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Eleven Madison Park, Redesigned
Dec 21st, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Before we visited the new Eleven Madison Park, I read the best article about the most earnest things about the redesign, and they’re just adorable. My favorite is the stairstep leading up into the dining room, which is made of all of the old kitchen’s steel appliances, melted down into an inch-high plank. They paid an artist to make that for them. And you have to read Chef Daniel Humm’s Instagram post about it.

Like, come on! You’ve never seen anything more earnest. And earnest really is the best way to describe it. I honestly just don’t think these Eleven Madison Park guys are doing anything more than trying to try. They just want to serve really great food in a beautiful space that means a lot to them. And they really, really want to make things special for you. I’ve been an EMP fangirl for a long time, but this visit was over the top for me.

Click here to read more ≫

The Tasting Menu at Le Cinq, Four Seasons Hotel, Paris
Oct 25th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

I read aaaaall about the ten restaurants in Paris with three Michelin stars before my fiancé and I visited with the hope that one would stand out to me. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée was the most beautiful one. Astrance was the hardest to get into. Arpège was the vegetable-focused one. And then I read the review that opened the heavens and shone a light on the perfect three-star for me: Jay Rayner’s takedown of Le Cinq in The Guardian. It’s not worth your time to bother with the actual review–it reads like it’s written by someone who won’t go to a fine dining restaurant because they won’t let him wear cargo shorts–but this Eater post with cats reciting the worst lines is pretty fun!

A Barbie-sized silicone breast implant? Something so acidic you could use it to shine a coin? Sea urchin ice cream?! Sign me up!

Click here to read more ≫

Mamma Guidara’s at The NoMad Bar
Jul 6th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

If you’ve ever thought, “Boy, I sure love Eleven Madison Park, but wouldn’t it be great if the chef instead used his immense skills to make me a chicken parm?”, Mamma Guidara’s is for you. It’s Chef Daniel Humm’s take on classic red sauce dishes, named in loving honor of his co-owner, Will Guidara’s, mom.

On Sunday nights, the NoMad Bar transforms into one of those red-checkered-tablecloth joints from the 80s, and although the decor is a little chintzy (in the best way), the food is just what you’d expect from a three-Michelin-star chef. And it’s only $74 for four courses that seem more like eight or ten by the time it’s all said and done.

Mamma Guidara’s is on hiatus this summer but will be back on September 10th! In the meantime, drool over what you’ll be getting, and watch this site for reservations.

Click here to read more ≫

Chef David Santos’s Secret NYC Dinner Club, Um Segredo, at Good Stock
Jun 26th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

I’ve followed my favorite NYC chef from his West Village restaurant Louro to his taking-the-city-by-storm soup venture, Good Stock, but what made me first fall in love with Chef David Santos‘s cooking were his secret home supper clubs, which he called Um Segredo (“a secret” in Portuguese). Well, they’re back, and they’re not so secret anymore! In that they take place right out in the open at the Good Stock on Carmine Street.

But the same secret feel is still there: just you and five others in the tiny store front, gathered around a table while Chef Santos cooks directly in front of you, offering insight about each of the ingredients and just shooting the breeze like he doesn’t need to concentrate while shaving $100 worth of summer truffle onto your plates.

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The Tasting Menu at Agern
Mar 30th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Had you asked me a week ago if I had any interest in Nordic cuisine, I would’ve given you something like a polite, “Sure, I’m interested in all cuisines!” And then, you know, gone back to eating my tacos. But if you’d prefaced that question by mentioning that the chef at Agern, the restaurant inside of Grand Central Terminal, has a restaurant in Iceland called Dill, I might have thought differently. I LOVE dill. And it doesn’t hurt that the owner of Agern is the same guy who helped found Noma in Denmark, which has been named the best restaurant in the world, oh, I don’t know, four times?

