I wish I had the words to title this blog post.  I wish I had the words to describe what I experienced last night.  I almost wasn’t even going to write about it in fear of not being able to do it justice, but as it figures into my future in such a strong way I feel like I have to include something of this magnitude on here.  It is funny how an event centered around food can evoke so much emotion.  Eating is something I do every single day, and yet unlike an album played on repeat for two weeks, or even a run done repeatedly every day, eating is never worn out on me.  I haven’t been so excited or nervous for something in a long time, and it was just dinner!  I had dinner yesterday and I will have it again tomorrow, but not like this… this was more than just a dinner, it was an event through and through.  The fact that we were there from 6-11 speaks to that by itself, but ultimately this was a celebration of food.

Per Se.  Arguably the top culinary experience achievable.  Dan, Amy, Shannon, and I met up in a rather large mall, Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle, and headed up to the fourth floor.  It is an odd thing that this restaurant is located in the heart of what can only

The funny thing is that the doors don't open, it's the two automatic sliding glass doors on either side that you enter through.

be described as a shopping mall.  Amidst the like of Hugo Boss and Williams-Sonoma are two great big beautiful blue doors.  These wonderful doors truly separate the chaos of New York and a shopping mall from something pristinely calm and surreal.

So we enter through the doors.

As we enter we are greeted by the hostess and led immediately to our table.  I will let you discern the interior from the pictures to be posted later today after I get them from Amy and Dan, but ultimately is was simple and elegant.  We sat next to the floor to ceiling windows that gave us Central Park and a New York skyline.  Up against our back was the fireplace encased in glass.  We definitely had the premier table in the house, front row and center to everything that was happening in the restaurant.  Dan immediately picked out a stunning bottle of champagne for us to sip on as he browsed the wine menu picking out our selections for the night with his knowledge and pallet recently honed from his wine trip through France and Italy.  Needless to say the choices were incredible, a sentiment echoed by the house sommelier.

We were presented with menus to read over, but as you have two real options: vegetarian menu or chef’s tasting menu, it was more of an insight as to what was about to head your way.  Three of us went with the chef’s menu while Amy indulged in the vegetable tasting menu, which allowed us to see both sides of things.  The menu is 10 courses, with each course chosen to impeccably follow the last and set up the next.  I am not going to dive into every course but I have posted our personal menus (sent home with us in a folder at the end of the night) to illustrate the food.  After the server took our order, everything turned into a perfect ballet for the next four hours.  Course after course slid in front of us all perfectly dressed and stunningly prepared.  Simple foods based on quality products and not showmanship.  Yes, every dish was beautiful, but the focus really was on the ingredients.  For example, when the pickled beets came out, they were the epitome of pickled beets, they executed in the best way to possibly do pickled beats.  The same went for the lobster and lamb and sorbets… etc.  You could not have improved on each dish.

After the wines, the courses, the endless desserts, morsels, sips, scotches, ports, grappas, cookies, coffees… we sat back in wonder in order to marvel at what the evening had given us.  This moment didn’t last as long as I would have liked as we were promptly whisked out of our seats, and into the kitchen.  Ushered into the kitchen by our amazing host we entered into a stunningly clean, well lit, perfectly organized world of cooking.  Chefs were spinning here and there with hot pans, some were painting chocolates onto a plate with brushes, others dotting liquefied beans onto scallops… it was beautiful!  Everything was just so precise and everyone moved only with exact intent, and yet everyone in there welcomed us and smiled!  We barged right in being pushed right up into the belly of the kitchen!  Insanity!  It was simply inspiring.

All in all the night was indescribably amazing.  As I write this all down I feel like it is simply a babbling of nonsense.  I can’t write accurately about this, and my brain is way too jumbled around everything to convey anything resembling the night.  Most importantly is solidified in my mind the importantly it solidified in my mind the potential that is embodied in the restaurant industry.  What an opportunity it is to be able to host that many people every night, and night after night give someone a “once in a lifetime” meal.  It is surreal.

I don’t have all of the pictures I want to put up on here yet, but they will be coming very very very soon.  They more coherently describe the evening.

Finally, most importantly, thank you Amy.  Thank you a million times over.

The Beautiful Girls!

Simple Settings.

Goblets the size of a man head.

The Demartinis!

Outside at Columbus Circle

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What are we out of now?

