A light wallet and a happy stomach

Even though it’s impossible to forget, this city constantly reminds me what a ridiculous place it is. Where else would you pay $45 for two vodka Red Bulls (ahem, The Box, I’m looking at you)? And where else would paying just slightly under $2,000 a month for a STUDIO apartment be considered a good deal? And where, please tell me, would it be reasonable to pay $79 for a roasted chicken?

Sigh. Here in New York. But you know what, I’ll keep paying for all of these outrageous things because there’s no where else I’d rather be. (Well, except London, where I’d relocate at the drop of a dime if possible. No joke. London, call me. We could be so good together.)

I was skeptical right from the get-go of the $79 roasted chicken on the menu at the NoMad Hotel’s restaurant. I mean, really, $79? Do you know how many whole, organic, happy, well-adjusted, all-natural-diet fed, shipped straight-from-some-idyllic-farm-where-they-ran-around-living-in-perfect-poultry-bliss chickens I can buy for $79? Yet everyone raaaaaved about the new restaurant, said how beautiful it was and how amazing the food was and what an incredible job Chef Daniel Humm (previously of Eleven Madison Park…another pricey food mecca in the city) was doing there. So I said fine, like I say fine to the pricey drinks and to the ludicrous rent I pay, and went to see what the fuss was about.

And well, I get it. The restaurant is beautiful, the scene is stylish and cool, the food is delicious, and the chicken? The chicken will make you wonder whether you might possibly ever eat such a ridiculously good, eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head-in-food-ecstasy, wonderful and oh so succulent bird again.

My humble, fat kid opinion? This place is worth the hype. Yes, it is stupid expensive but it’s gooood. And as I’ve said before, I’m a firm believer in occasionally treating myself to something nice. Not usually to a $79 chicken, but this time yes. Below, my dinner with coworkers at the NoMad Hotel’s restaurant.

Butter-dipped radishes with fleur de sel

Butter-dipped radishes with fleur de sel

From the tapas style “snacks” portion of the menu we started with the butter-dipped radishes and fleur de sel. Like chocolate dipped strawberries, each little radish was coated in a thin butter shell, which really did a lot to make these not feel like rabbit food. Clean, crunchy and bright, I was a fan.

Beef tartare with cornichons and horseradish

Beef tartare with cornichons and horseradish

Also from the “snacks” section, was the recommended beef tartare with cornichons and horseradish. The beef tartare itself was delicious, creamy and flavorful with a subtle tangy hint and the little toasts that came with it were perfect bread specimens if you ask me, toasty and crunchy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside.

Bread

Bread to beat all bread baskets

Next our waiter brought out a loaf of some of the craziest looking bread I’ve ever seen. It had a greenish-purplish color to it and looked like it might’ve been picked up off the floor in some enchanted forest, the kind where you could do that and find delicious bread. There were bits of rosemary, thyme and other herbs baked into and on the bread and the consistency itself was soft and doughy.

Whole roasted chicken stuffed with foie gras, black truffles and brioche

Whole roasted chicken stuffed with foie gras, black truffles and brioche

And then, the $79 chicken. Not that it softens the blow much, but I’ll mention that this dish is meant for two. After much deliberation, my coworker and I decided that as much as we hated to pay about $40 for chicken, we really just needed to know what this was about. So here’s how it works: the waiter brings out this beautiful, almost-glowing whole roasted chicken in a pan, with what looks like a whole bouquet of aromatic herbs sticking out of one end. They show you the chicken, you ooh and ahh, and then they take it away for a moment.

Part 1: chicken breast with stuffing, lentils and Brussels sprouts

Part 1: chicken breast with stuffing, lentils and Brussels sprouts

What they do is they take apart the chicken and bring it back served two ways. First, on separate plates, two  large pieces of juicy, tender chicken with the most perfect, just-right crunchy skin, served on a bed of rich, hearty lentils and plump, soft Brussels sprouts. Underneath the chicken breast, warm black truffle laced stuffing of brioche and foie gras. I mean, really, this chicken was fancy. Everything was just… perfect. Delicious, decadent and absolutely perfect.

Part 2: Chicken’s dark meat served with mushrooms and truffles in a creamy, butter sauce

Then, in a smaller, sort of cast-iron dish was the chicken’s dark meat, served in a rich, buttery sauce of mushrooms and truffles.  Again, totally over the top and decadent but so, so, SO good. I could easily have eaten this whole $79 chicken production by myself it was so fantastic.