Click here to read more ≫

The Tasting Menu at Senses – Warsaw, Poland
Nov 4th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’m not sure people think of creative fine dining when they think of Poland, so it’s not surprising that Warsaw’s Senses restaurant only has one Michelin star, even if that’s a crime. My boyfriend and his family are from the area originally, so he took me there last month to see where he grew up, and naturally, I checked the Michelin guide. There are only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the whole country, and one just received its star this year, so we decided to give the new kid a try.

I emailed the restaurant for a reservation two weeks before our trip and was able to get us in at 8pm, although we admittedly were trying for a probably-not-so-popular Monday night. They offer 7- and 9-course tastings, which my boyfriend’s family all laughed at the impossibility of. They were super skeptical about their ability to eat so many courses and for so many hours, especially when his dad doesn’t even like seafood. But I basically forced them to forge ahead, and it ended up being one of the very best meals and experiences I’ve had anywhere.

In NYC, this meal would’ve been on par with Eleven Madison Park or Brooklyn Fare. It would have easily had three Michelin stars, and it would have cost $300. In Warsaw, it cost $99 and included about 20 extra treats not listed on the menu. And even value aside, the service was phenomenal. The servers spoke in English to me and then repeated everything in Polish for my boyfriend’s family, and just like at our two-Michelin-starred dinner in Vienna, everyone was hilarious. Just always anticipating what would delight us and making us laugh through every course. Having just visited Eleven Madison Park last month, I noticed a huge difference between the polite professionalism of the servers there and the way the Polish servers made us feel like we were guests in their home. Which might make sense when you remember that Chef Andrea Camastra is Italian and French.

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Gabriel Kreuther Probably Deserves More Than One Michelin Star
Aug 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Chef Gabriel Kreuther left the Michelin-starred Modern a couple of years ago and took his pastry chef with him to open up his new namesake space in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park. Beloved from the get-go, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own in its first year, but having tried the 4-course, $125 tasting menu a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine that it won’t gain another star or even two in the coming years.

It wasn’t as fussy as the three-Michelin-starred favorites in the city thanks to touches of whimsy here and there in elements like a stork-patterned wallpaper (the stork is a symbol of rebirth in Kreuther’s native Alsatian homeland), but the main dining room felt classic and elegant with its cushy cream banquettes and exposed wood beams. The food was stunningly beautiful but still at times a little silly, and I mean that in the best way. Who doesn’t want a mezcal cocktail served in a coconut shell in the middle of a frou-frou French meal?

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Luksus Probably Deserves Its One Michelin Star
Aug 2nd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Luksus, the Nordic tasting-menu-only restaurant hidden behind a door in Greenpoint’s Tørst beer bar, has been on my list for a long time as a Brooklynite who’d love to never have to leave the borough for her fine dining. I was scheduled to go see my family in Ohio over the July 4th weekend, but when my flight got canceled despite clear blue skies, I consoled myself by booking a table for two there in the hope of getting to sit at the bar and watch the chefs work. The OpenTable reviewers had given Luksus a 4.5, and Eleven Madison Park, which I would call one of the standard-bearers in the city, had a 4.8, so I congratulated myself on my good choice. But when I started talking to my friends, the consensus was that Luksus was good but probably not somewhere they’d return to. I thought about changing my reservation, but then I remembered the optional beer pairings and just had to try it for myself.

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Dinner by Chef David Santos
Apr 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’ve been following Chef David Santos around the city since he was doing secret dinners in his apartment on Roosevelt Island, and I can tell you that there’s no one in NYC doing more creative menus than this guy. There’s been Nashville hot chicken served in giant buckets, a Sun Noodle dinner with bowls of chilled and surf & turf ramen, and meals celebrating Dave’s Portuguese heritage, but I’ve especially come to love the themed dinners. Last week’s “Game of Thrones” pop-up at Noreetuh in the East Village is something my friends and I look forward to every year. Not only because the food is always boundary-pushing but because Dave’s menus are these masterful/hilarious odes to the characters on the show that proclaim this chef both an artist in the kitchen and a wordsmith on the page. None of us will ever forget the bacon-wrapped monkfish dish from a couple of years ago, where Dave said that the bacon protects the monkfish like the Hound protects Arya. Genius. If you want to see the entire explanation for this year’s menu, head on over to the Eventbrite ticketing page and prepare to be delighted.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
bread and butter

Dave’s bread is reason alone to come to one of these dinners and is worth the price of admission itself. Crusty on the outside and beyond smushable in the middle, and then he always makes some amazing butter to top it with. This time, the butter was sprinkled with thick salt crystals to make it even more delicious and more likely to kill you.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
black truffle fritter, asparagus puree, zahatar oil

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
fluke tartar with eel, avocado wasabi pudding, scallion, and puffed rice

Texture on texture on texture!

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
roots, celery, parsnip, peas shoots and tendrils, dirt

There was an asparagus granita on this that my friends refused to accept as a real thing in cooking, but they couldn’t deny how refreshing it was to get a little pile of savory shaved ice on top of a cool salad. None of us were okay with that carrot suggestively sticking up like that, but Dave is such the godfather of incredible carrots that the Times posted one of his carrot recipes, so you have to forgive him. The “dirt” was rye bread crumbs, just in case you were scared.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
smoked sable chowder, oyster, chicharron, nettles

I don’t care for oysters, but I care immensely for a huge crispy-as-hell piece of pork skin that I can dip into my chowder. Comfort food pushed to the max.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
malloreddus pasta, spicy wild boar ragu, house-aged ricotta

Apparently malloreddus is the national pasta of Sardinia, kind of like a gnocchi, that translates to “fat little calves”. Dave left his with quite a bit of chew, just the way I like it, and gave us just the right amount for being totally satisfied but not dying from the richness.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
steak and eggs, foie caramelized onions, emu eggs

The waitstaff passed around giant green emu eggs for us to all pretend to be the mother of dragons with before taking them back to the kitchen so Dave could make THE most intense scrambled eggs, loaded with foie and onions. They were so earthy I could’ve sprouted a tree in them, and then he had to go and top them with a piece of steak just for effect. The scallions gave the dish just the right amount of brightness to balance out all of that fat.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
ice cream sandwich, meringue, strawberry puree

Representing the wall and the blood of Jon Snow, this ice-cream-sandwich-meets-baked-Alaska had just the right amount of novelty for such a fun dinner and just the right amount of elevation for a chef like Dave.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark in Vienna, Austria
Apr 12th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Early last year, my friends and I were planning a trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Athens, so I pulled up the ol’ San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best list to see if that part of the world had anything to offer. Lo and behold, #15 was smack-dab in the middle of Wien (that’s Vienna in German, see; I’m getting you ready for your future trip there), a modern Austrian restaurant perched on a canal of the Danube River in the middle of a 19th-Century park. Steirereck promised the white gloves and unnecessary decorative plates stacked beneath each dish that I love but also tons of fresh local ingredients that I would have never heard of. Adventure!

I was able to request a reservation through the English version of the Steirereck website and received a confirmation the next day with the exact date and time I’d hoped for (this was four months in advance of our travel date), but I had a question. Four of us were sure we wanted to try the tasting menu, but one friend didn’t think she was ready for five hours of eating and wanted to order a la carte. I replied to the confirmation email and basically told them, “Don’t worry, we’re going to be drinking enough alcohol that you won’t mind if one person isn’t eating.” They didn’t reply. A week before our dinner, though, they wrote to reconfirm my reservation, so I took the opportunity to ask again. The reservationist replied,

Thank you for your confirmation!

Don’t worry you can all order on stage.

We are looking forward to your visit.”

My friend imagined herself on a stage at the front of the restaurant, ordering samples from the cheese cart over a microphone. But we just let it go, because adventure!

