Gramercy Tavern for New Year’s Eve

29 Jan

I was more than happy to plan a New Year’s Eve that included not much more than my couch, my husband, and my cats… but friends of ours were visiting from London and were passionate about having a nice meal out, especially at Gramercy Tavern. So 30 days before 12/31, we were online and calling to snag a reservation. And we got one.

And I’m glad she motivated me to get off my butt to enjoy a nice meal on New Year’s Eve.  Because it was a really lovely way to spend the holiday, without having to deal with any of the craziness that is NYE in NYC.

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The Dining Room menu is typically a 3-course menu where you can choose from an app, entree, and dessert for $92 or a Seasonal Tasting Menu (~6 courses) for $120.  New Year’s Eve was no different.  (Which I think is important, because I hate price gouging on holidays)

We were at a table with 2 other couples, some of whom were not the foodie activists we are, so when the waiter said it would be hard to have some of the table do the 3-course and the others do the Tasting Menu, we sadly went with the 3-course.

But I longed for that Seasonal Tasting Menu.  There were so many dishes on that menu that had my name all over them.  I used every kindness I had and asked the waiter if I could choose some things off the Seasonal Tasting Menu, even if they came with a supplement.  He checked with the chef and agreed. OH HAPPY DAY!

We started with an amuse bouche, and I got a special one with pickled veggies, which was a very nice start.

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One of the items that tickled my fancy off the Tasting Menu was the lobster with squash.  This was fantastic.  Sweet lobster, cooked just right, complimented by a perfectly roasted squash, squash seeds, and a delightful sauce.

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Some other dishes around the table looked equally delicious.

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But the other dish off the tasting menu I needed was the short ribs.  These were cooked perfectly and in a fantastic sauce with bright, beautiful veggies.

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We then got an intermezzo of shaved ice that was a really refreshing transition into dessert.

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All of the desserts were lovely, including the cheese tasting.

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And we ended the meal with beautiful chocolate fudge and salted caramels.

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And they sent us home with homemade banana bread and chocolate hazelnut spread to enjoy the next morning (and oh boy did we).

This was a great meal, and a great way to end a great year with great friends.  They were so kind to let me order a custom meal and get the things I so wanted, and for that bit of hospitality I cannot help but love them even more.  We already had one great meal at Gramercy Tavern, and I can’t wait to go back for another one. It’s such a classic New York City restaurant that always impresses.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Bâtard

27 Jan

It seems everywhere I looked, someone was raving about Bâtard.  It took us a few weeks to get a reservation, but we finally managed to squeeze in for a 6pm on a Friday night.

One thing everyone raved about was that you can do a Tasting Menu for $55 (2 courses), $65 (3 courses), or $75 (4 courses).  I love this concept because I love trying as much as possible.  They said they would course the meal depending on what we ordered. Great.

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We started out with warm bread that was fantastic.  The olive roll was incredible and started the meal well.

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We decided to split all our courses.

We started with Braised Artichokes with barley, poached hen’s egg, and eiswein sabayon.  It came with a chili flake on top, and when I asked about it, it was immediately whisked away and very quickly replaced.

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With a non-allergenic version.  And it was awesome.  The sabayon was fantastic and the artichokes were super flavorful.  The chip added nice texture and I enjoyed the barley as a way of sopping up the sauce.

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We also tried the short rib and tafelspitz terrine with smoked egg, german sesame, and apple.

The terrine itself had great flavor and texture, but that little fried piece of meat was heavenly.  The fresh apple complimented the richness well.

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We then tried the sea scallops with carrot fondue, parsnip, and chervil.

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The scallops were perfectly cooked, and the little touch of caviar on the one made it extra special.  The parsnips were caramelized and really flavorful.  The crumble added great texture and flavor (though I still have no idea what it was).

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Our next dish was sweet potato agnolotti with parmesan mousseline, pecan, and peppercress.  These melted in my mouth and had this great balance of sweetness, richness, and a bit of bitter from the greens. I LOVED this dish.

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We then had the branzino with butternut squash, grilled lettuce, and pumpkin seed vinaigrette.  I love branzino and this did not disappoint. Perfect cooked with slightly crispy skin, complimented with all the great squash flavors of the butternut and the pumpkin seed.  The grilled lettuce had a nice char and it came together beautifully.

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There was a special this night with chicken schnitzel (partially on the bone) with potato salad.

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This was very nicely seasoned, with a slight crisp, and I loved the piece on the bone.  The potato salad was mustardy, which Mike loved and I was a bit turned off by, but I could see the appeal.

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For dessert, they had a selection from the menu or a cheese tasting of 3 for $15 (only thing a la carte from the tasting menu).  Mike went with the 3 courses plus the cheese and I chose the 4 courses with dessert.

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Each of the cheeses were very good, and paired with a compliment (apricot, apples, etc)  to make the flavor sing.

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I chose the caramelized milk bread, which I have been seeing pop up on menus a bit more very recently.  This came with blueberries and brown butter ice cream (which had a little bit of salt on top). Awesome dessert.  It was kind of like a french toast but with a beautifully caramelized outside to make it more desserty.  The blue berries were cooked a bit to sweeten them and add some sauce without losing the consistency and flavor, and the brown butter ice cream went very well with everything.

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We were then brought a final tasting with marzipan cookies and truffles filled with black olives. Yes. Black olives.  When I took a bite, I was so confused by what flavor I was tasting, I had to ask.  I was surprised at how enjoyable this was once I found out it was black olives.  I also really loved the marzipan cookies. Delicious.

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From start to finish, we really enjoyed our meal.  I felt like the quality was great with a good amount of innovation, that made me feel like we were getting a lot for our money.  Most tasting menus of this quality in NYC would cost a lot more, but this felt like a big value with a huge payoff in delicious food.

Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Pregger Vittles

25 Jan

Pregnancy is weird.

Super weird.

My body is no longer my own and it does some really strange things… especially when it comes to food.

Everyone asks what my cravings are… and there is only one answer.  Citrus.

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I went to LA the week I found out I was pregnant and was at my aunt’s house. She had fresh oranges and I am pretty sure I ate fifteen of them.  I was perpetually queasy, trying to hide that, and they were making me feel better. I am not sure if it was the cravings that pushed me to oranges that day or the oranges that pushed me towards that being MY food. But it has been 5 months now and I still eat about 3-4 oranges (or something similar) every single day.

My first trimester felt a lot like being hung over and sea sick at the same time.  It was pretty awful, and I subsisted solely on beige foods for a few weeks (pasta, bread, crackers, pretzels, etc).  And if I didn’t eat every two hours or so, I felt even worse. (Thank goodness my doctor told me at about 10 weeks about Unisom, which totally saved me from deciding this would be my ONE and ONLY pregnancy, by curing my morning/all-day sickness overnight)

One food that really saved me was a snack I was generously sent to try: BettaSnax.

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I have never seen these before, but they are basically crispy little slices of biscotti.

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I first tried the S’Mores since as a S’Mores lover, I was excited.  They were good but didn’t satisfy that gooey S’Mores thing.  I then tried the Fruit & Nut and LOVED them. (The original flavor was also quite good). These were my go-to when a meeting was going too long and I was in need of a snack to hold me over. They were tasty and filling, without being too hard on my stomach.  And pretty healthy as far as snacks go, even in bulk (low calories and no added fat).

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Once the Unisom kicked in and I could eat things with color again, I found myself NEEDING a custom yogurt parfait every single day for about 2 months.  Luckily, a store on my walk to work allowed me to customize to my hearts content, with fresh fruit, multiple types of yogurt and cottage cheese.  Of course, they each cost about $400, but what’s money when you NEED a yogurt parfait?

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Then there was the day I innocently went to grab lunch and somehow came back with this collection of sea salt & vinegar PopChips, tangerines, gummy peaches, and a chicken caesar wrap.  You know… because those things go together.

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And then the day Mike talked about an anchovy pizza he had at a restaurant and I could not get it out of my head. So we went grocery shopping and Mike nicely entertained my needs and made me this delicious anchovy and olive “pizza” on naan with pesto.  Partnered with a roast chicken and roast yellow cauliflower.  And it was good.

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Then the day I convinced my entire family to get milk shakes, delivered, after a full dinner when we also brought cupcakes. They gave in to my whims.  Good family they are.

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And my sister and her fiance were kind enough to get me a Citrus of the Month Club membership, with the first shipment including some Honeybell Oranges and Grapefruits.  This lasted me a solid three days.

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And brought me to one of my favorite breakfasts, cut grapefruits with a yogurt parfait (with bananas and grapes and topped with my favorite granola from The NoMad).

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But the pizza adventure cracked me up most.  We were on the train and Mike asked what kind of pizza I wanted to order… he started listing some things… “Olives? Mushrooms? Hawaiian?”

YES, YES, and YES!

It wasn’t that I wanted all of those things together, I just was influenced by the power of suggestion and couldn’t decide.  So we got them all!

A funny moment happened when the order came through with all the ingredients as one. So the confused restaurant called me to ask if I REALLY wanted them all together. I clarified the half and half and when it arrived, I was a very happy pregnant lady.

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Thankfully, nothing is really grossing me out, which I hear is common, except raw greens aren’t doing it for me anymore (though I still try to eat them).

Halfway through. Wonder what else will be in my food future with this little man making all the calls!