Per Se : An Enchanting Dinner

I'm alive once again! And this is because I promised myself not to let this restaurant experience pass without writing about it. So here it goes...

I've said it before and will say it again, I'm a sucker
for food "adventures" and "mis-adventures" at that! I like eating in hole-in-the-wall places, cheap eats and fast food (once in a while!) and similarly, I like being on the other end of the spectrum and occasionally indulge in an upscale experience. A few weeks ago, we found an opportunity to try Per Se, another Thomas Keller creation. It's actually the counterpart of French Laundry, Napa Valley which is dubbed as the best restaurant in America.

I was with my Jo (my husband), Am and Lisa. The two girls just recently graduated from culinary school here in the city and was scheduled to go back to Manila already so it was sort of their "despedida". At the same time, it was Jo's post birthday celebration. We had to find a good enough reason to splurge and thankfully we did!

Per Se is located at the 4th floor of Time Warner Building overlooking a breathtaking view of Columbus Circle. It was a perfect time to go because the holiday lights were sparkling all around and it added to the whole ambiance. As we entered the famous "blue door" (the trademark of French Laundry, Napa), my stomach felt queasy (in a good way that is!). I felt like a kid entering a huge toystore...anxious, overwhelmed and excited! We were properly dressed as there is a strict dress code (no jeans and sneakers!) so it was one of those rare times, my hubby actually wore a suit to dinner! Ha! We arrived earlier than the girls so we were first brought to a waiting lounge. When Am and Liza arrived, we were all escorted to our table and were eager to see the nine course tasting menu. There were two offerings : Chef's Tasting Menu and Offal Tasting Menu. We knew at once that we wanted to be able to try both so Am and I got the Chef's Tasting while Jo and Liza got the Offal Tasting. We took pictures of each and every dish that was served and exchanged plates so that each one would be able to get a taste of all the dishes. We had to make sure we got our money's worth in every way possible. Let me share with you some of the beautiful and inspiring plates they served us;

"Oysters and Pearls" - Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca and Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Surgeon Caviar - This was absolutely HEAVENLY! I can't even try to describe how magical this dish tasted in my mouth.

Look at how pretty this hearts of palm salad is? Each vegetable is intricately placed over the fine puree.

* Braised Radishes and Pea Tendrils with White Sesame Seed Puree

Their take on BLT - A deconstructed BLT at that! - Salmon Creek Farms' All Day Braised Pork Belly. "Pain de Champagne" Melba, Violet Artichokes, San Marzano Tomato Marmalade and Watercress Puree with "Sauce Perigoudine". Genius.

this was Joel's Dessert - French Prune Pudding and Sugar Pumpkin Pie with Pumpkin Seed Oil topped with a quenelle of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Fras "Sherbet". Foie gras sorbet, need I say more?

We told our server that we were new chefs and that Am and I were from FCI. Turns out, he was an alumni as well so he offered to show us the kitchen. It was spotless and just plain amazing. Everything was just white and very clean. And there was a huge flat screen TV showing the French Laundry Kitchen in Napa Valley. It was Thomas Keller's way of monitoring both kitchens. Wow wow wow.

Over-all, the experience was magical. Each plate was a work of art, intricately and delicately made. The different flavors and textures left our palates wanting for more (but with the price, it will take an extremely long time again until we come back!)


My Cheap Eats In the City

Living in the city can get really expensive especially coming from Manila. You'll definitely lose your mind if you start computing and converting how much the cost of food here is compared to how much it is back home. Thus I wanted to start my NY food chapter by featuring some of my favorite places I'd like to call "Cheap Eats" (though their technically not that cheap but I guess reasonably-priced). These are mostly fast food places which you can check out.

