Ms. Potato Head, Kind of.

Last night I had a dream in which my body literally fell apart in a heap on the floor, and all the little pieces  of my body had the plastic-y shine of Barbie shoes.  I had to lie there, in bits, until someone was able to put me back together again, and then watch as my nose and lips and glasses got put back into place.

I don’t know what the dream means, but in a way it’s appropriate, as I’ve been feeling out-of-sorts all week.  Some of you might think this is because my birthday’s tomorrow and aging depresses me, but I promise you that’s not the case.  I also promise that once I get to feeling back to normal, I’ll be writing with more regularity.

I Don’t Smoke…

…but I love matches too.  I don’t collect them, though — mine actually get used up.  Right now, I’ve got an old teacup of Keith’s grandmother in the living room, and that’s where I keep the matchbooks.  At the moment, there’s only a small assortment in there:

Five Things About Me: 36 37 38 39 40.

36. In my opinion, I am one of the best people to go shopping with, whether you’re looking for apparel or appliances.  Here’s why:  I’ll never judge you on how much you spend, I’ll tell you honestly if the jeans you’ve chosen are flattering, I’ll wait patiently as you try every single blush at a makeup counter and I’ll research the heck out of a product to find the best one out there.

37. I’m a total sucker for a certain kind of TV.  While I live for Mad Men Sundays, look forward to Lost starting up again and own all five seasons of The Wire, I also have my TiVo set to record Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and the relaunched Melrose Place — basically, an embarrassing amount of the CW‘s lineup.

38. My favorite website, and one I use daily, is MBTA.com.  I rely upon the Trip Planner feature like nothing else.

39. I find Ina Garten‘s television show The Barefoot Contessa to be possibly the most soothing thing to watch ever.  If there was a TV and TiVo in my bedroom, I’d probably have it set to record her program exclusively, so I could go to sleep to it, and then dream of things like truffle butter and seafood gratins.  How good is that?

40. I’ve never minded doing laundry, including the folding and ironing part of it.  That said, if I don’t get the laundry out of the dryer straightaway, chances are that it will stay there for a shameful amount of time before it gets transferred in a heap to an empty laundry basket.  There it will remain, growing more and more wrinkled, as I pick items out of it.

Dinner at DBGB Kitchen + Bar.

I had dinner at DBGB Kitchen + Bar, Daniel Boulud‘s downtown brasserie/bar, three nights before The New York Times awarded it two stars in its restaurant review, and though I rarely read reviews anymore, I’ve got to say I agree.  It’s a fine place to go eat, but not necessarily one that warrants a special trip.  If you’re in the neighborhood, though, at least check out the menu and see if anything catches your eye.

Speaking of the neighborhood…

The Lower East Side used to be gritty and grungy, the type of place I’d be scared to take my parents — more for fear of my father embarrassing me as he pointed out Hells Angels and littered, graffiti-ed streets than of anything else.  Don’t worry, though, if you’re seeking some grit; in spite of the area’s gentrification, the Hells Angels are still there.  Even with their tattooed presence, I feel a bit more comfortable directing my dad to Delancey…  even if he still might embarrass me.  Chances of that happening, though, are slim at DBGB, where aging parent-types like my dad can comfortably sit in the dining room and non-reservations-holding patrons can order the full menu at the bar.

My offal-loving father would have enjoyed the veal tongue appetizer ($9.00).  Dressed in a sauce gribiche and tossed with fingerling potatoes, it was much lighter than I expected it to be.  Traditionally sauce gribiche is dribbled over a boiled veal’s head, but since I’ve yet to order (let alone encounter) that on a menu, all I can tell you is that in my uninformed opinion, the animal’s tongue makes a delicious substitute.  It still frames the egg-based, caper-y, cornichon-infused gribiche beautifully.

Though I ordered the sautéed skate ($19.00) for my main course, I tried a bite of the DBGB dog ($9.00) and the Beaujoliase sausage ($13.00) — DBGB has a startlingly wide selection of sausages, which can be ordered as appetizers, sides or even an entrée.  Ask for the “sausage duo” and you’ll receive your choice of any two sausages and its accompanying sides for $21.00.  With the authentic-tasting dog, you’ll get a wiener in a bun, along with sautéed onion, relish and crispy fries; the sweet pork-based Beaujoliase arrives atop a mound of lentils du Puy.

I’m a bit sorry to say that skate was, to my taste, underseasoned; I hate having to salt and pepper my food when I’m dining out, but once I did I was much happier.  (My picky parent, on the other hand, would have been disappointed, self-seasoning or no.)  The cauliflower risotto the fish rested upon, however, needed no tampering.  Studded with toasted pinenuts and decorated with threads of saffron, it was the best thing on my plate.

I was too full after dinner to even considering splitting a dessert — though I was really intrigued by the cassis beer-yogurt at $3.00 for a scoop and $9.00 for a two-scoop sundae with Belgian spice cookies, a blackcurrant compote and a lemon crème anglaise.  If I do find myself in the area, and if Prune has no availability, I’d pop in for a taste of ice cream.  Otherwise I doubt I’d go out of my way.

