Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

Winter Restaurant Week 2011 – DB Bistro Moderne

Sunday, February 13th, 2011 by virginia

I apologize for filing this post so late. I usually try to write up Restaurant Week reviews right away, so that people can still have time to make a reservation if they think a place looks interesting. Restaurant Week has been extended a few weeks, but unfortunately, this particular restaurant is not participating past the original two weeks. Still, it’s a place you can consider for Summer Restaurant Week when that rolls around.

We’ve been so busy lately that Restaurant Week sort of snuck up on us this year. We got a late jump on making reservations so there weren’t too many prime lunch spots available but we managed to get a somewhat decent time at DB Bistro Moderne, which is part of Daniel Boulud’s restaurant empire. There was a snowstorm the day of our reservation so when we got to the restaurant, it was almost empty. The place did fill up completely by the time we left though, so people were probably just running a bit late.

I always like to review Restaurant Week menus online before I decide where to go, so we knew beforehand exactly what we wanted to order. We made our selections and quickly dove into the container of bread we received, which contained two ciabatta rolls and two slices of wheat bread. The ciabatta rolls were delicious, with a nice crackly crust and a chewy but airy interior. The wheat bread, on the other hand, wasn’t my taste. It was kind of dry with a cottony flavor, and not even copious amounts of butter could salvage it for me. We stuck with the ciabatta bread.

Good ciabatta rolls, not so great wheat bread

As usual, Josh and I went halfsies on all of our dishes. To start, we selected the yellow split pea soup and the salmon tartar. The soup was flavored with ham hock and topped with toasted croutons and olive oil. It had a velvety texture and smoky flavor to it, similar to bacon. However, we both felt the soup lacked seasoning. A little bit of salt really could have elevated it to the next level. Still, we found it pretty rich and comforting to eat on a cold winter day.

Yellow split pea soup

The salmon tartar was beautifully presented with a smear of avocado mousse and a salad of frisee and radishes, but it also lacked seasoning. It came with a few gaufrette potato chips on the side that added a nice crunch and a bit of much needed salt, but there weren’t enough chips to go with the portion of salmon. And while the salmon were nicely cut into a chunky dice, we thought it was a bit fishy in flavor, maybe not entirely fresh. We were both a little disappointed with this dish.

Salmon tartar

For our main courses, we selected the roasted monkfish and the braised flat iron steak. The monkfish was served with a piece of crispy bacon and a potato gratin. Josh had first crack at this dish and really enjoyed it. By the time I got to it, however, I thought the texture of the monkfish had suffered quite a bit, rendering it a bit mushy. Josh disagreed and said the fish was firm and meaty when he ate it. We both liked the flavor combination of the monkfish with the bacon, and there was a red wine sauce that tied all the components together.

Roasted monkfish

I started with the braised flat iron steak, which was my favorite dish of the lunch. I’m usually not a huge fan of braised beef but the steak was surprisingly meaty in texture and flavor. When presented, it looked like a regular piece of steak covered in a dark sauce. When I stuck my fork into it, however, the meat was so tender it just fell apart. Flavor-wise, it still had the beefiness of a steak, not the watered down meat that you usually find in a stew or other braised dishes. The steak was served with a sweet carrot puree and sauteed brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and pearl onions. I apologize for the picture – it was a delicious dish but not very photogenic.

Braised flat iron steak

Dessert was a surprise hit for us, since neither of us have much of a sweet tooth. We both loved the citrus tartelette with sable breton, frangipane, grapefruit curd, EVO foam, and vanilla ice cream. The dessert had a lot of components to it but when we ate everything together, it tasted just like an orange creamsicle, only fresher and less artificial in flavor. Because the main ingredient was grapefruit, it was also less sweet, but in a good way. Citrus was the predominant flavor, and given the snowy day, it was a welcomed bit of sunshine. We enjoyed the brightness of the grapefruit curd and the supremed slices of actual grapefruit.

Citrus tartelette

The other dessert, called chocolate and coconut, featured coconut dacquoise, caramel fondant, chocolate mousse, and peanut ice cream. It also had a lot of components to it but everything worked beautifully. Chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite flavor combinations (who doesn’t love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?), and the peanut ice cream was an interesting twist on that. The coconut and caramel might have been a bit overkill for me, as it was a really rich dessert, but I liked the contrast between the smooth chocolate mousse, the crunchy toasted coconut bits, and gooey caramel, and the cold and creamy peanut ice cream.

