Thursday, October 9, 2014

Eleven Madison Park Fall Tasting Menu Reveal!

{Chef Daniel Humm}

Nathan had an idea one evening - he decided to find out when Eleven Madison Park would be launching its fall tasting menu. After calling and stopping by a few times, he found out the menu would be revealed on October 7th, just a few days before my 30th birthday! Soon we were all set for a 6pm reservation.

Friends have asked why I keep going back when there are so many other restaurants to choose from. Well, ok, fair point. I would happily go back to Le Bernadin, I'm saving Masa for a very special occasion, and I've been wanting to try the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, but I haven't actually tried to get a reservation there. There is something whimsical about the dining experience at Eleven Madison Park that keeps me coming back for more!

When we were seated our waiter immediately wished me happy birthday and instructed us to pick a flavor on the card inside the envelope on our table. Well, this sounds familiar. This time, we were presented with a selection of fall flavors - maple, cranberry, celery, and apple. I picked maple and Nathan went with apple.

Last time, we had a 9pm reservation, and I joked with Nathan that it would be most ideal to have a meal here during the day to allow for the best photos (huge windows with sunlight pouring in? yes). Well, 6pm was close enough!

We started with Cheddar, which is an EMP classic. I know you've seen it before, but it is EMP's take on a traditional black and white cookie in that it is savory - so you get flavors of cheese and green apple.

In case you are wondering, that chipped polish is She's Pampered by Essie. 

Our next course was Broth. We were served bread and venison broth, with vension infused butter and Amagansett sea salt. The bread rolls were served warm and just as flaky and buttery as I remembered them to be.

We were very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet Chef Daniel Humm during our dinner. He asked us if we were enjoying ourselves and made a joke that these days, if you serve bread at the beginning of the meal, it is considered 'out there'. Yeah, I've noticed that! 

We also went with the wine pairing. I had forgotten you can choose from one of two pairing options - the first is a classic option and the second is more of a "wild card" that incorporates different types of spirits into the pairing. We went with the latter.

Our first course looked vaguely familiar to me. Remember all that zucchini pasta I made over the summer? Well this is sort of like it but a lot fancier. Kabocha Squash was served roasted, with pears, chestnut, and radicchio leaves. There was a strong vinegary, citrus flavor in the dressing.

Our next course looked kind of like mushrooms in the ground. We were served Hudson Valley Foie Gras served with grapes, truffles, and mushroom bread crumbs. I'm going to also mention the wine pairing here because it was very unique and an outstanding pairing. Our sommelier paired this dish with a madeira, which I think is normally had with dessert. I think it worked really well given the sweetness of the grapes and the rich foie gras.

Now a familiar course was brought into the mix. Our server placed Beef, consisting of pastrami with rye in front of us, served with leek, potato, apple, and black mustard. This time, our soda flavors matched the maple and green apple that we picked at the beginning of our meal. We both agreed that the fall soda flavors were much better than the spring ones. 

Somewhere around this time, I got up to find the ladies room. When I returned, I noticed that my napkin felt warm, as though it had maybe just been ironed. Turns out when you get up to use the restroom, the staff replace your old napkin with a freshly pressed new one. Talk about service!

Our next course was something new for the season. Our server brought out four small ramekin type bowls out and placed them in front of us kind of in a cross formation. The course consisted of Long Island seafood.

We were instructed to eat the course clockwise from 9:00. First we had Widow's Hole oyster with yogurt and lemon, the thin film you see on top of the oyster is a gelee made from the juices of the oyster. Then we had scallops with pistachio and apple. The third was my favorite of the course, marinated blue crab with pickled radish. The last bite was the vichyssoise with caviar, smoked blue fish, and quail egg. I was wondering what happened to our normal caviar course, and it looks like I found it here.

The next course was Atlantic halibut served with uni and potato foam. The halibut was served with clams and cuttlefish and on top of a parsley sauce. I think this is the one dish I didn't enjoy as much as the others. 

I did enjoy the uni, I liked the combination of flavors with the uni and potato. 

Next, a server stopped by to show us our next course, lion's mane mushrooms. I've never seen shrooms like this before! 

I continue to believe that mushrooms are underrated. These came out looking like beef tongue, and were very meaty, but the entire dish consisted of the lion's mane cooked in its own broth.

At the beginning of our meal, our server asked us to pick our "main" course, either duck or venison. We readily agreed to the venison. We were told that our venison loin was being cooked inside an ash and beet crust, and would be prepared shortly.

In the interim, we were given a charcuterie board with venison sausage, liver on toast, and cured loin.

{Sausage on a brioche toast}

And out came our beautiful venison. It was served with beets and onions. The beets had different consistencies, some were crunchy (like kale chips!) and some were soft. This was paired with a beautiful Languedoc (Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pays de l'Herault, 2012). As we took our first bites, we both shook our heads in agreement that this was better than the duck we had earlier in the summer. 

Our waiter came by with a cheese cart. I chuckled to myself when my first thought was "this kind of reminds me of flying first class on Lufthansa!" He explained that the selection of cheese all came from Cato Corner Farm, and pointed out the variety of cheese that could be made with the same milk. Our cheese course was served alongside some soft pretzels, a bitter green salad, and a plum conserve. We were told that the plum conserve had been pickling for the past month or so, with all the best plums that EMP could scoop up in the state of New York!

So I suppose this would be the new take on the old "picnic basket". Our cheese course was paired with two beers, Barleywine Ale from England, and Saison Rue from California.

And now, it was finally time for dessert! Our first course was Whey, sorbet made with caramelized milk and milk foam. It was just a tiny bit tart and every bit as fabulous as I remembered it to be.

Our server brought out a baked alaska dessert, and this was similar to what we had last time.

Or so we thought! This time, it had a strong "fall" taste of apples and maple.

Also an EMP classic - chocolate covered pretzels with Amagansett sea salt. 

As we were celebrating my birthday, our server presented me with a small box at the end of our meal. Inside was an elevated version of an almond joy bar - a chocolate bar lightly dusted in cocoa powder covering a coconut interior. I finished it in about three bites as soon as I got home.

And we closed on another EMP classic - the sweet version of the black and white cookies.

Overall: Nathan and I both agreed that we enjoyed the fall tasting menu more than the summer menu. Fall happens to be my favorite season, and the combination of the items on the tasting menu felt like you were walking down the mall in Central Park with burnt orange leaves crinkling at your feet. On our way out, we asked a few people how far in advance the menu is planned - apparently anywhere from six months to a year! Chef Humm travels with his R&D chef to get inspired and bring new ideas to his acclaimed restaurant. Another pleasant experience at my favorite restaurant in New York!

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Park
New York, New York 10010
(212) 889-0905

Reservations open 28 days in advance, you had better get on those phone lines at 9:00am sharp!

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