I've known that I was going to spend my 30th birthday in New York City for the past four years and four months -- the length of time that's transpired since the last time I was in the City for a whirlwind 28 hours to celebrate my older brother's 30th. It was a tease of a trip, an amuse bouche of the place I've come to consider my favorite in the world -- without the actual meal to follow.
I was bereft when I had to say goodbye that drizzly May afternoon, and clutched each moment tight to my chest. The spicy chicken empanadas we ate on a street bench in the Village, the horrible rendition of Journey's "Living on a Prayer" that my brother and I screeched at a dive bar in Chinatown, and the mimosas we threw back the following morning in a futile attempt to chase our hangovers away.
My hunger for New York -- for the pulse of people; for the endless array of restaurants, bakeries and effortlessly cool bars; for the enigmatic energy that defines it as "the city that never sleeps"-- grew voracious during those four years. I was scarcely able to contain the jealousy that erupted, vicious and hot and ugly, when friends announced their plans to visit or move there. I would coo in admiration as though fawning over a baby, yet inside, felt as though I was observing the shiny, neatly wrapped up life I desired play out on someone else's Facebook page.
I needed New York in the same way that I need a glass of wine after a long day, in the same way that I need that first pot of green tea in the morning when my eyes are still glossy and my brain still incapacitated with the remnants of a poor night's sleep. It was the only thing I wanted for my 30th birthday, the only way I could even fathom "celebrating" it, really.
I certainly couldn't be here, in LA, with the good-natured chides at my mounting maturation and bullish demands that I do something. Throw a party. Down a bottle of Jose Cuervo. Make out with at least five male strangers with visible abs and invisible brain cells.
Instead I made 30 an excuse to justify my notions of overindulgence. A trip to New York that's been four years and four months in the making. My first real vacation in over four years. And a blissful five-hour $195 tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park with one of my closest friends.
Male strangers and wine pairings not included.
Cheddar - Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple
Sea Urchin - Snow with Smoked Cantaloupe and Yogurt (Not Pictured)
Surf Clam - Tomato, Beans, and Savory
Littleneck Clam - Manhattan Chowder with Razor Clam and Scallop
Tomato - Confit with Lobster Salad and Bonito
Housemade Bread with Regular and Beef Butter
Foie Gras - Seared with Summer Berries, Rye, and Nasturtium
Carrot - Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments
Black Bass - Poached with Zucchini and Squash Blossoms
Sunflower - Barigoule with Sunchokes and Black Truffle
Duck - Roasted with Nectarine and Fennel
"The Cheese Course"
Greensward - Pretzel, Mustard, and Green Tomato
Malt - Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer
Sassafras - Sorbet with Banana Cake, Caramel, and Vanilla
Frozen Cocktail - Prepared for us during our tour of the kitchen!
(Pro-tip: Request a tour of the kitchen when you make your reservation
precisely 28 days before you wish to dine - the line opens at 9 a.m. EST)
Red Pepper - Cheesecake with Strawberry and Cashew
Honey and Peanut Truffles
Pretzel - Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt
Chocolate - Sweet Black and White Cookie with Cinnamon
Accompanied with Laird's Apple Brandy
(Made for EMP, and left on the table for us to enjoy at our leisure. We enjoyed. At our leisure.)
Housemade Granola (I will be making a version of this)
Happy Birthday "Peanut Butter & Jelly" Chocolates