It is that question which I have taken to reciting without prompt as I answer the phone at 3 Am.  The answer is rarely the same: Buns, Booze, Money, the cook is missing, basement is flooding, new kid didn’t show up… can you come down?  At first my answer was a perky, “Of course!  Hang in there I am on my way,” and now usually just an obscene comment about ineptitude, but no matter the retort I will of course be flying in the door ready to tackle whatever seems to be going awry.  Being the manager of a New York restaurant has been challenging thus far, but I am finding out that I love it.  Last 24 hours: 10 am – 5 pm at work, 5 PM – 2:30 AM @ home, 2:30 AM – 4:15 AM at Work, home to sleep until 10, then back to work by 10:45 AM – 2 PM… and so on.  In spite of the constant erratic schedule I have not yet felt too much strain from it.  It is at 4:30 in the morning walking through Manhattan, sipping a 15$ cocktail in a paper cup, and taking in the end of the night debauchery that occurs when the bars purge their most loyal customers, that you find that serenity which happens amidst the most chaotic situations.  You know when things are so crazy, you run and run all night teetering on panic attack, nothing seems to be going right… and then it just finishes, the people go home, the place gets cleaned, and you find yourself smiling all the way home in the quiet cool early morning.  It is fantastic.  Anyways, work is crazy.  Summer is definitely hot dog and bar season, and that makes us one ultimate destination.  In between crafting cocktails and dogs we are also catering weddings in central park, hosting movie premier events, and taking part in week long drinking adventures (The Manhattan Cocktail Classic for example).  It keeps me very much on my toes, but it also keeps my interested.  Come visit me at work sometime.

Tonight we are heading to the mecca of American/Worldwide restaurants.  Thomas Keller’s Per Se is a 3 Star Michelin rated restaurant, along with 4 stars from the NY Times, and alongside it’s sister restaurant, French Laundry outside of San Francisco, is the ultimate of ultimates.    I am so nervous for this meal it is absurd!  I am sure I will be updating you on how it goes immediately afterward.  http://www.perseny.com/

Quick hello to everyone back in ABQ meeting up for the wedding!  I wish I could be there!  I miss you all!  CONGRATS LINDS!!!!  Much love.

Uber Post…

I have been so distracted by everything that has been going on out here that by the time I get home every night I am too exhausted to even think about writing a blog post!  So here is a complete blast of information about what has been occurring around the world of the Wandering Willey!

Work is going great!  I am truly assuming a positive role as the manager of the joint.  We are evolving and creating new avenues towards success (including new locations!).  I am in love with the employees

Shannon visiting me at work. A common occurence.

of the place on both the crif side and the bar side.  Everyone seems to be completely involved and passionate about what they do, and not to mention extremely nice.  They have been very welcoming and made my life extremely easy as I dive in head first.  So far so good at Crif Dogs.

Shannon’s job seems to be going amazingly!  As it turns out she is phenomenal at being a cocktail server.  I know we never doubted her, but she really has taken everything on head first and proven to her new employers that there is no one better to be had.  She is ripping up the ranks, and I am continually astonished by her new found cocktail knowledge.  She is ruling the Manhattan cocktail scene.  Tanner, Dan, and I have already created a wonderful routine of planting ourselves at her bar… woe is me, life is hard when you have the two most distinguished and exclusive cocktail bars at your disposal at any time!

We have a DAN!  Shannon and I recently went out and got ourselves a Dan to live with.  After all of his recent travels Dan DeMartini has finally landed himself in open arms at 198 Ave A.

A taste of the new wine selection.

Bringing with him some rare delicacies from Italy and France, and an armful of stunning wines we have had no excuse to not celebrate his arrival.  The vintages we have been sipping at home lately have been not only great wines, but once in a lifetime wines.  Dan we love you.  We are so extremely happy that we have you to share new adventures with.

I had a particularly rough day at work the other day when I was working the counter at Crif.  It just so happened to be the New York Dance Parade, which turns out to be a procession of any and every kind of dancing that winds its way through the city and ends right in front of our restaurant!  In other words I had approximately 8 Trillion dancers filter in and out of the place for hot dogs all day long!  It was so extremely bust that we ultimately would run out of essentially everything at one point or another during the day.  On the other hand we did get to watch break dancers, stilt dancers, belly dancers, hip hop dancers, and many many more waltz their way through the city streets all day long.  One thing I am beginning to appreciate about the city is that there is ALWAYS something going on around where I am.  There is never any shortage of wonderment happening at any given time.

Shannon, Dan, and I have been focusing on eating well and in a somewhat un-traditional fashion lately.  We have solely been eating in small tapas style portions.  We come home every night and pop open a bottle of wine, and then lay out a spread of beautiful tastes which we pick at all night.  Dan actually was able to taste us on some amazing treats most recently: black truffles, white truffle creme, and a spreadable salami which was to die for.  I have included some photos of our typical spreads.  They are truly very simple, and they seem to be more satisfying than most meals I have eaten. 

Shan and Dan... Preparing for feasting.

There are a lot of new developments happening out here, and as soon as I am up to date with everything (hopefully tomorrow) I will make sure to let all of you fabulous people know exactly what is happening on this small little island we have decided to call home.  I hope everyone is doing very well out there.  I so very much miss New Mexico right now.  I miss the open air and all of the lovely people there.  I am sorry I can’t be with you for this extremely important weekend coming up!  Love you all!

