Sunday, October 21, 2007

Per Se Is Good People

Bar Snacks at Per Se

I am just a giddy girl right now. I have had about the best three days that any food lover could reasonably expect to have here in New York City. Not only did I gain a new respect for and understanding of the workings of Gourmet magazine, I learned a lot, met some of my culinary heroes, and made some new friends. It was a very good time indeed.

Picking up where I left off earlier, it all started with the cocktail party at the Time Warner Center on Friday night - home to some of the fanciest restaurants in the City, not the least of which is the famed Per Se. We'll get to that in a minute.

The party itself was on two floors (unfortunately not contiguous - no champagne on the elevator I'm afraid) where free flowing beverages (including Moet White Star) were served. The food included Shrimp Po Boy Sliders with Tamarind Glaze from Cafe Gray, cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen in Boston, pulled pork shoulder with coffee glaze on brioche from Porter House New York (Michael Lomonaco's restaurant), profiteroles and short rib tartelettes from Landmarc and Cafe Gray, and last but not least, the famous smoked salmon cornets with sweet red onion creme fraiche and white truffled popcorn from Per Se.

Starting around 8:00, they broke out the Chocolate Bouchons (delicious cork shaped brownies) and creamy/salty "Nutter Butters" from Bouchon Bakery - and started passing trays of exquisitely tiny jewel-like mini desserts - which I can imagine them serving as mignardise at Per Se.

The food was good and the party was lively, but after a while it was just a little overwhelming. It was very crowded, I hadn't yet met very many people, and was having a hard time getting into the groove, so to speak. Needing a break from the action, I stepped on the escalator up to the fourth floor where Per Se is located, hoping to get a photo of the famous blue door and maybe peek inside. The door is really quite impressive. As you approach it - you expect it to open - but then the glass panels on either side simultaneously slide away. I walked in and boldly asked, inspired by this article, if they could accommodate a single. The answer was no - and they don't serve food at the bar, but they welcomed me to have a drink.

I walked across the dim and luxurious space and perched uncomfortably at the bar for a little while. When a little settee cleared, I moved closer to the window, where I was much more comfortable sitting and observing. I started with the house "Per Se" cocktail, a martini made with Ciroc vodka, 100 year Grand Marnier and Pineau de Charentes. It was icy cold and very nice, but a little bitter - I assume from the Pineau. They do have the nicest Riedel Martini glasses that sit in your fingers just so - instead of sliding around like some oversized cocktail glasses do.
Vodka Tonic at Per Se

I chatted with the bartender (or Salon Server, as he is formally titled), about the party downstairs, and he asked me if I would like for the kitchen to send out "a little something." Of course I said yes. A short time later, he returned with a promising little silver napkin holder, followed by a basket of fresh truffled potato chips, a dollop of truffled creme fraiche, and a bowl of still warm fresh-roasted peanuts. I really hit the jackpot when I finished my first cocktail and asked to try a vodka tonic, having noticed on the cocktail menu that they make their own tonic. It came out in a glass that must have weighed at least a pound, with a long silver zeppelin-like stirrer, and was truly one of the most delicious cocktails I've ever had. It was also absolutely huge. I stood up and looked out the window just in time to see the bus back to the hotel pull away from the curb, then sat back down and took my time with it.

The staff could not have been more polite or welcoming. At one point the front desk manager came up to me and said "Vodka or gin?" "Vodka," I replied, and she said "That's what I'll be doing when I get off." She asked me about the truffled potato chips, and I said I'd be happy to offer her one - but of course she couldn't. It was refreshing to just be treated like a fellow human being by the staff. Judging by the attitudes of some of the patrons walking around in there, they might have felt the same way.

When I neared the end of the second drink, I started to steel myself for the bill. The total would likely be about $50.00 for two cocktails and some bar snacks - the price of dinner anywhere else - but I consoled myself with the fact that I'd had a little adventure, and they had been very nice to me.

When the bill came, I was genuinely touched. It was $21.68 - the price of one cocktail (gratuity and tax included). I thanked my server and gave him a generous tip. (I already had a little crush on him - since he reminded me of David Tennant.) On my way out, I was given a bag of three Parisian macarons, tied with a ribbon. Best I could tell, the flavors were pumpkin, hazelnut with blackberry jam filling - and cranberry, if I'm not mistaken. (It was red, but not strawberry or raspberry.) By the time I made my way downstairs they were breaking down the tables and cleaning up after the party.

I had planned to get a cab when I left, but when I walked outside it was a balmy evening and the streets were crowded, so I decided to walk back down Seventh Avenue.   It was a lovely "only in New York City" kind of evening, and I wasn't in any hurry for it to end.  


  1. Lovely story. Reminds me of my first trip to LA.

    I drove through a neighborhood asking for the best place to eat. Drove to the recommended restaurant, sat on the terrace overlooking the ocean, and ordered my dinner. Had a wonderful time all by myself, and after my dessert, I still didn't want to leave, but the server told me that someone wanted to buy me an after-dinner drink, so I had a drambuie and just enjoyed myself some more.

    I drove back on Pacific Coast Highway 1, in the dark, a little bit tipsy, at 3:00 in the morning my time (I had just arrived from the East Coast), and the most glorious glow from the wonderful evening.

    Sometimes, it's just nice to do things alone.

  2. that sounds fabulous, thanks for sharing the cocktail trick with us. Must remember that next time I am in NYC. I poped over because I just read about the fires in SD county and I want to make sure you are ok.

  3. How wonderful, thanks for sharing, what lovely memories!

    Hope you're ok in the fires, we're in hillcrest so we should be fine. Worrying times though. Feeling a bit frustrated and unable to help anyone.

  4. Thanks for asking about the fires (my two British foodie friends! :-) We are ok for now, but I just watched orange flames coming over the ridge on the far side of the valley, over by Jamul - when I checked a few minutes later they were gone, but we are not resting easy.

    My worst fear is that another fire will start in the area in between, since we are fairly rural out here - and that we will have a very short evacuation window. I just remember what happened to the people out in Boulevard and Campo in the last fires, they had no evacuation warning and woke up at 4 AM to fires in their yards.

    We are planning to have some stuff ready when we go to bed, and if we have to we will evacuate to my parents house. I am still not sure if I am supposed to go to work tomorrow (will depend to some extent on what is going on here I suppose!) but I am looking into it.

  5. good luck Alice - I am thinking about you lots xxx