Sunday, August 19, 2007

eleven madison pork

Err, I mean, "Park". Eleven Madison Park. I can't stop thinking about the suckling pig I had there on Tuesday night. Though with limited prix-fixe-only restaurant experience (you mean I'm not supposed to rest my crumbly bread roll on the "show plate"?), I've learned through observing the jealousy of my dining companions that when at a fancy restaurant, unless it specializes in steak or fish or something else, always order the pork. Anyway, I found myself eating this magnificent pig concoction as a result of a birthday gift system I like to employ with like-minded friends: the giver buys the recipient dinner at someplace neither party can reasonably afford. Selfishness and generosity come together, and everybody wins, including our credit card companies.

Our slightly early arrival for our 8pm reservation set the tone for the evening: three hosts standing shoulder to shoulder at the podium greeted us in sync with matching high-school-musical smiles and seated us immediately. The "great corner booth" turned out to be right behind the servers' station, which was fine given the depth and coziness of the booths, but not so fine given my tendency to talk about people the second they leave my vicinity. But we were quickly given the mammoth wine list and an assortment of four hors d'oeuvres, and we were happy.

Until, that is, we'd almost finished our first half-bottle of wine, eaten our hors d'oeuvres, housed our bread rolls (with salt and pepper spooned onto a plate tableside), and had yet to see a food menu. I was slightly annoyed about this until I realized that it meant we'd be at our table longer and be forced--forced!--to drink more. Several robotic waiter interactions later, we had our second round of wine and our first course. My raw or almost-raw Big Eye tuna was overwhelmed by olives, cumin, and super-duper-salty duck prosciutto, but my friend's gnocchi with Hawaiian prawns, calamari, celery, and Meyer lemon was delicate and perfectly balanced. Sharing is caring.

the suckling pig of god

What I didn't want to share was that Vermont Farm Suckling Pig. I don't know how to begin to describe it, so I'll leave that to the expert: "It comes as a brick of deboned, tightly packed, meltingly tender meat that’s been poached in duck fat. The meat is bordered by a strip of crackling skin that seems to defy the laws of nature and science. Can anything really be so crunchy and light while also being so fatty and heavy?" Yes, it can, and it is awesome. My friend ordered the beef tenderloin, and I remember it being good, but even the seared-with-bone-marrow component couldn't distract me from my glorious pork.

I was pretty stuffed by this point, but there was nothing coming between me and that cheese cart (or a glass of dessert wine), as this was to be my first cheese cart experience. Robot Waiter #3,872 (seriously, there were that many) told me what each was and, when I couldn't decide between the triple cream goat and the bloomy rind goat, gave me a half portion of each. I also chose the Gruyere--I have a weakness for the nutty and sweet (see: my relationship history)--and a washed rind raw cow's milk from Quebec that was somehow stinky and sharp at the same time and I wish I could remember what it was called. Dessert was followed up with those truffle "lollipop" things and a gigantic dried cherry and candied orange brioche to eat for breakfast the next morning, which is exactly what I did. And then I went to my first Pilates class.

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