Shrimp Night, Crustacean Cuisine.

So tonight we made a list of dishes we wanted to cook at home that we haven’t ever attempted.  We have been relying on so many of the same dishes week after week, and it is time to branch out.  I have been having a craving for shrimp lately, and so tonight… we made shrimp.  We first had a few 1/2 pints at the bar with our friends Dan and Mel while crafting a carefully planned grocery list.  From there we headed to whole foods to pick up supplies for tonights dinner, and then quickly returned home with our fresh shrimp.  We had picked out a variety of methods to prepare our shrimp but rested on beginning with a simple shrimp cocktail, followed by some Cajun rubbed sautéed shrimp, and a two whole steamed artichokes.  (Of course beer to accompany the process/meal) We sat down and to this and dove in: great success!  We are going to attempt as many new meals as possible over the next few weeks, so if you have any good suggestions of some of your favorite home cooked meals let us know!  Here is what we have on the agenda already: Risotto, Flounder,Ratatouille, Enchiladas… etc.  Hit us with your ideas!

Outside of the kitchen nothing truly exciting has gone down here.  We are just counting down the days until Dan and my sister get out here!  I hope everyone out there is doing well!  Here are some pictures of the meal, inspired by Daniel B DeMartini culinary photography.

The Shrimp Cocktail, and Shannon "Crustacean Crusher" Tebay

Cookin Some 'Chokes...

El Chefe.

Shrimp!

Dinner! Kind of a weird dinner, but delicious!

This is the view out of our living room window...

I didn’t want those taste buds…

Last night Shannon and I got to head down into Soho to the French Culinary Institute {FCI} to watch a demonstration by their head of school and a world leading food scientist, then Shannon and I split ways to sit in on a pastry and culinary course, and then were ushered down to dinner in their restaurant.  It was an extremely interesting night!

The Demonstration was incredible.  We sat in there auditorium while two of the head chefs blew our minds.  We first were given a cup of a crushed up herb, shady I know, and told to swish it around our mouths.  As it turns out the herb contained a chemical in it that temporarily blocks off the taste of any sugars on the tongue!  We were them given a plate of various items to taste and explore how taking away sugar from something would effect it.  On the plate were things like: a strawberry, skittle, packet of sugar, cookie, marshmallow, blackberry, chocolate, etc.  It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever experienced.  The marshmallow felt like chewing on foam, and was absolutely flavorless.  There was just no flavor in my mouth.  The strawberry and blackberry alike were super sour.  The chocolate was just that creamy texture in my mouth without any flavor present at all.  The packet of sugar might as well have been sand.  It was truly bizarre.  Luckily over time the presentation moved on, and our taste buds revived themselves.  Throughout the rest of the presentation we covered new sciences and their applications in the cooking world.  For example: Meat Glue.  A compound that has the ability to bond ANY two proteins together on a molecular level.  It actually makes them into the same item.  You could bond soy beans to buffalo meat if you wanted.  We used it in the demo to bond prosciutto around hamachi tuna, for the purpose if it not coming undone during cooking and ease of cutting.  We created liquid nitrogen ice cream.  Used vacuum chambers to pickle onions in 30 seconds.  Played with various mushroom cooking methods for the best results.  Everything.  It was all extremely fascinating, and delicious.

The class was incredible.  I spent 2 hours in class with some of the lower levels students who were learning to create: rice puddings, risottos, gnocci, and ravioli from scratch.  It was actually extremely impressive.  The head chef was on everyone, blasting technique and method into all of them.  I saw a little bit of talent in that kitchen and whole lot of sweating and frantic people who were in way over their heads.  I am not sure they are going to like where they find themselves when they pop out of that class, it was obvious that none of them had been near a restaurant kitchen before.  It was really reassuring for me to see this in action, mainly because I feel like I must have a head start on most of these cooks.

Dinner was great considering the price!  We had a 5 course prix fixe menu.  1: Smoked Salmon with fennel puree  2: striped sea bass over artichoke hearts and buckwheat crepes  3: Lamb over mushroom ragu with garlic mashed potatoes  4: Digestive salad of iced ricotta with lemon, frisee, balsamic, and crushed pistachios  5: a trio of pot de cremes (carmel with sea salt, chocolate with candied orange peal, dark chocolate with hazelnut and coffee)  and a cheese board.  All accompanied by a bottle of French Malbec.  It was all pretty good!  The students from the upper two levels of the culinary classes prepare the food for the restaurant, and everything came out great!

After gorging ourselves, we strolled the mile walk home, and chatted about what is coming up next.  Result:  No idea.  We both are so conflicted about what to do right now.  If anyone has any ideas, we could use some input.  Anyways, that’s our culinary adventure up until this point!  Here are some pictures from the demo: