Eleven Madison Park, NYC 6
August 2, 2010
We celebrated my 70th birthday, July 27, 2010, with a group of friends in the private dining room of Eleven Madison Park. On July 12 Linda and I had gone to try out the menu which would be served for the party two weeks later. This blogpost describes that meal with a few comments and photos from the actual party added later. (The detailed descriptions of each dish just before the photos come from the souvenir menu which was given to us at the party.)
As usual, a dish of warm, light gougères was put on the table.
Nathan, the excellent sommelier, came by to discuss wines. We tasted by the glass this evening in order to select a red and a white for the party. Linda started with the Pouillon, Brut Vigneron, Premier Cru Champagne, which would be the apéritif for the party. I tried a Spanish Albariño, which I didn’t like. Eventually we selected the 2006 Kellerei Terlan, Nova Domus, Riserva, Alto-Adige Italian wine for the white, a surprising wine suggested by Nathan. It is a blend of pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. We eventually chose the 2007 Belle Pente, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon for the red. A factor in its choice, aside from our general liking for Oregon Pinots Noirs, was how well it went with the lobster course.
There was a surprising unwelcome undertone of sweetness in the three on the right.
Salad with Summer Crudités and Wild Herbs
Taboulé takes its influence from the traditional Middle Eastern salad, featuring the classic elements of tomato, cucumber and fresh herbs. Smoked couscous acts as the focus of the dish, with house made labne (a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese made from cow’s milk), an assortment of crudités, and dried Taggiasca olives adding texture and brightness to the salad.
This was surprisingly interesting for what seem to be ordinary ingredients. On the right are a swath of mayonnaise and a cheese ball.
Poached with Artichoke Barigoule and Tomato
Atlantic halibut is the perfect canvas for the bold flavors of the Mediterranean. Artichokes and fava beans are at their best throughout the summer. Tomatoes are just coming into season, and their sweetness is amplified by slowly roasting them with extra virgin olive oil. The sweetness of the fish and these vegetables is contrasted by the gentle spice of curry and assertive flavor of Buchot mussels.
The fish had been slowly and lightly poached, retaining its flavor. The mussel resting on it had been flavored with vadouvan, a trendy curry variety, giving some punch to a generally subtle dish.
Poached with Summer Squash and Lemon Verbena
Lobster tail, claws and knuckles are butter poached. A zucchini puree is at the bottom of the plate. Sauteed heirloom squash and a lemon verbena infused lobster bisque surround the lobster pieces and the dish is finished with lobster oil.
The lobster’s good flavor was enhanced by the red sauce with a reduction of lobster shells and a bit of tomato.
Herb Roasted with Eggplant, Cumin and Yogurt
In another nod to classic Middle Eastern flavors, the lamb is slowly roasted with fresh herbs and garlic. A puree of eggplant and sheep’s milk yogurt accompanies the lamb, offering bright acidity that contrasts with the richness of the lamb. Traditional spices that might be seen with lamb — cumin, paprika and coriander — are infused in a rich lamb jus that finishes the dish.
As with the halibut and lobster, the lamb had been slowly cooked to preserve and bring out its natural flavor. The middle eastern garnishes and spicing were classic and good.
Variations and Textures
This pre-dessert, which was not included in the party menu, was refreshing. Frozen milk covered a white ball with honey inside.
Cake with Red Currant, Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream, and Cream Cheese Parfait
The quintessential Southern cake is presented as individual elements. The cake itself is accompanied by a cream cheese parfait and cocoa meringue. Fresh red currants as well as a red currant gel contrast with the sweetness of the cake. The dessert is. finished with roasted strawberry ice cream and fresh greenmarket strawberries.
We had asked that the proposed chocolate dessert be changed for something more in keeping with mid-summer. This was just right.
The trays put on the table at the party:
A bottle of Alsatian pear eau-de-vie, with a whole pear inside, was put on the table. It made a fine finish to our preview meal. The service, pace, ambience etc were all excellent, as one expects here.