Chocolate and coconut

Overall we both enjoyed the Restaurant Week lunch that we had at DB Bistro Moderne and thought it was a good value. Sometimes Restaurant Week menus offer subpar items that aren’t very reflective of a restaurant’s real offerings, but DB Bistro has been consistently good with their Restaurant Week choices. While we found some of the dishes to be under seasoned, it’s something that can be easily remedied by asking for some salt for the table. I wish, though, that all restaurants would leave salt on the table by default, so diners don’t have to go through the awkwardness of asking for salt. Sometimes that leaves the kitchen a bit defensive, and they may oversalt the next dish to overcompensate. Regardless, with the exception of the slightly fishy salmon, we thought the ingredients used were top notch, and everything was carefully constructed and presented. We’ve been to DB Bistro Moderne for Restaurant Week several times over the last few years, and it hasn’t disappointed us yet. It’s definitely a place we’ll consider visiting again for more Restaurant Weeks to come.

DB Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.
New York, NY

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 by virginia

To give you an idea of just how back-logged I am with posting, this meal took place in March. For Josh’s aunt’s birthday, we landed a coveted reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY. The restaurant is located within the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture, and it is surrounded by an actual working farm that produces much of the ingredients for the menu, giving even more meaning to “locally sourced”.

The path leading up to the restaurant

We arrived at the restaurant around dusk so we didn’t have much time to explore the grounds, unfortunately, but we did watch them drive a whole herd of cattle up the road, which was pretty interesting. We settled down at our table and looked around in awe at the gorgeous setting. The ceiling was high and vaulted, with beams running across the top, and there was an island in the middle of the room with a huge vase of blossom-filled branches. The room had a tranquil feel to it, and was both rustic and elegant at the same time.

Beautiful blossoms

There is no real menu at the restaurant, just a long list of over a hundred ingredients that are in season and can be used for your meal. There is a choice between a five course dinner and an eight course dinner but you don’t know exactly what is included in each course. The wait staff will ask if there are any foods you can’t or don’t eat, and what some of your preferences may be. Once you decide on how many courses you would like, the kitchen takes care of the rest. We opted for the eight course meal, with the accompanying wine pairings, and our table’s only request was not to have offal during any of the courses. This was the only downside for me and Josh, because we like offal and would have liked to taste farm fresh organ meats, but everyone at the table receives the same dishes so we were outvoted 4-2.

Once everything was settled, our farmer’s feast began. And what a feast it was, with multiple rounds of amuse bouches to start. First was an assortment of “chips” made from farro, beets, and celery root. The beet chip was my favorite, as the dehydration process intensified the flavor and the sweetness of the beets.

Farro, beet, and celery root "chips"

Next was a carrot soup served in shot glasses. The soup was absolutely fabulous, packing intense carrot flavor in that tiny little glass. I would have happily eaten an entire bowlful of this soup.

Shots of carrot soup

We were also given baby carrots and super tiny heads of romaine lettuce presented on a spiked board. The vegetables, which were served raw and just lightly seasoned with salt and a little lemon juice, were incredibly fresh and shockingly tasty. If only all vegetables tasted like that!

Fresh baby carrots and romaine

Next we had thin slices of house cured coppa on top of potato and eggs…

Slice of coppa over potato and egg

Followed by a little beet burger in an almond flour bun. The burgers were really cute but I made the mistake of trying to bite one in half and the beet filling fell out, leaving a red stain on the pristine tablecloth. Oops!

Beet burgers with almond flour buns

Then we had salsify wrapped with pancetta and buckwheat…

Salsify wrapped in pancetta and buckwheat

And last, but not least, we had a charcuterie platter with bologna and lanzo (pork loin). Phew! That was a lot of food, and we hadn’t even started on our farmer’s feast courses yet!

Bologna and lanzo (pork loin) charcuterie

After the parade of amuse bouches finally ended, we were served a basket of potato onion bread with various accompaniments. The bread had a thick, crackly crust and a fluffy yet chewy interior.

Potato onion bread

Even after all the amuses, we couldn’t stop eating the bread because of the spreads they gave us to go with it. There was a whipped lard cottage cheese, Ronnybrook butter, and dehydrated beet salt. It was fun to smear on some butter or cottage cheese and sprinkle on the magenta colored salt. Everything was just so rich and flavorful.

Ronnybrook butter, whipped lard cottage cheese, dehydrated beet salt

Finally, our farmer’s feast started off with a piece of sea bass served with whole grain mustard and citrus. The sea bass was perfectly cooked, and it was a light, refreshing way to begin the main part of our meal.

Sea bass with whole grain mustard and citrus

Our next course had a very interesting presentation. It was a rutabaga wrapped in hay and cooked in a salt crust. They showed us what it looked like during the cooking process before giving us the finished dishes.

Rutabaga wrapped in hay and baked in a salt crust

The finished dish featured a slice of rutabaga with sauerkraut and a date puree. I’ve never had rutabaga before, and it tasted a bit like a sweet potato. It was sweet and a little smoky, but the dish lacked pizazz and was a bit one note.

Rutabaga with sauerkraut and date puree

Our third course was Maine shellfish with potatoes and spinach. The shellfish featured shrimp, mussels, and clams, and it was served in a large shot glass with a frothy blend of the potatoes and spinach. I wasn’t a huge fan of the froth, which was mostly airy bubbles, and I wished there was a bit more seafood inside.

Shellfish with potato and spinach

Our next course featured eggs, so they presented us with a “nest” of eggs while they explained the dish.

Nest of eggs

The dish itself was a stew of mushrooms and dehydrated vegetable with an egg in the middle, and lettuce froth. We broke open the egg to reveal a silky, bright orange yolk that ran into the stew, adding a wonderful richness to it. The dish was wonderfully composed and absolutely delicious. I didn’t even mind the lettuce froth, as it lightened the texture of the stew and was appropriate in this instance. This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Farm egg stew with mushrooms, dehydrated vegetables, and lettuce froth

The next course featured cured unlaid eggs, which were dense orange globes that they grated over the dish.

Cured unlaid eggs

The eggs were grated over tortellinis filled with goat shoulder and served in a broth with sunchokes. The tortellinis were wonderfully meaty but not too gamey. The grated eggs looked like parmesan but had a totally different flavor and added some richness to the dish.

Tortellini with goat shoulder and sunchokes

Our last savory course was venison with miso glazed sweet potato and baby bok choy. The venison was prepared sous vide, rendering it melt in our mouths tender. The bok choy was crisp and fresh, and the sweet potato had a Japanese flavor to it thanks to the miso. It was a great combination of flavors, and I ate all of it even though I was stuffed to the gills by this point.

Venison with miso glazed sweet potato and bok choy

Our first dessert featured honey, and they showed us a board with fresh honeycomb.

Fresh honeycomb

The dessert was tofu with honey and meyer lemon. The tofu by itself was bland and kind of bitter, but took on a completely new character when eaten with the honey and lemon. It was sweet and sour and creamy all at the same time. The lemon made it very refreshing, and it was a good palate cleanser after all the savory foods we had.

Tofu with honey and meyer lemon

The last course in our farmer’s feast was a hazelnut crunch with cocoa nib ice cream and caramel. The hazelnut crunch part was kind of like an upscale candy bar, tasting a bit like a Ferrero Rocher. It had thin crunchy layers and a strong hazelnut flavor. It was a pretty rich dessert, good for any chocolate fan, and a strong finish to the feast.

Hazelnut crunch with cocoa nib ice cream and caramel

Finally, we ended with some little sweet and savory treats, featuring a yogurt all spice marshmallow, flax seed caramel, and dark chocolate. Even though I was bursting at the seams by this point, I couldn’t resist. I liked that everything wasn’t overly sweet and sugary, and it was a lovely note on which to finish the meal.

Yogurt all spice marshmallow, flax seed caramel, chocolate

After our meal, we were taken on a tour of the kitchen, which is always a treat. We got to meet Chef Dan Barber and see the action going on in the kitchen. There was definitely lots of cooking on, though it was composed chaos and everything looked pretty orderly. We did ask for Chef Barber’s permission before taking some photos.

