Another post-August, 2004 event to celebrate... my mother's birthday coincided with Kaia being in New York, so the five of us got to celebrate. We originally had plans to hit a French restaurant on the West Side, but at the sort-of last minute, we instead chose Eleven Madison Park. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the restaurant or its cuisine, although the words "phenomenal," "magnificent," "incredible," "memorable" and "perfect" pretty much describe the experience perfectly.
The place is chic but not museum-esque; it's sort of like a W Hotel, albeit one featuring better lighting and more space. The colors were earth-tone, for the most part, with comfortable banquettes of black leather and classic wooden chairs. We sat down around twenty after six, did a little gift-distribution, then ordered up a bottle of Poilly-Fuisse, which wound up being perfectly chilled and a perfect before-dinner wine as well as a perfect complement to dinner.
Speaking of dinner, we started with a tomato-based consomme of seafood featuring scallops, lobster and a taste of what we guessed was Osetra caviar. To follow we had a mini tasting appetizer menu; selections of goat cheese mousse, oysters with finely-diced cucumber and tuna were standouts, although the entire platter, served to each section of the table, were awesome. Appetizers followed, including Hawaiian prawns, foie gras, salmon carpaccio and a variety of other dishes. For dinner, my sister and Kaia each had halibut which was prepared so perfectly that I can't recall ever tasting halibut served in better fashion. I wound up ordering a rib-eye steak that was so soft I could have used my butter knife to cut it. In all, the five of us enjoyed everything that was presented to us.
Dessert was as wonderful as was the rest of the meal. Most of us ordered souffles with a peanut butter ganache and roasted banana ice cream; at first I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of banana ice cream, but that all changed when it arrived and I tasted it. My sister ordered a warm blueberry tart with cornbread ice cream and again we enjoyed. And while they didn't make too much of a fuss -- ie no embarassing, off-key renditions of Happy Birthday -- they lit a candle and presented my mom with a "customized" birthday dessert and a Kodak moment. They presented us with trays of petit fours to conclude the meal and in doing so the staff and the chef of Eleven Madison Park successfully won over the five of us without so much as a moment's hesitation -- we'll return again often and with equal anticipation.
By the time dinner (and our ability to stay awake on a long Monday) wound down, we all walked the two-ish blocks to the garage to retrieve the car and begin to go our separate ways. I drove us all to my sister's apartment where she disembarked, then to my building where Kaia and I hopped out and wished my mother a final Happy Birthday before my parents got back on the road and went home.
Kaia and I relaxed a bit on the couch before heading to bed, and while I should probably be with her as she sleeps, I decided to swing by the HoB for a recap before this wonderful night, and these wonderful memories, fade, if even a bit.
It occurred to me as I began this post that celebrating my mother's birthday with my family and with Kaia would have been wonderful whether we were at Eleven Madison or at 7-Eleven; it was special and we had a wonderful time together, and while I enjoyed the restaurant and the wonderful dinner we all shared immensely, what was really wonderful was us being together and sharing time and space with one another.