ellie gave me a gift certificate to gramercy tavern for christmas. prior to last night, i’d never dined there. i’d had cheese and prosecco at the bar, but that doesn’t really count. so, before i head off on my adventure, i thought i should cash in ellie’s gift and enjoy a good meal with friends. the meal turned out to not just be good, it was a stellar feast. honestly.
i met katy and lex at the bar. we started off with a yet-to-be-named, french/new orleans inspired drink the bartender is adding to the menu next week. subtly fruity with an essence of elderflower. delicious, and a perfect complement to the saltyspicysweet bar nuts. michael anthony, the executive chef, came over to say hi to katy, who works in marketing for union square hospitality group. he couldn’t have been kinder. wished me well on my upcoming farming endeavors and mentioned la chassagnette, a restaurant in southern france that looks magical. it’s now on my list of places to visit.
we expected to order from the tavern menu, so katy filled us in on its highlights. i was thinking seafood, katy wanted chicken and lex was opting for steak. then our server came over to tell us that chef mike wanted to make us a special meal and he’d come over to discuss ideas before he started cooking. and at that moment, as i’m sitting at our cozy window table between my two dear friends, sipping a crisp white wine and catching up on life, i couldn’t help but feel the rush of sweet, glorious anticipation. anticipation for the food we were about to eat and for the journey that lies ahead.
so, chef mike asked us what we were in the mood for. fish, chicken and steak…of course! we like it all. how many courses? i suggested twelve. we settled on four. we ended up sharing everything, so when all was said and done, we tried a significant portion of their menu. we started with three different soups, all soul-warmingly satisfying. next came three appetizers – duck sausage, roasted cauliflower with almonds, capers and golden raisins, and a root vegetable medley. when i roast cauliflower (and i do quite often during the winter months), i always break the head up into lots of mini heads (florets is the technical word, i guess. i prefer mini head), then toss with olive oil and kosher salt and pepper. but with the gramercy tavern version, the whole head of cauliflower is cut lengthwise into inch thick slabs, resembling a mini, two dimensional tree, with the almonds, capers and raisins sprinkled on top. it had never occurred to me to cut cauliflower that way. presentation points skyrocket. i’ll take the cauliflower tree over mini heads any day. the pasta course came next. the lamb pappardelle was hands down my favorite. the sauce was perfectly salty and gamey. the ribbons of pasta mixed with the tender lamb melted in my mouth. had that been then end of our meal, i would have left completely satisfied. the main courses – a giant stuffed meatball with melted cheese, grilled chicken with brussels sprouts and carrots, and arctic char – were all good. of course, wine accompanied each course. my taste buds were a bit fizzled when we passed our last plate around the table, but i was feeling fat and so happy. a little something sweet to top it all of? but, of course! i swear my taste buds recharged immediately. german chocolate cake, homemade peanut butter semifreddo, and warm apple pie a la mode. each dessert was paired with a dessert wine. then, just when we thought it was over, out came a platter of homemade chocolates.
i wish i’d remembered to take more photos during our epic feast. per usual, i forgot i had my camera in my purse until we’d almost finished the chocolates. i need to get better about taking pictures. what good is a blog without photographic evidence to reinforce the prose? good for almost nothing, if you ask me.
we lavished chef mike with well-deserved praise when he emerged from his kitchen at the end of the night, triumphant. aside from a couple at the bar, we were the last people in the restaurant. i splurged on a cab back to brooklyn because i couldn’t end such an exquisite night below union square, watching rats duck in and out of the subway tracks, willing the train to come around the bend. i emailed katy this morning to let her know that her secret is out. she’s an undeniable superstar at work. we were treated like royalty because of her. so cheers to katy! cheers to chef mike! and cheers to the good food that brings us all together!