Chef Dan Barber in the kitchen (he's the one with the purple dish towel)

Overall I think we had mixed feelings about our meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The setting is really lovely and the service was top notch, but the food was a bit inconsistent. We loved every single amuse bouche (all seven!) and the meal got off to an amazing start. Afterward, however, the courses were up and down. The highlights for me were the egg/mushroom/dehydrated vegetable stew and the venison, but the rest of the courses were just ok. Adequate, but not spectacular. On the bright side, all of the vegetables in each of the dishes were absolute standouts. Farm to table cuisine is really something special, and makes you appreciate the beauty of fresh, seasonal produce. While I don’t think this meal cracks our top 5, it definitely still ranks up there in the top 10, and it was a great overall dining experience.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Rd.
Pocantico Hills, NY


Sunday, March 21st, 2010 by virginia

What can I say about Daniel? The hype is real. We went there not knowing what to expect, and we walked out completely satisfied and elated. It was definitely one of the best meals of our lives so far.

When Josh and I first discussed how we wanted to celebrate our 12th anniversary as a couple, we decided that we would forgo presents this year and splurge on a decadent meal instead. Daniel has been on the top of our must-eat list for a while now, as Josh’s parents and his sister have all raved about it. We originally made a 7:30 reservation on the night of our anniversary but when I read about a pre-theater dinner deal the restaurant was running, which features a $105 three course meal including wine pairings for reservations between 5:30 and 6 pm (Mondays-Thursdays), we changed our reservation to 5:45. It was early, yes, but considering a three course meal normally costs $105 without wine pairings (which are an additional $60 per person), it seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.

As the date loomed, however, I began feeling apprehensive that the special pre-theater menu would be too limited, and that I would be disappointed by the offerings. The description on Daniel’s website only says that the menu features new favorites and classic Daniel dishes, but doesn’t say how many choices are in each course. I asked Josh to call up the restaurant and find out what was on the menu, because if it only included lower-end, boring choices, then I wanted to switch our reservation to a more normal time and order from the regular menu instead. With a huge snowstorm arriving the day of our anniversary, I was pretty sure the restaurant would be getting cancellations so they probably would have been able to accommodate us at a more decent hour.

When Josh called, the woman who answered the phone told him that there were four options for each course, and that she would find out what those choices were and call him back. When she did call back, she said that she was mistaken, that the pre-theater menu was the same as the regular menu, and we would be able to choose from all dishes. Upon hearing this we were both thrilled and more excited than ever.

Per my usual habit, I went online beforehand and looked at the menu, plotting what I would order that evening. When I left work the evening of our reservation, the snow was falling hard and several inches had already accumulated on the sidewalks. It was a bit of a hike to the restaurant from the subway, especially with all the snow and slush, so I was a bit flustered when I arrived at the restaurant. I checked my coat and umbrella in the front, and found Josh waiting for me at the bar in the lounge with a drink. He had ordered a scotch, which had a really cool big ball of ice in it (so that the ice melts more slowly and doesn’t dilute the drink) and was served with some crunchy olive twists. Shortly thereafter, we were escorted to our table in the dining room.

Glass of scotch with a large ball of ice

Because it was so early, and probably also because of the weather, we were the only diners in the restaurant when we were first seated. I was still flustered from rushing over to the restaurant from work, and being seated in the completely empty, quiet dining room with a dozen servers milling about also unnerved me a bit. We were seated at a lovely table for two on the far right side of the room, facing the rest of the dining room. It reminded me of our sweetheart table at our wedding, which made me feel like I was on display. I think most of it was just me feeling insecure, and that’s something I need to learn to get over. The room actually filled up pretty quickly, and it wasn’t bad after that as the noise level grew with people chatting. We enjoyed being able to people-watch from the sidelines.

The first thing we noticed when we sat down was a stool in between our chairs, presumably to hold my purse. It was a classy touch, although we ended up putting our camera there instead of my purse. The second thing we noticed was that when we were given our menus, the pre-theater menu was in fact a limited menu, and not the full menu like the person on the phone told Josh. We expressed our disappointment and confusion to the lovely young woman who was serving us, and she told us that the person who answered the phone must have been new because the pre-theater menu is always a more limited menu.

