Friday, October 15, 2010

A Birthday Weekend of Suprises!

29 came in with a slew of surprises and good eats. Thank the good Lord for all the blessings that I have received. Thank you to my thoughtful husband, my parents, my brothers Harry and Sung and Tammy for the great birthday weekend. You are some extraordinary people. :)

I could sit here and chatter on like a bird at length of the whole weekend, but to sum it up, there were quite a few surprises, coincidental running-intos, academy award winning performances, some longings fulfilled and some good food.

So through some great theatrical acting from the hubs, we landed at Alfred Portali's Restaurant Gotham Bar and Grill.  It's located in New York's Union Square, home to the place we dated and later engaged!

Everything on the plates were so carefully arranged and presented by the staff. For one of the dishes, the server came out with a little serving of sauce in one hand, the plate in the other and when he put the plate down, did a whole sauce presentation that included a lot of wrist and twirling action! I felt like we should have tipped or applauded him as he quietly walked away . The night was peppered with appearances of the chef by our table at the requested "most romantic table available". It helped that his significant other was sitting right behind us too! Great service, elegant ambiance and amazing food.

Gotham Bar and Grill

Great bread here...

japanese cucumber, shiso leaf and sweet miso
asian ginger vinaigrette

baby chiogga beets, sicilian pistachio and mango
marble rye toast

smoked bacon, dry sherry and fine herb crème fraîche

bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and sticky rice
soy lemongrass ginger sauce

coco blanc cassoulet, duck saucisson d'ail, acorn squash and quince
quatre épices 

and this is what they do when you drop things on the white table cloth.
It's very nice service of them to do, but very embarrassing!

My thoughtful and academy-awarding winning, main squeeze

with seasonal ice cream

Complementary petit fours. Do you know the origin of these little desserts? Back in the day when the stoves were wood/coal burning, people would try to be resourceful in using the energy so when it was time to cool the oven down for the night, they'd put these little cakes that take little time to bake into the oven. That way, the energy would be used and everyone could have little treats. :)

The man himself,  ALFRED PORTALE.
(his significant other took the picture for us)

The next day, I planned it to be a normal day at home making sure things around our house were in order. The windows were open, our clothes were swishing at the local laundromat and I was being really productive making my way down the list, but to my surprise the rest of my day had already been planned out for me!  Through a series of tricks and plots, I was lured to the city and conveniently ran into my brother (from DC).

Oui, too much sun.

Hubs was at work, but the guys planned that I would catch up with my brother for the morning and when it came to lunchtime, he would take me to Grainne Cafe where we would wait for Kee. It was a homey French Cafe with seats outside and cafe doors swung wide open and we were akwardly sat next to... a fighting couple.  They ended up kissing when they're plates came out either  a) because they made up or b) they were famished and were so happy to have food in front of them. World peace restored. *hushed cheering*

I told my brother that there must be a reason why Kee planned this cafe since he's usually very intentional about his finds. I looked down the menu..... and aha.


Escargot is simply a fancy term for snails-in-lots-of-garlic-butter-sauce. :)

Hubs planned to bring me here because they serve escargot!  A few weeks back, we were talking about the best thing we ever ate, and I shared that it was the escargot we had on your honeymoon. It was my brother's first time trying escargot, which turned out to be a treat for him too because it was favorable to him. We had two orders of the buttery goodness followed by some crepes and pasta.

The previous picture is of Kee's dish as it came out, but since he went to wash his hands, my bro and I decided to bless him with the garnishes from our plates too.

Post lunch, the guys were thoughtful and had planned to spend time doing things that I liked to do. It was a beautiful day to be out and about the city. We ended up hitting up a unique bookstore, art galleries, stores, wine and...getting our nails did. Everyone. The guys were great sports about it and perhaps enjoyed it a little if my suspicious are correct.  They only got the hand trimming, but I got the trimming and polish.

Then after we hung out during the day, it was onto dinner at Mario Batali's restaurant, Luppa. I've been trying to learn more about Italian food these days and the chef of the hour has been Mario Batali. With his opening of Eataly, his new book Molto Gusto coming out and his restaurants going strong in New York, I was in for a pleasant surprise as a treat from Sung and Tammy. Dinner at Luppa!

It was a long wait at this popular dining destination, but worth the wait for especially their Gnocchi and the pasta dishes. The olive oil for their bread was superb. I don't know much about olive oil, but even a novice can taste that this olive oil was better than the ordinary.  Mario Batali's philosophy of pastas is to make it simple and let the ingredients shine. The pictures will show simple pasta but the flavor really leads you into a pleasant surprise. :)

It was thrilling to go to dinner at Luppa, because my husband told me just before dinner that he had purchased tickets for me to go see Mario Batali this weekend! I've been working on raising some herbs and these tickets are to learn about edible gardens! 

Batali's book Molto Gusto. check!
Crocs. check!
Mario Batali? coming soon. Hopefully, a sig and pic to come. :)

Pictures all courtesy of the Tam Cam

Pork Shoulder with Snap Peas & Radishes 


Linguine with Mussels, Tomatoes and Thyme 

Calamari with Farro & Salsa Verde

Bucatini All' Amatriciana

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Fennel 

We ate family style.

Lupa Tartufo (tasted like a giant Ferrero Rocher)

We are all full and happy

Happyyy~~ (2cha)

And finally, after the night was over and we said our goodbyes, we returned home around 11pm. Lo and behold, our doorbell rings. Tammy and Sung are back at our house...with Cake! What a stir! :)

We had pretty red velvet cake from Sugar Sweet Sunshine and ice cream. We have no ice cream scoop to make nice round scoops for our guests, but I had a creative idea. A melon baller.

Mini scoops of ice cream. This rocked my world. 

And one of the shining gifts from my husband I will hold dear is my new Le Creuset  pot (Just like Julia Child and the inside is white!) and to accompany the new gift, my brother bought me the biography of Julia Child! So now I am cruising through Paris vicariously through Julia Child, but looking forward to cooking something good for the first time myself in the new pot. There is none other more Julia Child than Boeuf Bourguignon!

Alas, I have chattered on like a bird.  It was a wonderful birthday weekend. Thank you to all of you who made it special for me. In my pursuit of building our home, my birthday weekend was truly a gem of inspiration for the kitchen.

Cheers to the next year :)

Bon Appetit!

Foodie Yoodie