DBGB Kitchen + Bar
299 Bowery
New York, New York 10003
212.933.5300
danielnyc.com/dbgb
DBGB Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Jean-Georges.

I know it must seem like I’m the sort of person who thrives on fancy dinners, dressing up and drinking fine wines late into the night, and while that’s not entirely false, I can’t ignore the fun in mid-week lunches.  There’s something decadent and sly about sitting down in cashmere and silk to a four-course mid-day meal, then afterwards sneaking home to change into an oversize sweatshirt, order in a pizza and watch previous seasons of Dexter on On Demand.  What makes lunch at Jean-Georges Vongerichten‘s eponymous New York City restaurant Jean-Georges even more luxe is the price — for only $29.00, you can get two courses, with each additional course costing $14.50 and dessert setting you back another $8.00.

Basically, it’s the best lunch deal in New York.

I know what you’re thinking: since when is fifty dollars a steal for lunch?  Well, if you can tell me anywhere else that we can have a three-Michelin-star, multi-course lunch for less in this town, I’ll buy it for you. If it’s as good as this, I’ll be happy to do so.  And if they offer housemade ginger-lemon soda ($6.00) to both warm and refresh our palates, even better.

If we’re really lucky, we’ll start with the sea trout sashimi draped in trout eggs, lemon foam, a smear of dill and horseradish shavings, like I did last week.  Jean-Georges sea trout sashimiI’ll admit I was a bit disappointed to learn my dish came with foam (on the menu, it is listed as simply lemon), because sometimes I get so bored with it.  After all, it seems as though everyone in a chef’s hat is foaming it up these days, but Jean-Georges’s is more of a cream than a froth, and far more substantial in both flavor and texture than your everyday spoonful of miniature bubbles.  It went surprisingly well with the smooth sashimi, though I could’ve done with a few less horseradish curls zinging their vapors up my nose.  Maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky here, but personal preference is personal preference, no?

My personal preferences, after all, are what led me to order the young garlic soup, which is served with a trio of sautéed frogs’ legs.  Jean-Georges young garlic soupDotted with teensy little leaves of thyme, it was absolutely redolent of garlic, though definitely not at all  in an overpowering way.  I’ve got to say, and maybe this is a bit unsporting to admit, but I sampled Joann’s risotto and eyeballed Keith’s bacon-wrapped shrimp, and, had lunch been a contest, my soup would’ve won for sure.  I mean, not much can beat all that is lovely about garlic — its original bite and its transformation into something sweet and buttery and mellow.  To top it off, my frogs’ legs were light and crunchy; I was encouraged by our server to dunk the meat into my soup.  Afterwards, I was given a much-needed fingerbowl of rose water.

Since I can rarely resist sweetbreads, for my third course  I selected the option that served them with Jean-Georges sweetbreadstoasted pine nuts, dried cherries and pumpkin.  These were wading in a vinaigrette, and as I lifted each forkful to my mouth I inhaled a not-unpleasant jolt of vinegary zippiness; you would think the vinegar would overwhelm everything else on the plate, but it actually sharpened taste of the bittersweet cherries, the sweet pumpkin, the surprisingly-flavorful pine nut and the meatiness of the sweetbreads.  Though my instinct is to wolf down delicious food, I instead managed to savor each bite as much as possible.  Still, I was finished with my dish long before either Joann or Keith.

Should you choose to get dessert at Jean-Georges, you’ll notice that its menu isn’t as straightforward as in other restaurants.  Rather than listing options like tarte tatin or tea cake, Jean-Georges chocolate dessertit instead categorizes ingredients or even a concept. Last week, we chose from Market, Harvest, Chocolate or Strawberry; underneath each heading was a description of components we would then receive. I chose Chocolate, and ended up with Jean-Georges’s signature chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream and a wintergreen soup with chocolate noodles.  I quickly slipped the most creative item on my plate, the wintergreen soup, onto Keith’s, but that was only because I’m no fan of mint.  Besides, the normally-boring molten chocolate cake and usually-uninspiring ice cream were both utterly superb, proving once and for all that sometimes simple trumps complex every time.

Jean-Georges is open for lunch Mondays through Saturdays from noon to two-thirty.  Reservations, which are a must, can be made at OpenTable or via the phone at 212.299.3900.  The menu changes seasonally, and, unfortunately, the price has gone up from last year’s $28.00 for two plates to the current $29.00.  Regardless, it’s still a bargain.  If dressing for lunch is not for you, a similar deal can be had next door at Nougatine, Vongerichten’s more casual eatery.

Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West
New York, New York 10023
212.299.3900
jean-georges.com
Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

Five Things About Me: 31 32 33 34 35.

31. I’m not the kind of girl who can do her own nails, concoct elaborate hairdos or give herself a facial.  I wish I were.

32. When I’m in the car on a long drive and bored, I pretend I’m riding a unicorn on the grass alongside the highway. It’s black, and a girl, with a silvery horn and white stockings.  I haven’t named her yet though.

