LapDog

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I Like Food

I dreamed last night about food. Which makes sense, really—at the end of our dinner, the Gramercy Tavern gave us each a cupcake-sized coffee cake to take home for breakfast, the fifth of five surprise servings in our dinner. But I’m already ahead of myself.

I’ve wanted to eat again at the Gramercy Tavern for the last year; I remembered it serving not-too-large portions that filled me up perfectly, portions (in my experience) unmatched in quality. I’d forgotten the amazing limeade, though. But I’m still ahead of myself.

Jamie and I were a little nervous—we’d never eaten together at a really nice (read: expensive) restaurant. Would the staff be able to see through us? Would we faux pas our way through dinner? Unfounded fears, as it turned out—the staff was unfailingly and unflinchingly polite, no snootiness or faux pretension. But they were good—new silverware after every course; when Jamie needed to find the restrooms, she was led, not pointed; Jamie’s water was poured from the left hand, after which the pitcher switched to the right to pour mine (we were sitting at adjacent sides of a corner table); not one person’s face lost its smile (Jamie: “Do you think they get sick of smiling?”).

The interior is dark, but not too dark, a classy look without too much adornment (although behind me was a framed pencil sketch of Bugs Bunny, signed with a name I don’t recognize). The tables are well-spaced, and the restaurant’s wood-burning stove lends a warm, sweet smell to the room.

But all of the above is secondary—tertiary, even—to the food. Jamie ordered a limeade, I a lemonade. That the limeade was better in no way impugns the lemonade—both were strong without being distasteful, sweet but not treacley. Had I wanted treacley, though, we were also brought a glass sugar water. Then came the first of the five surprises: something (duck, maybe?) on a thin garlicky toast, with a mint leaf on top. Jamie melted. Then a small homemade pasta with walnut and peas—the sweetest, crunchiest peas I’ve ever tasted. The appetizers were superb—mine a tuna tartare with lemon vinaigrette and tomatoes that sweetly melted, Jamie’s the roasted sweetbreads with bacon, onions, & c.

For dinner, I had the monkfish, Jamie the roasted sirloin of beef. (Actually, if I keep telling you what was on everything, I’ll just be repeating the menu. So take a look at the menu here.) The monkfish was tender, melting in my mouth, but the sirloin also melted, done medium, with plenty of pink but no blood.

After the sour cream-raspberry sorbet palate-cleanser, it was on to dessert. Jamie had the milk chocolate ganache tart, with which she was disappointed (here, “disappointed” meaning she wasn’t blown away to the degree she expected). It turns out to be, essentially, a chocolate molten cake, and I make chocolate molten cakes about twice a month, using bittersweet rather than milk chocolate. Had she not been accustomed to the richer chocolate, though, she would have found it amazing.

I, on the other hand, had the cannoli filled with crème fraîche, with raspberries, lime sorbet, and crystallized rosemary. It was sour, powerful, and unexpected. And now I have to see if I can make a powerful lime sorbet flavored with rosemary. I tasted the combination the whole way home. It was the surprise Jamie’s dessert would have been if we didn’t do molten chocolate cake on such a regular basis (although in the interest of full disclosure, crème brulée has been more common of late than molten chocolate cake—they’re more alike than you might think). Then the after-dinner bite-sized surprises (a soft gumdrop-y mango candy and a white chocolate tartlet), and this morning’s breakfast. And then on to the dreams and breakfast, and now, the taste of the coffee cake lingering in my mouth, I have finally finished this year's Gramercy Tavern trip.

At 5:15 pm yesterday, Jamie couldn’t understand how a restaurant could be worth what we were about to pay; at 8:00, neither of us could imagine eating anywhere else. Unfortunately, our anniversary only comes once a year so, unless somebody wants to fund us, we have to figure out quickly how to return to the real world of food.