Carrots

Slow-roasted carrots with cumin, wheatberries and crispy duck skin

To accompany the chicken, the waiter recommended we get a vegetable, so again taking a cue from our pricey poultry, we ordered the $20 carrots. (Pause to freak out and consider the excessive amount of carrots you could buy for this amount at the market. Ok, now stop.) These fancy roasted carrots were long, elegant, stylish things, all glazed and dressed up with cumin and crispy duck skin for a completely new and so much better carrot experience than I’ve ever had.

Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey dessert

And finally for dessert we shared the much lauded milk and honey, a plate of ice cream, brittle and shortbread that won points for color, flavor, texture and consistency in my book. The ice cream was milky and thick, the brittle and shortbread crunchy and buttery in a caramel, toffee way (even though one coworker said she was stabbed in the mouth by a particular shard of brittle) and the dehydrated milk flakes were crisp and airy, like pieces of sugary meringue.

Compliments of the pastry chef

Compliments of the pastry chef

But just when we thought it was all over and we could leave with lighter wallets and heavier, happier stomachs, out came one more thing: an assortment of sweet treats from the pastry chef. There were macarons, fruit gelees  and what turned out to be my favorite, lapsang souchong truffles. They were smokey, rich and chocolatey and if I had a dozen of them in front of me, I’d probably go through all of them.

So yes, like so many other things in this absurd city, dinner was expensive. But you know what? Like this crazy, sucking-my-bank-account-dry city, it was awesome.

The NoMad on Urbanspoon

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Pigging out in Chitown

While I might appear slothlike, I’m really not, and especially when I travel, I like to hit the ground running. Even after a taxi-flight-taxi combo, the extra added annoyances of flight delays, last-minute carry-on bags having to be checked, and spending almost 3 hours wedged into the dreaded middle seat, as soon as Flaneur and I got to our hotel in Chicago I wanted to go OUT. There was a restaurant I was itching to go to and the next day just wasn’t soon enough. What if I died in my sleep and never made it?

So instead of kicking back and relaxing,  off we went in search of The Purple Pig, a restaurant one of my friends in San Francisco raved about and insisted I go to. Next time I see this friend, I owe her a drink at the very least because The Purple Pig was ridiculous–in the best way. Fireworks and a parade wouldn’t have made for a better welcome to the city.

Below, some food porn from our first night in Chi-town:

First out, from the antipasti section of the menu, were the fresh spring peas and bacon with spearmint. Fattest, most delicious peas I’ve ever eaten. I could eat this all day, every day.

Peas unlike any I’ve ever had.

From the salad portion of the menu,  rabbit panzanella with mixed herbs and lettuce, crispy capers, pickled fiddlehead ferns (that’s one of the curliecues in the left corner) and black truffle vinaigrette. Panzanella, a type of italian bread salad, is one of my favorite easy dishes but this took it to a whole new level. So many colors, flavors, textures. So. Much. Deliciousness.

A crazy heap of panzanella. Crazy good, that is.

Then from the fried items: sardines with shaved fennel salad and lemon vinaigrette. This is one of those dishes that makes you wish you were on vacation at the beach somewhere, maybe in Italy. But then when you realize you’re not, you’re still ok because you have these damn tasty sardines in front of you, and that’s more than enough.

Fried sardines: salty, tangy and just perfect.

Next, from the a la plancha part: pork jowl and grilled asparagus with oyster mushrooms and fried duck egg on top. This was probably, no definitely, my favorite. The pork jowl was tender and meaty, and when that perfect, orange duck yolk spilled over it? I could have cried if I wasn’t busy stuffing forkfuls in my mouth.

Pork jowl and fried duck egg. The people sitting next to us were blatantly staring at us while we ate this, food envy written all over their faces.

Last in our succession of savory eats, the pork neck bone gravy with ricotta from the smears section of the menu. A hearty, saucy, rich dish served with crunchy toast for smearing and dipping, this was a great example of what i consider comfort food.

Pork neck gravy and ricotta smear. As in, I want to smear this all over my mouth.

And then finally, dessert.  It wasn’t easy choosing but at the server’s recommendation, we went with the Sicilian Iris, a ricotta and chocolate chip filled fried brioche. Sounds magnificent doesn’t it? Oh, and it WAS. Something like a cross between a canolo and a bombolone, this thing was unreal. When it came it out, it looked like a round, fat, sugar-dusted donut but inside, it oozed, warm creamy ricotta with dark chocolate chips. Totally decadent, and so, so, so very good.

Sicilian iris: the sweet lovechild between the canolo and the bombolone

Not only was this one of my favorite meals in Chicago, but one of my favorite ever. I’d go back to Chicago just to eat at The Purple Pig again.

