Joyeaux Anniversaire: Gastronomical Adventures - A Guest Blog by Carrie Goldberg

/ Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From previous post you all may know that my dearest friend and foodie companion, Carrie Goldberg, has exploded into the blogging world with her fashion & lifestyle mecca Mes Petites Choux. Following her birthday trio of culinary celebrations, Carrie was kind enough to share her experience on Food & Femininity with a guest blog. She recounts a beautiful 36 hours, dining in some of NYC's most illustrious restaurants. Be sure to drink in every word, this femme knows what she's talkin' about!


This past week, I celebrated my birthday with friends and family. While my birthday is usually a time for those around me to indulge my passion for fashion, this year my family took the liberty of delving into my foodie side, treating me to three of the best meals of my life. Over the course of five days, I enjoyed dinner at Sushi of Gari with my aunt and uncle, lunched at Cafe Boulud with my grandparents, and dined at Jean George's Nougatine with my aunt, uncle, and little cousins. Each meal was unique and delightful; what a thrill to enjoy them with my family, who are foodies in their own rights.

Dinner at Sushi of Gari may have been the most remarkable culinary experience I have ever had. Sushi is my favorite food without it being as fresh or creative as it is at Gari. One bite of fresh fish, paired with the most intriguing of flavors, and I was hooked! My Aunt and I paired the meal with unfiltered saki, a new beverage for me that I plan on having many times in the future. Although dry like typical hot and cold saki, unfiltered saki, served cold, has a sweet taste to it as well - almost as if it were infused with coconut. Its cloudy white color and semi-sweet flavor make it the ideal beverage if you are torn between sweet girly cocktails and robust saki when dining out. My uncle opted for hot saki, sneaking tastes of my aunt's drink here and there. When it came time to order, I let my uncle do the talking as my family has become Sushi of Gari experts over the years. He opted to order the chef's selection, the Omakase: after you list your dietary restrictions and dislikes, the chef is left to his own creative devices when it comes to your meal. We were served piece after piece of delicious and inventive sushi - tuna with ginger miso paste, spanish makerel, tempura cod with wasabi, and salmon with jalapeno cucumber sauce to name a few. I would tell you my favorite, but selecting one from all the amazing tastes and textures I sampled is near impossible - there was not one piece I did not love. We finished the meal with red bean, green tea, and strawberry mochi-covered ice cream - delicious!

My next stop on my food tour around the world? France. My grandparents took me for lunch at their head quarters and all time favorite eatery, Cafe Boulud. We opted for their Pri-Fixe lunch menu. (A special that has continued since Restaurant Week.) We all started with a velvety cream of corn soup, topped with charred corn and roasted hazelnuts. Although an appetizer is supposed to lead you into your entree, I could have eaten this soup forever. The smooth soup with the crunchy-charred toppings created the perfect texture and flavor combination, and the portion was the perfectly sized. My grandparents continued their meal with cod, which sat atop sauteed mustard greens, olives, carmelized onions and rustic potatoes in an herb butter sauce. My grandfather and I ended the meal with a spice cake served with blueberry compote and blueberry ice cream; my grandmother had strawberrys, cream, and cookies, a dish which may seem self explanatory, but seemed to taste far better than typical fruit and whipped cream.

During lunch I took the opportunity to quiz my food-loving grandfather about the best meals he's had over the years. Although it was a tough question to answer, he dealt with it well, stating that he cannot say that he has had one entire meal in one place that has cummulatively been the best of his life. Rather, he can recount dishes from meals of years past which if combined, could be his holy last supper. His favorite meat? Lamb grilled at a small hole-in-the-wall in the north of Israel. His favorite appetizer? Artichoke soup at Guy Savoy in Paris. He recounted almost religious experiences of sipping delicious champagne paired with blinis, creme fraiche, and caviar in the South of France with my grandmother, and emailed me later with this gastronomical anecdote:

Dear Carrie,
In answer to the question you posed the other day about favourite meals, I completely omitted one that was absolutely delicious.

On the beach near Antibes, a man was grilling, over an open brazier, large, fat sardines. Eaten with small broken up chunks of bread dipped in olive oil, it was quite wonderful. Fresh fish eaten that way was every bit as delicious as Le Bernadin and, moreover, Mich and I ate this delicious lunch for the price of a Starbucks coffee.

My last adventure was last night at Jean George's Nougatine for a New American/French dining experience. The ambiance was elegant, yet relaxed enough that even my little cousins were able to join my Aunt, Uncle, and I for dinner. A foodie with training wheels, my nine year old cousin Isabelle explained to me that my Nougatine experience would not be complete without ordering the tuna tartare, which sits atop a thinly sliced bed of avocado and is topped with radish salad. (Keep in mind, this was only Isabelle's second time at Nougatine after being taken there for her father's birthday - nonetheless, she spoke about the dishes like a true pro!) Once the tartare has been seated in front of you, a waiter kindly pours a ginger miso sauce onto the base of your plate. The tartare, similar to my corn soup at Cafe Boulud, was the highlight of my meal, as my aunt and cousin swore it would be. My second course, slow cooked salmon sitting on potato puree and basil vinagrette, was perfectly fresh, simple and delicious. It was topped with julienne vegetables, which were delicious with the vinagrette. My cousins, who always find room for dessert in their tiny tummies, finished the meal with warm chocolate cake paired with vanilla bean ice cream and a hazelnut chocolate mouse on a sheet of praline with milk sherbet. I was given a beautiful plate of fresh berries and a marzipan cookie with my birthday candles, but Isabelle's milk sherbet was amazing!

I am so grateful to my family for providing me with three amazing dining experiences I doubt I would have indulged in otherwise, and it was a terrific way to be able to spend some quality time with family. While at dinner last night, Isabelle, her brother Benjamin, and I planned a trip to Momofuku Milk Bar this Sunday, since as foodies in training, I think its high time they sampled some recession proof, yet undeniably delectable and innovative sweets.

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