33. My favorite fruit is the nectarine, but only because peach fuzz weirds me out.

34. I don’t like butts because they sometimes look like peaches — particularly fuzzy butts.

35. Things that are typically squeamish don’t bother me — vomit, blood, poop — but if something smells bad, I lose it.  That said, I always have to take a really deep whiff of it, followed by a second equally-deep whiff.  I can’t help myself.  Some things that I think smell bad include unwashed hair, peat moss and dumpsters.

Dinner at Momofuku Ko.

Momofuku Ko, 2I’ve read Momofuku Ko reservations are really tricky to get, which is why I surprised that I was able to snag a pair on my first try.  To make a reservation, you need to make an account on the company website, then log in at ten AM one week before with the hopes of getting through to the actual reservations page.  When I created an account last week, I didn’t expect to get a table (well, two chairs — I’ll tell you about that in just a sec) on my first try, but stranger things have happened…

So let’s say you are able to get reservations to Ko.  Here’s what your night might be like, if you had been dining next to me.

First, we’d find a convenient parking spot directly in front of Momofuku Noodle Bar.  Then we’d stand outside Ko, looking at the exterior — which New York Magazine describes as being Momofuku Ko, 1“sheathed in what looks like high-tech chicken wire” — before heading inside, giving the hostess our printed-out reservation confirmation, and sitting at the twelve-seat bar.  Our backless wooden barstools would be close together, but still, we’d be able to overhear the couple on my left flirting and the foursome to your right offering to buy the chefs a beer.  We’d chat, clink our glasses together, and watch the three men in the kitchen work.  We wouldn’t take pictures of our food (since it’s not allowed) but we’d eat.  And we’d eat well.

We’d start with two flat-bottomed ceramic Chinese soup spoons, one of which would be cradling something like a creamed corn; the other would hold a bite of shrimp suspended over a thick gel that tasted like miso soup.  After slurping up each of these and arguing which was our favorite — mine would be the shrimp, you’d vote for the corn — we’d have a few horseradishy greens with Spanish mackerel crudo dotted with some refreshing Meyer lemon zest.  The black pepper biscuit that followed, presented to us on an angular slab of slate alongside a housemade chicharrón, would be so delicious that I would run several scenarios through my head on how I’d be able to distract you enough to steal yours.  Instead, I’d tell you how envious I am of Strawberry Shortcake, and how she’s able to live in her favorite food.

“I’d move in here,” I’d say, brandishing my biscuit.  “Can you imagine,” I’d ask, “walls made of this?”

My dreamy rambles, rather than distracting you, would instead befuddle me so much that I would forget in what order some of our courses arrived.  At one point, a chef would place in front of us two bowls of ravioli made with a fragrant matsutake mushroom and yet another piece of slate.  On it, he’d set a cup of traditional matsutake tea and a perfect little cube of French toast.  We’d comment to each other about the toast’s lovely custard center, and each ravioli’s creamy interior.

It would be impossible for us to know that we’d be talking about a gently boiled egg days later.  Split open, its yolk would be smothered in generous spoonfuls of caviar that spilled onto teensy little fingerling potato chips and the creamiest buttery onions.  We’d scoop each black pearl up and smile at each other over our empty plates.

We’d rock in our Momofuku Ko, 3seats to music by the Rolling Stones while spooning short-rib tortellini out of a clear oxtail consommé; we’d tap our fingers against bowls of monkfish bobbing a spicy lobster and shrimp broth to The Hold Steady; we’d ooh as the veritable cloud of grated frozen foie gras floating over a Riesling gelée and slivers of lychee melted in our mouths while Bruce Springsteen played in the background; we’d aah with Elton John over a celeriac purée sprayed out of a whipped cream canister next to venison and shaved Brussels sprouts.

Our two desserts would be cause for more debate — I’d favor the animal cracker ice cream over heirloom peaches and doused in carbonated peach juice, even though I’d confess to you that I’d never had an animal cracker before. I don’t have a frame of reference, I’d tell you, and you’d reassure me that the flavor was spot on, even if you preferred the black pepper crumble with macerated blueberries, a tangy ice cream and black pepper crème fraîche.

Before we slipped back into our coats, we would clink our glasses and finish our beers — Ommegang Hennepin for me, and Two Brothers Domaine DuPage for you.  As we made our way home, we’d discuss our night, the food and, of course, the price.  $125.00 is a lot for one person’s meal, we’d reason.  $350.00 (two dinners, tax, tip and two beers) is even more.

“Was it worth it?” one of us would ask the other.

“Yes,” the other would say, “but I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone because of it.”

Then I’d think, driving through the East Village, I’d come back for that foie.  But would you?

Momofuku Ko
163 First Avenue
New York, New York 10003
212.475.7899
momofuku.com/ko

Momofuku Ko on Urbanspoon

A few things to note: the photo of Momofuku Ko’s interior is from their website, the restaurant currently does not accomodate vegetarians, and has a general policy of not providing a printed menu.  As a result, my description of my meal is based solely on memory.