Having crammed two weeks of vacation clothes into one carry-on bag, I was woefully underprepared for our fancy dinner and arrived in the 60-degree evening wearing sandals, no tights, a sleeveless dress, and a Gap hoodie. The hostess still totally took it from me like it was a real coat and gently folded it over her arm to hang for me without any hint of judgement, god bless her. Aside from the lingering fear of the stage-ordering, things were going great.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Steirereck seems to be set up like a clover, with each leaf representing a different room with rounded edges overlooking the park. It meant that even with the restaurant completely full, we were only sitting in a room with a handful of tables. Which was lucky, because while the other tables were full of austere Europeans, our table was doing wine pairings and having a really good time of it. It was the staff’s fault, though! They seemed to take great joy in seeing if they could entertain the Americans and kept making jokes about carrying us out to our cabs after the wine pairings and telling us to let them know if we found worms in the salad because it was so fresh. Their humor was so dry that we would all laugh, wait for them to leave the table, and then ask each other, “Wait, he was joking, right?” It was the perfect kind of service for us, a bunch of normal people faking like we were fancy in a different country.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
austere!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

We all ended up going for the tasting menu with wine pairings, so we never found out what ordering “on stage” was like, but we started off with cocktails in case nine glasses of wine wouldn’t be enough. Mine was this celery cocktail with housemade vermouth, an “Arabian mountain herb” grown on their roof, and rosemary.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The bread cart was overwhelming to a carb-lover such as myself, but there was a nice blood sausage loaf for the one person at our table who wanted to balance his carbs with protein. I chose the white bread with lavender and the double baked sourdough.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
double baked sourdough, white bread with lavender

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
bacon butter with hemp seeds, sage butter with chia seeds

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

After our first wine pairing was served, a huge spread of tiny dishes arrived:

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
allergens

Apparently Austria has 40 different allergens that have to be displayed on a menu lest someone die from eating hidden mustard, so the restaurant cheekily decided to make dishes featuring all of them. We each received a card naming all of the dishes, the allergen they contained, and a description of who the allergy generally affects. (Eggs: It is possible to be allergic to just the yolk or the white. Most common in children under the age of five, most people grow out of it after a couple of years.) We had things like wheat cracker with pericon, crayfish tomalley with salsify and lovage, peanut with sweet corn, and the worst offender of all,

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

CELERY. Which we got a whole plant of. The little ribs dangling amidst the stalk were soaked in verjus & vermouth salt, but we were told to eat as much of the stalk as we wanted to. (We did not.) Other highlights were the duck egg with tons of chive, and the sour milk dip for the cucumber.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
young carrots with fennel, coconut and reinanke

Glazed young carrots, carrot and fennel salad, marinated wild fish (reinanke, a kind of salmon, spicy carrot and fennel juice. Lots of fruity, sweet flavor in a savory course.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
peppers & melon with olive herb & venus clams

Grilled preserved yellow peppers, roasted muskmelon, braised Jerusalem artichoke, Taggiasca olives, Venus clams cooked with tamarind, ginger, and lemongrass.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
celeriac & peas with hazelnut & verbena

Confit young celeriac with peas, pea shoots, and hazelnuts, sautéed salad hearts, celeriac-citrus sauce with pepperoncini, and wild celery herb. So much lime flavor!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
redondo courgette & chanterelles with buckwheat & plum

Sauteed chanterelles, barbecued and steamed redondo courgette (zucchini), avocado and plum marinated in lemon, roasted cashews, spiced green tomato jam, and French sorrel. I loved the spiciness of this one.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
alpine salmon with porcini, cucumber, passion fruit & pepperleaf

Raw “branded” alpine salmon, Mexican pepperleaf inflorescence, verjus-infused radish, grilled porcini, cucumbers with mustard seed and dill, borretsch leaf, passion fruit cucumber juice with pepperleaf oil, fried pepperleaf pearls. We liked the layers of cucumber with dill and porcini with lemon, accented by those crunchy pepperleaf balls.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
amur carp with Job’s tears, kohlrabi & pandan