1. Five Guys - Want a juicy no non-sense burger? This is the way to go! This place has been voted as Washington Magazine's Reader's Choice # 1 Burger since 1999. In a Tv special featuring a "Day In the Life of the US President", Obama even took time out to drive by this joint to take out burgers for lunch. Their menu is very straight-forward...
296 Bleecker St, New York - (212) 367-9200 and a
round the city

2. Shake Shack - Another modern-day roadside burger place which I go to whenever I feel like eating a "heavy" burger meal. Their shack stack burger is a real winner... cheese burger with breaded deep fried portobello mushroom with melted cheddar and muenster cheese... every bite oozes with goodness (and calories~
eek!). Need I say more?
Madison Ave and East 23rd St. Southeast Corner of Madison
Square Park New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

3. Crif Dogs-
Deep fried wiener wrapped in
bacon. I know it sounds like a heart attack calling but its comfort food once in a while. You are free to choose from a myriad toppings and combinations but I like mine plain and simple.

4. Halal at 53rd and 6th - I'm not exactly a food card person anymore especially after watching so many documentaries in culinary school about how they operate and handle food (I don't even want to go there but I guess you get what I'm saying!) . Thanks to my husband who introduced me to this place. This halal/gyro place is located at the southwest corner of 53rd and 6th. Their are known
for their "chicken/lamb rice" which is basically a platter of chicken/lamb with yellow rice, iceberg lettuce, slices of pita and served with this white sauce and hot sauce. One order cost about $6. What keeps it apart from the many other halal places is I believe the WHITE SAUCE (yup, i think it's all about this secret sauce). It's not ranch, not blue cheese, not mayo (my guess is that it's some sort of yogurt mixture with some spices) but it sure complements the rice platter very well....so damn well that people wait for hours even during the wee hours (because their open til 4 am) just to have a platter!

5. Bonchon - This is my husband's favorite fried chicken which he craves at least once a week. It's a korean style fried chicken which is fried twice (I believe that's the secret to its crispiness!). It comes in soy flavor and hot ( and I mean hot!)!

6. Naruto Ramen - A friend of ours recommended that we try
this place if we are fond of ramen and gyoza. So one rainy night, we walked over to sample this nicely situated ramen joint. The place is small and cramped and more often than not there is a wait since it only fits I'd say about 12-15 people. Their naruto ramen is perfect for a rainy day and their gyoza is tasty and pretty authentic.
1596 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128-3417 (212) 289-780


New Life, New Eats...NEW YORK!

After months and months of silence... I'm back! You're probably wondering what happened to
me...well let me start by saying that I am now residing in a NEW place thousands of miles away from bustling and traffic-infested Manila...

I moved here last February because of 2 major (life changing as a matter of fact) reasons : 1. To get married to the love of my life, my bestfriend, the "one" (I know, I know, I'll stop there) Joel and 2. To jumpstart on my career as a chef at the renowned French Culinary Institute.

Let me briefly walk you through those two major events. First up is our simple but very memorable civil wedding here in the City. We were married on March 10, 2009 (a freezing day I remember) at the NY City Hall. The ceremony was quick and went by like a breeze. We exchanged vows with our families as witnesses and shed tears (lots and lots) of joy. It was followed by a very beautiful dinner at the oldest Italian restaurant here
in New York, Barbetta situated at 321 West 46th street. The main dining hall evokes the classic Piemontese 18th century setting complete with antique chandelier and fixtures. We handpicked a delectable menu and sumptuous dessert which our guests truly enjoyed. It was a wonderful magical evening filled with love and emotion. Undeniably one of the best days of my life...

Just a week after our wedding, I was set to start my student life at FCI (French Culinary Institute). Finally I was going to do what I've been wanting to do for a long time... pursue my passion for FOOD. It's been 4 months already since my Culinary Arts program and I am proud to say that I have been doing pretty well in the
kitchen and coping up the demands of becoming a professional chef. I must admit though that it's been tough, really tough. I've had countless cuts and burns but you get the hang of it after a while. However right now, I had to take a leave of absence because a more important role I am about to take on. In about a month from now, I will be a MOTHER!!!
Yes, you heard it right, I am going to have a baby
boy! So I have to set aside my toque and apron first for now.

And since now I have to slow down a bit in terms of my activities, I have time to update my blog which has been stagnant for a while. I'm back...with a vengeance! Happy Reading!