We were a bit annoyed by the miscommunication but once we looked over the pre-theater options, we still decided to order from that particular menu. Both of the entrees that I had been eyeing when I read the menu online were included, as was my choice for dessert. The appetizers only included one dish that I really wanted to order, but we figured that it wasn’t worth ordering from the regular menu over one appetizer. We got over our disappointment, made our selections, and settled down to enjoy our meal.

As we waited for our first course, Josh showed me the new lens he bought for our SLR, sort of an anniversary present for the both of us despite the fact that we had both agreed on no presents. I didn’t mind though, as it was a lens specially designed for taking pictures in low light settings. It was perfect for the restaurant, as the lighting was very dim and we wouldn’t dream of using flash at Daniel (though there was a table next to us where someone did take a few pictures with flash, and it wasn’t too annoying because the tables at the restaurant are really spread far apart so you never feel cramped). It took us a while to figure out the right settings to use for the best pictures but we were pretty happy with the results, and I think it’s a huge improvement from our previous dark restaurant photos.

Before our first course, we were given an amuse bouche platter that had bite-size servings of squash prepared three ways. From right to left, there was a bite of squash with Iberico ham, in the middle was a kabocha squash puree, and on the left was squash served with a piece of sable. The flavor of squash was definitely center stage in each bite, and everything tasted clean and fresh.

Amuse bouche #1 - tastings of three different squash preparations

While we were savoring each bite of the squash preparations, we were brought yet another amuse, this time a geoduck ceviche that was served in clear shot glasses. The geoduck was tender and flavorful, with a nice and tangy acidic bite to it. These amuse bouches definitely left us wanting more food.

Amuse bouche #2 - Geoduck ceviche

Next came a server with a huge bread basket offering around a dozen different choices. I wanted to try them all but didn’t want to seem like a total pig so we each got two at a time. Over the course of the evening we ended up trying mini french baguettes, a garlic focaccia, an olive roll, a sourdough roll, a multigrain roll, and raisin walnut bread, but the best one of all was the butter roll, which I still think about constantly. It was basically a roll with the crust of a crispy baguette and the insides of a buttery, flaky croissant. It was rich yet light and delicate at the same time. We both got seconds of this roll as it was just simply divine.

Garlic focaccia and a mini french baguette

In preparation for our first course, our first wine pairing arrived, a light chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. It wasn’t too buttery and ended up going well with both of our appetizers. As was our usual custom, Josh and I each started with a dish and then swapped plates halfway through. I ended up with the meyer lemon royale with sea urchin, North Star caviar, Barron Point oysters, finger lime, and tapioca vinaigrette. Wow! This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening, and it was a melange of colors and flavors. For my first bite, I tried to get a little bit of everything and there was just so much going on that every chew yielded a different flavor. Then I ate each component individually, and that brought out more subtle nuances to the dish. The oysters were small but bursting with flavor, the sea urchin was rich and fresh, the caviar was salty and briney, and the vinaigrette with little chewy tapioca balls was just genius.

Meyer lemon royale with sea urchin, North Star caviar, Barron Point oysters, finger lime, and tapioca vinaigrette

Our other appetizer was the watercress veloute with Nantucket bay scallops, Iberico ham, black trumpet custard, and port reduction. The veloute turned out to be a velvety soup that was creamy but not rich. The watercress flavor was not too bitter, and it was slightly peppery. There were also round mushroom-shaped objects in the soup that we couldn’t identify (perhaps that was the black trumpet custard?) but they melted in our mouths in a weird and delightful way. The scallops were served on the side and the ham and port reduction added a nice richness, but the scallops were a bit cold. We weren’t sure if that was intentional but I think they might have tasted better had they been hotter. We weren’t quite as excited with this appetizer (this was our concession order) as we were with the meyer lemon royale sea urchin dish, but it was still very well prepared and tasty.

