Wow!, Oh My God!, Unbelievable ! It Melts in My Mouth! Amazing! These are just some of the words we all uttered at Gene’s 50th birthday dinner the other night at Per Se.
Large arrangements of cherry blossoms and forsythia greet us. We sit down at a beautiful table facing the East side of Manhattan. It happened to be a full moon, which was breathtaking. The statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle is now eye level. Sharon and I get the party started with a flute of sparkling wine, Gene enjoys a dirty martini.
We open our menus and see that they’ve customized it. Printed on top is “Happy 50th Birthday Gene”. It was such a nice surprise. You get a choice of a Tasting of Vegetables or a Chef’s Tasting Menu. We all went for the meat. Gene chooses a wonderful bottle of Riesling to begin dinner with. There are so many things to describe but right off the bat they present you with two canapes, one was a tuile cone filled with creme fraiche topped with salmon eggs, just like a little ice cream cone. One bite and we knew this was going to be a special evening.
The server comes out with a bread basket filled with tiny baquettes of pumpernickel, sour dough and german pretzel rolls. He places 2 small dishes of hand-churned butter on the table. One is from a Vermont farm with only 7 cows, the other a salted butter from...hmm, I forget. And THEN, in the center of the table a beautiful silver tray appears with a large variety of sea salts. The server describes each one - all the different colors, tastes and textures from Hawaii, France, India, etc. All this just for a piece of bread! Our taste buds are exploding already!
Some other highlights: Moulard Duck Foie Gras... rich, buttery, delicate and smooth as silk. Was I really eating duck liver, yeah, I guess so. It’s served with warm brioche. I had only taken one bite out of it and the waiter takes it away...“wait, where are you going, I wasn’t finished”... only to replace it with a warmer one. Sharon chooses a bottle of Pinot Noir. The dinner continues with Spanish Turbot (split down the middle and filled with an English Pea Mousse), Nova Scotia Lobster, Herb Roasted Squab or Rabbit (I had the Rabbit that was deconstructed, mixed with something yummy and then put back on the bone. Wha?), Nature Fed Veal, Rappleree Cheese with Bacon Wrapped Date, Dragon Fruit with Greek Yogurt Sorbet, “Popcorn Cola” or Vanilla Genoise.
Then the server presents us with a beautiful wooden box of artisan chocolates and describes each one for you. There were 24 to choose from. Roasted Cinnamon and Orange Marzipan were the ones I had. I felt like Julia Roberts when Richard Gere presents the case that holds that gorgeous diamond necklace...yes, that’s how I feel about chocolate. THEN, just when you think you’re done, he comes back with a beautiful tier of chocolate fudge in delicate silver foil cups, a variety of French Macarons, truffles, bon bons and tiny, powdery chocolate covered hazelnuts.
We asked for a tour of the kitchen. So freakin’ organized, clean and quiet it was scary. Really, like an orchestra performing a silent and complicated piece of music or maybe a very simple piece of music...not sure how to describe it, but the chef definitely held the baton. It was just another highlight of the night. As we headed out the door with our little canvas bag of sweets and copies of our menu, we didn’t feel stuffed, but very happy and fulfilled by the experience...and a bit surprised at the bill. Just about $1800 for 4 hours of bliss. We would all do it again in a heartbeat...or when our wallets recover!
I know I will remember this evening for a long time, I don’t think I will ever forget the crunch of that creme fraiche filled tuile or the texture and taste of that Foie Gras, something I cannot say about any other dining experience.