While I noshed each day, the focus of this post will be on my sit-down meals, starting with my hands-down favorite restaurant in the country: Eleven Madison Park.
After tending to some political science business in DC, I hopped on the Amtrak, arriving at Penn Station just before noon, giving me just enough time to check into my hotel before ambling over to the Flatiron to meet raconteur par excellence, The Wizard of Roz, and her husband, The Oenophilist.
What ensued was a four-hour cavalcade of spectacular courses. While animal protein is handled deftly—most notably in the Homage to the Jewish Deli and in the slightly messy but ever so enjoyable lobster boil—it was the vegetables that bowled me over. A two-part tomato course began with a vibrant tomato tea infused with lemon verbena, a dish that hasn’t been on the menu since the 2012 summer, followed by a bowl of Tri-star strawberries, variegated tomatoes, micro basil and stipples of olive oil.
But the biggest surprise came from the restaurant’s riff on artichokes en barigoule. In lieu of artichoke the kitchen used sunflower. Topped with a brioche crust, the disc of sunflower packed an umami punch, tempered by a sharp watercress purée. And it should go without saying, but service is as cloudless as ever, making guests feel as if they are the only table in the grand palazzo of a dining room.
Day 2 featured Round 2 at EMP this time with a full embrace of vegetables. The final three savory courses would prove to be a contest of sensations, beginning with a palate-caressing peach purée atop a preternaturally sweet peach that married unbelievably well with celtuce and trout roe. Next, an almost custard-like roasted eggplant balanced with a crunchy ribbon of pickled eggplant all amid a scattering of fried quinoa. And for the main course, a puck of aioli-topped pumpernickel lay at the center of the plate festooned by slow-cooked summer beans.
And though my sweet tooth has dampened over the years, the brownie sundae finished tableside with rum caramel includes an ethereal set of textures: chewy cubes of brownie, creamy vanilla ice cream, crisp waffle cone pieces and the gossamer-thin dark chocolate edifice that houses the sundae.
On my third visit to NoMad this year, I definitely overindulged. That said, all eight dishes I tried were delicious.The kitchen would start by sending out their take on fruits de mer, which included, inter alia, a scallop tartare spiked with jalapeno, creamy sea urchin panna cotta and a king crab custard of which I could effortlessly eat spoonfuls. Given the wide selection of the menu I sampled, it seems hard to go wrong; particularly notable were the salad of plump grapes and diaphanous slices of fennel atop a tangy yogurt, eggplant five ways with an inimitable Bourbon barrel-aged fish sauce and what can only be described as a pond of velvet: a perfectly poached egg, melting slivers of parmesan and brown butter espuma, all enhanced by nutty quinoa and bite-size pieces of tender asparagus.
And I wrapped up my trip with a visit to Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s temple to red sauce Italian-American restaurants. To say portions are on the large side is tantamount to saying ISIS doesn’t conduce to world peace. This is hibernation food.
Because it was pushing 90 degrees outside on the day of my reservation, I started with the relatively light Caesar salad; the crisp romaine did indeed prove to be refreshing, and the croutons were unlike any I’ve ever had. And the veal parm is simply stunning, a veritable land mass interspersed with crisp edges and mountainous sections boasting a thick mozzarella carapace. It’s large enough to keep a team of geologists occupied for weeks.
This is definitely a restaurant to which I’d return, for in addition to the delicious food, charming staff and a lively dining room—the restaurant was nearly full by 6pm—made for a great first visit.
Below are links to all of the photos from the aforementioned meals: