Yes, it's true! I'm tying the knot, and there's much to tell about that, along with an amazing engagement dinner at Daniel in Manhattan, but first a bit about the long absence.
Shamefully, it has been around a year and a half since my last post. I've been busy with work, recording music, and yes, cooking. Somehow the blog fell by the wayside, but I'm hoping to change that. Yes, I know I've said that before. No, I'm not assuming that you care.
I want to note one other sad aspect of my long absence. Until the later years of this blog, I was linking all the photos from Photobucket. Well...my Photobucket account went dormant, I didn't do anything about it, and now ALL of those photos are gone. In their place you will see an image saying that my account no longer exists. Bastards. Over time I will replace many of them, but many others are on a long-gone computer, and are therefore forever gone. But enough about the past! Onward to the future!
There have been numerous interesting food adventures in the past year or so--sojourns to out-of-the-way butcher shops and farms; fantastic farmers markets; excellent D.C. area restaurants--but two adventures easily stand out. The first is the SASOU Chef cooking competition/supper club that Kitchen Monkey and seven friends formed over a year ago. SASOU deserves its own post, however, and will have to wait. The second was a truly phenomenal dinner at a truly phenomenal restaurant: Daniel.
That dinner was part of what I would say was a perfect day, the day I proposed to my soon-to-be-wife. Without going into too much detail, I proposed in a secluded part of Central Park in Manhattan, she was surprised, and she said yes. She knew we had reservations at Daniel. She didn't know it was going to be an engagement dinner.
This is the lovely dining room at Daniel. Executive chef and owner, Daniel Boulud, opened this restaurant in 1993 and in 1998 it moved to its current location at Park Avenue and 65th Street in Manhattan. In 2008 renovations were completed to its interior, the one you see above. It has been called one of the ten best restaurants in the world. The President of France has made Boulud a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. The restaurant has three Michelin stars in the 2010 Michelin, the book's highest rating. It is elegant, grand, and any other hyperbolic synonym you can find for those words.
It is also out-of-this world expensive. Kitchen Monkey is not a wealthy man. He has a mountain of law school debt. But obviously this was an extremely special occasion. Was it worth it? YES. Will I be able to go again any time in the next five to ten years? Probably not.
First, I should describe the service, and if in doing so I sound like a hick who just saw his first skyscraper, so be it. First we were seated in the cocktail lounge to await our table and sip perfect (and we're talking 'Platonic Form' here) martinis. Not too much later, we were shown to our table in the dining room pictured above.
Over the course of the evening we were assisted by at least seven different people, each one with a different role, and each one of them like ninjas: their movements smooth and effortless, sometimes too quick to be noticed. Not long after we sat down, my fiancee asked me if I had seen what had just happened. I had not. She explained how she had sat down, placing her pocketbook (a $12 Filene's Basement affair) on the table. Almost before she had even noticed, a waiter/ninja had silently slipped her pocketbook off the table and placed it on a small plush pedestal next to the table. I had not noticed any of this.
Moments later, we looked up to see another man folding my fiancee's scarf (also from Filene's Basement--$20) in crisp, perfect folds, and setting it across the back of her chair, to keep it from touching the floor. In a French accent he said "this is my job...this is all I do...I fold scarves." It turned out later he was the sommelier.
But the food! How was it? I'm not Shakespeare, but allow me to wax poetic: GOD DAMN IT WAS AMAZING.
I started with sauteed foie gras (feel free to hate, all you haters, I understand why it's wrong and actually agree. I am not always a rational being and am aware that I may spend the afterlife being pecked for eternity by angry geese).
My main course was a stunningly tender venison loin that made me want to weep with joy. My fiancee's main course was a fillet of turbot, which was baked on a block of salt from Spain, I think. It was wheeled out to the table still on said block of salt. Another french-accented waiter effortlessly filleted the fish at our table. It was served with pureed parsnips which I have to assume had as much butter as parsnip and were remarkable.
For dessert I had a ganache, and it was decadent and delicious. During the entire meal we were treated wonderfully. I don't know how much that had to do with the fact that the staff knew ahead of time that this was an engagement dinner. Would we get the same treatment on an average visit? Don't know. Don't much care. They also brought us an additional dessert, with the word "congratulations" written in chocolate in fine cursive on the plate. Nice touch.
After dinner, the assistant manager came over and asked us how everything was. He was very helpful when I asked where we might find a cigar bar. There happened to be one the next block down, called Macanudo. It is one of maybe four or five places left in Manhattan that allow indoor smoking. We finished the night there with a cigar and cognac, and happened to sit next to a woman who had just gotten engaged that day. Even the initially-frosty bartender warmed up to us once she overheard that we had just gotten engaged.
In short, it was a wonderful day. One I will never forget.