Watercress veloute with Nantucket bay scallops, Iberico ham, black trumpet custard, and port reduction

After they cleared away our appetizer plates and wine glasses, our main server came to tell us that because of the menu mix-up, they were giving us an extra course to make up for the confusion. This was unexpected but very welcome, and a very thoughtful way to correct a mistake. In addition to the extra course, they also gave us an extra wine pairing to match, an excellent premier cru white burgundy. The dish came from the full dinner menu and was kataifi crusted rock lobster with broccoli mousseline, ricotta salata, lemon-pine nut gremolata, and sweet harissa sauce. Kataifi is kind of a shredded phyllo dough and added a nice textural contrast to the tender and sweet lobster meat. The broccoli mousseline was creamy and flavorful, and the gremolata added a nice zip. The ricotta salata was presented as tiny cubes that we kind of didn’t notice, but we loved the sweet harissa sauce that wasn’t very spicy. It was a beautifully presented and flavorful dish that we really enjoyed and were glad that we had the opportunity to taste.

Kataifi crusted rock lobster with broccoli mousseline, ricotta salata, lemon-pine nut gremolata, and sweet harissa sauce

After the lovely bonus course, we continued through the rest of our meal. The wine pairing was a syrah from Rhone that was a perfect match for both of our entrees. The first was black sea bass with syrah sauce, accompanied by leek royale and pommes lyonnaise. This is a classic Daniel dish, and apparently caused some controversy when he paired a red wine sauce with a delicate white fish. The fish was presented as two skin-on filets, perfect for sharing. The fish was perfectly cooked except for the skin, which was oddly rubbery and chewy. Josh actually couldn’t even cut through the skin with the fish knife and ended up peeling the whole thing off in one piece. Weird. But the syrah sauce was fantastic, as were the sides. The leek royale was fluffy and flavorful, and the pommes lyonnaise, which was thinly sliced potatoes rolled up and nicely browned, were out of this world.

Black sea bass with syrah sauce, accompanied by leek royale and pommes lyonnaise

Our other entree was Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin with braised radicchio tardivo, confit fennel, crispy polenta, and sicilian olives. The lamb was incredible, with a beautiful crust and juicy, pink, and tender on the inside. It had a lovely gamey flavor and I couldn’t get enough of it. The fennel was delicate with a subtle flavor, and the polenta was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. It was just a wonderful dish overall – earthy, rich, and deliciously flavorful.

Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin with braised radicchio tardivo, confit fennel, crispy polenta, and sicilian olives

When it came time for dessert, we were brought the regular menu dessert list rather than the limited pre-theater menu dessert list. We inquired about that and were told that we could order whatever desserts we wanted, which was another nice gesture. We did end up picking things that were listed on the pre-theater menu but we appreciated the thought, plus they gave us wine pairings that matched each of our desserts rather than the moscato that is listed on the menu. Dessert was one course where we didn’t swap, though we did taste each other’s dishes. I ordered the warm guanaja chocolate coulant, another classic Daniel dish. I was intrigued by it because it was described as having liquid caramel and fleur de sel, a combination that I greatly enjoy. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste much of either in the dish, and it ended up being like every other molten chocolate cake that I’ve eaten. The accompanying milk sorbet was refreshing but a bit bland. This dessert really didn’t stand out to me at all.

Warm Guanaja chocolate coulant, liquid caramel, fleur de sel, milk sorbet

Josh selected the coconut lemongrass soup with mango-thai basil gelee, poached pineapple, and coconut rum sorbet. It also sounded like an interesting combination on paper but failed to impress as well. It reminded both of us of a fruity pina colada, nothing really that different or exotic.

Coconut lemongrass soup with mango-thai basil gelee, poached pineapple, and coconut rum sorbet

In honor of our anniversary, they brought us an extra dessert with a candle in it and “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate on the plate. Again, another very nice gesture and just highlights the level of service at the restaurant. The dessert was a spiced poached pear with hot chocolate sauce, almond frangipane, and earl grey ice cream. The chocolate sauce was neat because there was a thin disc of chocolate on top of the frangipane, which they poured hot chocolate over and the disc melted over the dessert. It was a cool effect, but the dessert itself wasn’t one of my favorites. It was a strange mix of flavors and slightly bitter – not exactly my cup of tea.

Spiced poached pear with hot chocolate sauce, almond frangipane, and earl grey ice cream

Fortunately our meal did not end there. We were also presented with a basket of tiny madeleines, served warm and fresh from the oven. They had a nice crispy chewiness to them, with a delicate citrus flavor. Even though I was very full at this point, I couldn’t stop popping these delicious little bites into my mouth.

Lovely little madeleines

Another dessert plate followed, a small platter of petit fours. We were stuffed but we continued on, taking a bite of each one. To be honest, I don’t really remember what was what, only that every one was tasty. The macaron was delicate and crackly, as it should be, and there was a pistachio one that we both really liked.

Assortment of petit fours

And just when we thought the meal was over, they set down empty plates in front of us. We weren’t sure what was going on, but then someone came by with a tray of chocolates, asking us which ones we would like to taste. We were near capacity at this point so we asked for suggestions on the best pieces, and the server told us that we should try all of them, so who were we to argue? Luckily there were only four kinds, though each one was very rich and intense. The four flavors were Grand Marnier, toasted sesame, dark chocolate, and praline. The toasted sesame was really interesting, with a nice nutty, savory flavor, and the praline was my favorite, a classic sweet crunchy bite to finish off our meal.

Grand Marnier, toasted sesame, dark, and praline chocolates

Overall Josh and I really enjoyed our dinner at Daniel, and I think we would rate it as the second best meal we’ve ever had, behind Alinea. But comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Daniel serves very classic and well prepared dishes, while Alinea’s offerings were unique and strange but very exciting. The service at Daniel was impeccable though, everything you would expect from a three star Michelin restaurant. All of our servers were polite, gracious, and attentive. Our food was always carefully presented and explained with a lot of detail, something that we appreciated.

We were wary at first after the pre-theater menu snafu, but they more than made up for it during the meal. I had also been hesitant about ordering from a limited menu, but we walked out feeling like we had fully experienced Daniel, and the cheaper price was just a bonus on top of a magnificent meal. Although desserts weren’t quite up to par in our opinion, the amuse bouches and all the little extras, like the madeleines and petit fours, were lovely touches that helped cap off a great evening. I would absolutely recommend going for the pre-theater special if cost is a concern. You’ll still have a terrific meal, the same level of great service, and experience all the miniscule details that make this restaurant truly special. We didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything, and we’d happily go back there in a heartbeat, either for the pre-theater meal or a splurge on the regular menu. We definitely believe that the restaurant deserves all the accolades it receives.

60 East 65th St. between Madison and Park Ave.
New York, NY

Seattle Day 2 – Chukar Cherries

Sunday, June 21st, 2009 by virginia


There are lots of vendors and stalls at Pike Place Market but one that really stands out is Chukar Cherries. How can you walk by a giant display of chocolate covered cherries and not stop for a free sample? They usually have several varieties available for tasting, from milk chocolate to dark chocolate coatings and different kinds of dried cherries. They also offer other goodies such as nuts and trail mixes, available in different sized packages.

Cabernet cherries and black forest cherries

Cabernet cherries and black forest cherries

We picked up a few bags of cabernet cherries covered in dark chocolate, and some black forest cherries, which are covered in semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder. They were pretty pricey though, so it’s definitely not a snack that you can gorge on. But that’s ok, because they’re so rich and decadent that I found it hard to eat too many at once. They made a great little treat for us on our cruise, and they also make great gifts for your friends. Just make sure you don’t put them in a hot place because they melt easily!

Chukar Cherries
1529 Pike Place
Seattle, WA

Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Pineapple

Sunday, May 24th, 2009 by virginia

We also had a bottle of prosecco in the fridge calling our names so we whipped up a quick chocolate “fondue” with strawberries and pineapple to pair with the sparkling wine. We simply created a double boiler with a pot of water and a metal mixing bowl, and threw in a few pieces of a giant Hersheys bar, stirring until it melted.

Melted Hershey bar

Melted Hershey bar

DSCN8227I made a few chocolate covered strawberries to put in the fridge for later, and then we ate the rest with the prosecco. Quick, easy and delish!

Yummy, but I forgot to grease the plate before I set these down and they got stuck - fail!

Yummy, but I forgot to grease the plate before I set these down and they got stuck - fail!