Tag Archives: fancy

Cafe Boulud: 20 E. 76th st. New York, NY

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Having been to a wonderful meal at Cafe Boulud in the past, I was really excited to see them on the  list for NYC Restaurant week . For $25, you get a 3 course prix fix meal at a restaurant that is normally rather astronomically priced. My grandmother lives right around the corner which makes it an ideal spot for a family get together. I’d made a reservation for 6 people a week prior, and called the morning of our lunch to change it to 7 people. I was given a rather odd response of, “We don’t take parties larger than 6 people. Did you already invite the 7th?” When I explained that it was a family gathering and we’d all be coming, she still said it wasn’t something they do. I went on further to say that we are a very petite family and didn’t mind squishing a bit, she went to ask the manager and finally came back with an ‘ok’.

When we arrived and were seated, the bread tray with 3 choices was brought around. The butter roll, the plain roll and sourdough bread. I decided to try all 3 of them and it’s a good thing because It’s basically what ended up making me feel full by the end of our meal. The breads were very good, but nothing to write home about. Next, an amuse-bouche of fried truffle/risotto balls were given to us. Though they were crispy, warm and melty, I couldn’t taste the truffle at all, and they were pretty unremarkable.

I shared all 3 courses with my boyfriend so that we could taste more of what they were offering. We started with the arugula salad with quince and bacon, as well as the fluke carpaccio with jalapeno. The salad was a bit over-dressed for my liking, and it was pretty boring. Just because it’s unique to use quince on top, does not make this interesting enough to win any prizes. The fluke, however, was marvelous. The flavoring of fennel and hot peppers brightened the dish and awakened the mild fish. This was the most noteworthy dish of the day.

For our first entrée we shared the winter squash ravioli with pecans, brown butter and sage. It was sweet and rich, but honestly, I didn’t think it was any more gourmet than the frozen ravioli you can buy from Fresh Direct. Our other entrée, the grouper, was a complete disaster. When I order fish at a high-end restaurant, I expect it to be exquisitely cooked and seasoned. This piece was so over-salted that it was a disaster. Did the chef accidentally spill the salt on top? The collard greens that came with it were also over-seasoned, not to mention cooked into to a soggy pile of mush. It was really kind of awful. I could not eat it and informed the waitress as such. What a disappointment.

The dessert course, as is often the case, redeemed the meal’s shortcomings. We were given a molten chocolate cake for the middle of the table (presumably because of my fish-complaint) and it was delicious. Crusty outer layer and hot, melty, rich interior. A perfect scoop of vanilla bean ice cream sat alongside it making for a lovely presentation. I will never tire of molten chocolate for dessert, passe as it may be. We also shared the chocolate mousse with pear compote and hazelnut ice cream. It came enrobed in a dark chocolate ganache layer and the inside was creamy and decadent, with the pears as a lovely unexpected touch. Finally, I moved on to the butterscotch gateaux with marscapone and devil’s food. YUM. It had little crispy bits on the cake and it was impossible to not finish it in 30 seconds flat. By then, even though we were totally stuffed but the waiter came by with little buckets of mini Madeleines and we managed to make a little bit more tummy space for them. Worth every confectioner’s sugar topped bite.

Overall, this meal was a let down. My expectations were high, true, but that’s because I’ve had such great experiences there in the past. I feel that the patrons who order from the restaurant week menu  do not really get a fair representation of what Boulud can do. Not only was the food only so-so, the portions were so itsy bitsy tiny that if I hadn’t indulged in all 3 types of bread and all of the extra desserts, I would have left still feeling very hungry. That’s not the way it should be at all! At their regular prices, this may be my last visit to Cafe Boulud.

Bernard’s: 20 West Lane, Ridgefield, CT

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My mother threw a luncheon here for my brother and his wonderful fiance to celebrate their engagement and it was a beautiful place to escape the city to for an afternoon. The easy drive from NY was about an hour and after parking we took a quick walk through their garden and passed the chef collecting fresh herbs for the day’s menu. We walked in and immediately noticed the grand piano, fresh flowers, plentiful racks of wine, and beautiful impressionist paintings. We were seated right  in a very lovely private room with a round table ready for the 10 of us. Our waiter seemed to ‘get’ our somewhat quirky family right away and shared his sense of humor and charisma with us comfortably. He was rather entertaining, and happily showed us a few games and tricks to keep us busy while we waited for the rest of the guests.

As we looked over the menu, we were all impressed with just how many wonderful sounding dishes were available. As our waiter recited the specials, I realized this was not going to be an easy decision. Luckily, my boyfriend was more than happy to share 2 appetizers and 2 entrees so we could choose 4 total dishes between us.

I began my meal with a wonderfully spicy bloody mary and a piece of the fresh, chewy, crusty bread that had been brought out.

Our appetizers were a roasted corn soup with mushrooms and flatbread and a mesclun/bibb/endive salad with figs, almonds, hearts of palm and amazing little filo-crusted goat cheese sticks. The soup was my favorite course of the day (aside from the dessert), creamy but not too heavy, with a the wonderful taste and smell of fresh summer corn. The meaty mushrooms added a beautiful and tasty garnish. The flatbread which floated atop the soup, though it got soggy pretty quickly, added another interesting element of textures to the smooth soup. The salad was as described, but for some reason it didn’t really blow me away as much as I’d expected, except for the goat cheese sticks which were truly a treat with their crisp coating and soft, melty centers.

For our entrees we shared the basil linguine with shrimp, vegetables and tomato sauce, and the potato crusted salmon with haricot verts and morels (my FAVORITE kind of mushroom). The pasta really did taste like basil and was a pleasant, light green color. It was clearly homemade and cooked perfectly al dente. The shrimp were large, fresh, cooked perfectly and of excellent quality. The vegetable and tomato sauce were light and summer-y, but in my opinion, weren’t really the best compliments for the shrimp and pasta. I would have preferred a broth or herb sauce instead of the tomato. The salmon, though it was slightly over-cooked instead of rare in the center as salmon really should be, was beautifully presented with a spiral of slivered, golden potatoes on top. The haricot verts and morels were wonderful, and I enjoyed them more than the star of the plate.

For dessert, a gorgeous chocolate cake was presented to the happy couple and then plated individually with raspberry sorbet and fresh fruit. This happened to be a noteworthy chocolate mousse cake, and my plate was so clean afterwards that it left no question about whether I liked it or not. The sorbet came in little, crunchy, caramelized, honey-flavored pastry cups that when broken up went great on each forkful of chocolate. I’m still thinking about this cake, and it’s probably a good thing (for my waistline) that I didn’t bring home any of the leftovers because I’d be chowing down on a 2nd, 3rd and 4th piece right about now.

If you get a chance to take a trip out of the city for a truly special meal, check Bernard’s out. A great place to celebrate a special day, or something to make it’s very own occasion out of. I hope I have a reason to return at some point!

 
 *photos courtesy of Gabriel Sanders. http://www.magicsandbox.com/enter/Magic_Sandbox.html