The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon

Celebratory ridiculousness

The original DB burger

Warning: what you’re about to read, what I’m about to describe, what I ate for dinner at DB Bistro Moderne one night last week, was and still is even a week later, a little ridiculous. And by a little I actually mean really, really ridiculous. It was over the top, gluttonous, uber rich, and decadent in a way I never knew a burger could be.

To celebrate the new job I started this week (note: I’m always looking for a reason to eat out and this one seemed pretty legit) the boy and I went out for dinner at DB Bistro, where I will openly admit I wanted to go only so I could order the ridiculous $32 Original DB Burger. What the hell’s in a $32 burger you ask? Brace yourself. In between doughy, soft parmesan buns was a fat sirloin burger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle.

That’s right. Short ribs, foie gras and truffles. Inside of a burger. How absurd is that? Pretty damn absurd. But you know what? It was delicious. Juicy, messy, almost obscene, but so good.

A new job and a career advancement called for a proper celebration. I say work hard, eat hard. (Ok, so I don’t actually say that but you get where I’m going with it.)

The lunch to top all lunches

Every lunch I have from now until God-knows-when will pale in comparison to the meal I had Monday. The deli sandwiches, microwaved leftovers and salads that usually constitute my lunch will forever live in the shadow of what I had yesterday. The lunch I ate is what I might have answered to the question, “What would you want to eat as your last meal?” It would be the answer to that question if I sat and fantasized about it and dreamed up a menu of the most incredible ingredients and amazing dishes. It was better than a daydreamed answer. It was real and it was lunch at a New York institution, the original home of the power lunch, the Four Seasons Restaurant.

Thanks in part to a piece featuring the restaurant’s managing partners written in the magazine I work for, and part because of friends in high places (i.e. my wonderful friend who works there), and part to an all around aligning of the planets or divine intervention on behalf of the food gods, my friend Joe and I had the great honor of being invited to lunch at the Four Seasons Restaurant.

I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but neither pictures nor words could really do much in the way of doing this food any justice. It was just too good. But I’ll give it a shot.

While each item listed under appetizers sounded better than the next, I knew immediately what I would order when I laid eyes on it: burrata and roasted beets. Burrata is a creamy white Italian cheese made from a mix of mozzarella and cream. When I lived in Italy I ate it whenever possible but this was the first time I had had it since I moved here almost nine months ago. Along with the soft juicy pear halves and the roasted beets, it was a magical reunion to say the least.

Burrata with roasted beets and pears

Joe opted for the day’s special: Spanish ham with white asparagus, grilled peppers and hearts of palm. (It should go without saying that of course I had a bite.) A great mix of colors, flavors and tastes.

Spanish ham, white asparagus, peppers and hearts of palm

Next up in our line-up of mouth-watering eats were the entrees. I ordered the Nantucket Bay scallops with black truffle risotto. I’m usually not crazy about scallops but these were like nothing I’d ever had before. And the black truffle risotto was on par with the best risottos I ever had in Italy. Best of all, this wasn’t truffle oil or truffle essence, it was whole flakes of delicious black truffles, with an aroma so good it was almost hypnotizing.

Nantucket bay scallops with black truffle risotto

With some encouragement from me, Joe went for the bison filet with foie gras and black truffles. The meat, cooked to a perfect redish pink, was juicy and soft, and mixed with a bit of the foie gras and truffles, it really did almost melt in your mouth. Meat like this, while it’s not something I eat often, or ever really, is the kind of thing that keeps me from giving up meat. Passing up something so amazing would be like passing up sunshine.

Filet of bison with foie gras and perigord black truffle

My favorite part of most meals is dessert, and while it’s practically impossible to choose a favorite from such perfect dishes as the ones I had here, the chocolate soufflè I ordered (on my friend’s recommendation) was definitely a contender. A soft, warm chocolate cake came perched on top of a porcelain dessert cup along with a small bowl of  thick warm chocolate. When he placed it before me, the waiter used a spoon to push in the middle of the cake, which he then filled with heaping spoonfuls of hot, gooey chocolate. This is the stuff chocolate dreams are made of.

Chocolate soufflè

Joe’s dessert, while listed simply as cheesecake, was actually almost three desserts in one. The cheesecake itself, coated in a soft layer of chocolate, was smooth and creamy, almost like a custard. It also came with a little glass of chocolate mousse topped with a soft, almost-frothy whipped cream, and a round little heap of what tasted like hazelnut sorbet. A fantastic end to a fantastic meal.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

A very sincere thank you to the Four Seasons Restaurant, to my friend there whose job and daily lunch options I envy more than anything else now, and to the food gods who decided to shine all their good graces down on me and grant me one of the best lunches I’ve ever had.