It went like this: crackle, crunch, soft fattiness, bursting flavor and juice, crispy crunch, oh wow, yum.578469_10200824087904726_1094870266_n

Our dessert course was a delightful end, and our stomachs squeezed the additional celebratory mini-dessert they brought us. The waiter announced: “We’re not done with you yet,” as he held a paper bag filled with warm, just-made madeleines. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to reach in with my fingers. I hesitated, and he continued to hold the bag and then placed it down for us to finish.

IMG_5867 IMG_5866

The final ratings of Top 3 Food Loves so far are:

1. Le Bernardin – my true love

2. Bouley (maybe just because we had more courses to taste than at Daniel). Bouley is #1 in decor/atmosphere, which includes the bathroom (see my blog on Bouley)!

A very close 3. Daniel – If you treat me just as well next time, and I get to know you a little better, you could be my first choice to cheating on LB.

Bouley Affair

Sorry guys, but we women tend to take mental comparative notes in every aspect in relation to our true love. I wish I had met you first David Bouley because you are exquisite, but I went into this dining experience unable to put Le Bernardin (LB) out of my mind as the benchmark. There is nothing negative to say about Bouley, but with Eric Ripert leading the race, Bouley came in with a photo-finish second place. Perhaps I just wouldn’t allow my labeling of LB as near-perfect to be challenged.The scent of fresh apples in the foyer of Bouley awakened my culinary senses and prepared the eyes, nose and mouth for the journey. The lounge, although nobody in it, drew in and roused my sight with a large orchid painted on the side wall and fresh orchids along the windows on the opposing wall. It’s like the snooze alarm. Now I understand. First, the smell, then the sight; it was all building up to taste, wasn’t it? The dining room felt like home – not my home, but some rich, French lady’s home. It still earned a tenth of a bonus point in the Bouley column under ambiance versus LB.

While waiting for our appetizers, the waiter presented two dishes from the chef: a tomato infusion with a dollop of ricotta at center and truffles; and an amuse bouche. He stood there holding the first bowl looking at me and said, “Your napkin.” My quiet voice spoke to me as I had an instant recollection of the French waiter at LB gracefully placing the napkin from the plate onto my lap. Food snobbish self (and one is allowed to be so at these prices) said to self: “He wants me to move my own f%*$ napkin? Aren’t I supposed to feel like a princess?” Mental pen to paper scribbled a minus tenth of a point in the service column. The house-made bread warden arrived with a cart that appeared to have imprisoned loaves of bread. We sampled five of the eight variations available.

Tomato infusion with ricotta and truffle

 

Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms, Sweet Garlic, Special Spices, Grilled Toro, Black Truffle Dressing

North Carolina Pink Shrimp & Cape Cod Sea Scallops, Alaska Live Dungeness Crab, Point Judith Calamari, Ocean Herbal Broth

Oh but as you can see by the photos, dish after dish racked up many tasteful points, and each one was absorbed into my digestive system from lips to stomach as slowly as humanly possible. Like the fine French art with the velvet frames on the walls, I wanted to appreciate and savor every morsel.
To do so, a ten-minute break was required before dessert so I could allow the food to somehow flatten and make room in my belly for a few more bites. A trip to the ladies room was mainly for observation: this restroom was like a royal master bedroom. I wanted to party inside the maroon-velvet walls.

“What do you recommend for dessert? They all sound good.” Waiter: “I like the chocolate soufflé and the pear tart. The rest I don’t like at all.” Yes, it came out of my mouth…”You’re not supposed to say that!” For a moment, I forgot I wasn’t Mrs. Bouley or the manager, so I followed it with laughter. The pre-dessert of blueberry sorbet challenged the little remaining space I had left, and the post-dessert of mini cookies was sadly neglected for lack of stomach space. There was barely room for the actual dessert, but I survived happily full. Upon exiting, we were handed a white bag from the hostess with “a lemon pound cake made in house”. I couldn’t think of anything that resembled food at that moment, and it seemed so inferior to everything we just ate, that I offered an insincere thank you that she probably didn’t detect. I’m usually much more appreciative, but tonight I was an epicurean princess and was pressed in my head to declare a winner over last year’s anniversary dinner at LB. My heart still belongs to Eric, but I would rendezvous with David any time.