Pan-fried amur carp, kohlrabi marinated with balsam vinegar & panda oil, Job’s tears crisp, sourdough bread creme with crunchy Job’s tears seeds. Standouts included the crispy fish skin and the way the creme broke up the acidic dish.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
quail

I failed to record more detail about this, but it was quail with this wonderful sesame sauce.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
venison with squash, baby artichokes & orange blossom

Roast Hochschwab venison, butternut squash cooked in brown butter with orange blossom and rosemary, baby artichokes glazed with Madeira and thyme, red onion and radish chutney with horseradish. The chutney was the favorite element of everyone at the table, and isn’t this just about the prettiest plate you’ve ever seen?

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

For those who didn’t opt for the plated cheese course, a cheese cart came loaded with everything from the mildest hard cheeses to the stinkiest washed-rinds. My boyfriend had the restaurant choose a progression of four for him, but you can have the whole cart if you like.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
sweetened vanilla “fresh cheese” with physalis & cereals

Unpasteurised “fresh cheese”, preserved and dried “Little Buddha” physalis, frozen “fresh cheese” whey with toasted hemp seeds, black sesame, amaranth, and coconut. The server plated this in front of us at the table, cutting into the cheese so the whey would drip through the mesh. The physalis (or cape gooseberry or Peruvian cherry, depending on where you’re from) came in preserved and freeze-dried forms to provide different textures.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Drunk Katie can’t keep her camera still!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
peach with lemon agastache & basil

Peach poached with lemon agastache flowers and verjus, basil and sorrel creme, marinated peach, and basil beignets with basil sugar.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
basil beignets

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
raspberries with roses, fig leafes & sesamy

Raspberries marinated with rose-vinegar, set sesamy milk, fig leaf snow, rose petals preserved in apple vinegar, “weinviertler” water leaf, and baked raspberries with sesamy.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
medlar, violets and crepes

Crispy deep fried crepe with Japanese medlar (or loquat fruit) and violet jam and powdered candied violets, strawberry mint, lemon verbena, and violet petals marinated with violet syrup and medlar juice, medlar kernel and violet ice cream. This was an extra course the restaurant brought us just to try, in case our stomachs hadn’t exploded already.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Another gift from the restaurant, these were traditional poppy seed noodles that were too savory for me for dessert, but my Polish boyfriend with all of his poppy seed desserts at family holidays loved them.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

We’d seen this cart at other tables in the restaurant, with a distinctive buzzing sound emanating from its core. BEES! I was so sure it was just a recording but wanted so badly for a restaurant to just be casually wheeling a live hive around the place. The lady at the table closest to us was so scared of being attacked, though, that her server had to show her the little speaker inside to get her to calm down.

Our server pulled out the honeycomb to scoop a bit off for each of us onto little wooden spoons and then offered us tastes from each of six jars of honey made from the nectar of different flowers from different regions of the city. There was also nougat, little jars of watermelon that tasted like cubes of honey, and honey covered in white chocolate.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

At seven courses for $142 and $75 for the wine pairings, Steirereck felt like a steal. The food all tasted so fresh and so full of exotic things we’d never tried before (physalis! medlar! crunchy pepperleaf balls!), and the service was somehow exactly what we wanted all of the time. When I sneezed, I was handed a package of luxurious Relais & Chateaux tissues, and each dish was accompanied by a card with the title of the dish, a description of the ingredients in it, and then notes about elements like reinanke that we may not have seen before. But when we wanted to have a drunken good time with the staff, the white gloves came off. The allergen spread is one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten, and I loved the way the restaurant had plenty of those novelty moments to delight our eyes but also made sure the food stood up to the experience. All in all, this was just what I would expect from a many-Michelin-starred restaurant in the U.S., only everyone had great accents and we were sitting on the Danube.

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