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.
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 freshly fried 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.
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 entitled attitudes of some of the patrons I saw walking by, 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 the most recent Dr. Who.) On my way out, I was given a bag of three Parisian macarons, tied with a Per Se 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 didn't want it to end so soon.