"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hello 2015!

Now that the holiday/birthday frenzy has subsided, I have a few minutes in my day to catch up on necessaries like doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen (I still haven't gotten up the nerve to clean out the fridge, but given that we moved in August, at least the horrors can only be in the five month old range). And I do want to post about the fantastic meal we enjoyed on New Year's Eve with our friends Sam and Vic, Sam's brother, and his wife.

Like most decrepit seasoned people I know, Mr. Gateau and I are not much into partying hard on New Year's Eve. We like to do something festive, but it tends to center on a cozy meal with friends and/or family. Many years we have had friends with kids come over and had a fondue extravaganza, or even just curled up with some good old movies and consumed fondue and a lot of wine on our own. One of our favorites was the big night of December 31, 1999, when everyone was anticipating some end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it spectacular. We opted to join our friends Doug and Mary in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (then still a mostly non-gentrified neighborhood that had one little row of upscalish restaurants) at a little bistro. The place was so timeless, we could have been in any city at any time in the last 75 years. At midnight we went outside just to look at the new millennium sky and confirm that the lights hadn't gone out.

This year, we came close to the same wonderful atmosphere, minus the looming catastrophe. We had a late dinner at one of our favorite places, The Oakwood Bistro, which was offering a special (and well-priced) four course menu. The six of us sat at one end of a big communal table that was divided from the party at the other end by a big old KitchenAid mixer filled with dried flowers. The meal was served with dishes for two placed before each pair sitting opposite each other, so I shared with Sam. She and I began with all good intentions to photograph each beautiful course, but the more fun we had the less we remembered to whip out our phones, which I can't say is a bad thing.

Better than the movies.
The meal began with glasses of sparkling wine and a "snack" of big bowls of parmesan truffle popcorn. You haven't had umami until you've had this. Super buttery, we were soon just throwing handfuls of the stuff down our throats, greasy hands be damned. We could probably have done with a smaller serving, but it set the tone for great, fun eating. It was perfect with the dry sparkling wine, and just as wonderful with a round of cocktails. I had a "Buffalo Eat Grapes" made with buffalo trace bourbon, pinot noir syrup, lemon, and bitters. It tasted like a very sophisticated sangria and was a worthy alternative to my favorite drink The Oakwood offers on the summer menu, a take on the Dark & Stormy made with smoked rum and smoked lime.

Three, three, three amuses in one.
Next up was a course called the "Amuse bouche" but went beyond the usual small bite by offering a variety of three amazingly flavorful and inventive hors d'oeuvres. From left, we had a celeriac crisp with foie gras parfait and cranberry powder (this place does a lot with powders and gelees, which could seem a little fussy but they really pack a lot of flavor), a French macaron made of a beet meringue with apple puree and paillot goat cheese, a brilliant savory take on a classic dessert, and a potato nest with truffle sunchoke puree and nettle crumb.

The next course was equally beautiful but we were so intent on eating it that we forgot to photograph it. We were presented with a deep bowl filled with pan-seared scallops in a miso-garlic mushroom broth with roasted king oyster mushroom, black kale dusted cremini crudite, shaved cured egg yolk, hazlenut oil, chicken skin crumble, and nasturtium. The flavors in this dish were fantastic, all that mushroomy, miso umami but a delicacy that was just right for the scallops, punctuated with bits of salty, crunchy, peppery accents.

Bread alone.
Next we received a bread course, which we managed to snap for some reason. I'm not sure I needed to fill up on bread at this point, but the fresh rolls were sprinkled with caraway seeds and salt and served with a deep red smoked paprika butter. So I ate it.

Onto the main course! We all groaned that more food was coming, but I noticed we all ate every bit of it. This was a perfectly prepared grilled rib eye with smoked bone barrow and beet juice, served with thinly shaved winter root vegetables sauteed with cultured tarragon butter, the creamiest possible pomme mousseline, and red amaranth. The beef and its juices were so earthy, while the vegetables had that wonderful summery tarragon taste and the potatoes were utterly decadent. 

Just a little sweet.

And then -- dessert! This we managed to snap before it was too late, and every crumb was gone. This was a take on the Almond Joy bar, a coconut crusted chocolate mousse with raspberry gel, crunchy milk meringue, brown butter ice cream, and lemon balm. I don't even love coconut and chocolate, and I was scraping this off my plate. The brown butter ice cream is something I would drive all day to get, the raspberry gel was sunshine in the mouth, and the milk meringue added an amazing creamy crunch.
A very thoughtful gift.

Before we rolled out the door to drink more Prosecco and eat chocolates while we watched the ball drop with Sam and Vic's folks at home, the restaurant manager thanked us for joining them for the evening and presented us with BREAKFAST! Each couple was given a loaf of cheese bread wrapped in a towel and a brown paper box containing little quince and meringue tarts and two farm eggs. This was such a thoughtful gesture, and we were quite amused in the morning when Baby Gateau climbed into our bed and excitedly told us that there was FOOD! in the dining room, including eggs and "apple pies" which he knew were good because he had stuck his fingers into them to make sure. Oh well, from what I could glean, they were quite delicious, and I very much enjoyed the eggs fried in butter and topped with sauteed shallots and a little red wine vinegar.

It was about as perfect as a New Year's Eve gets, and I hope we can make a tradition out of it.

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