One more off the bucket list

Well, it’s been a month and a half since my birthday, and it’s time to get on with other blogging topics- like my musical weekend in Music City and Restaurant Week.  So tonight is the night to finish talking about that magical day and leave you all in peace.

(Just in case you’ve been spared thus far and yet desire to catch up to where we are now: Part One Part TwoPart Three, Part Four, and Part Five)

When we last left our heroes, they were trooping back out into the wind and snow, leaving the warmth of the materialist mecca we call Macy’s and heading back up Broadway for dinner.  We had seen a lot of Broadway in our adventures, and when just before reaching Times Square we realized we would rather walk another block around it than walk through it again.  And so we did.

By the time we reached 52nd Street, we were covered in snow again and chilled to the bone.  We were about forty-five minutes early for our dinner reservations, but we didn’t care – it was warm and inviting and they took our coats from us.  We were happy girls.

We found seats at the bar, and it was definitely one of those moments when you don’t take anything for granted.   I had already spent the day grateful for my friends and my parents and for snow.  But now we were thankful for heat, for barstools, for a coat room, and for nice bathrooms.

It was nice to just sit at the bar and transition into dinner.  I was nice not to rush off the street right into our meal.  We had time to enjoy each other’s company (we never run out of things to talk about) and just relax.

I realize I’m about 300 words into this post and I haven’t even mentioned where we were eating dinner that evening.

Bar Americain.

Yes, Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain.

Now, that probably isn’t exciting to New Yorkers.  From the street it looks like nothing special, and on the inside it looks nice but nothing unique.  But you all know how much I love Bobby Flay (and if you didn’t, well, now you do) and if you’ve been reading this blog for three years (God bless you), you might remember that eating at one of Bobby’s restaurants was on my sort-of-bucket-list (here).  It is a sort-of-bucket-list because it isn’t full of things to do before I die but to do while I’m young and unattached.  A few months after putting that on the list, I ate at a Bobby’s Burger Palace, but I really wanted to eat at one of his nicer restaurants.

So tonight was the night.  Young.  Unattached.  Able to do crazy things like go to New York for my birthday (well, thanks to certain people in my life who made it a little easier – you know who you are).

I need to work on that list, though, because in that post I only mention two things – seeing U2 live and eating at a Bobby Flay restaurant.  Done and done!

Okay, back to the bar.  I was initially disappointed in the cocktail selection.  Since Manda and I often get nice cocktails in our restaurant adventures, and Nashville has several great places to get artisan cocktails, I was expecting a little more creativity in their staple cocktail list.  But I settled for a whiskey smash and it was a nice comforting drink.  (I’m generally a gin drinker, but I was looking for something a little warmer.)

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Trena got a gin fizz, and it caused a nice little stir with the people sitting next to us, who seemed in awe of the bartender as she made the classic drink.

We were just finishing our drinks when the maître d’ found us at the bar and told us our table was ready.  Now it was time to conquer the menu.

Our waiter was good – partly because he reminded us of Alfredo, but mostly because he wasn’t afraid to give us his honest answer when we asked him questions. The more I eat at nice restaurants the more I like asking the waiters for opinions.  (I’m also less and less afraid to look dumb, and if I have a question about something, I’m going to ask it.  That wasn’t always the case with me, but when it comes to food these days, I don’t mess around.)  He was honest with us that the rabbit was good but not as flavorful as some of the other things on the menu.  When Marisa asked him about the shrimp and grits, he told her there were better things on the menu.  I appreciate that a lot.

I was pretty convinced about which appetizer I wanted before I even finished reading the menu.   The brussels sprouts.

Alton Brown made a brussels sprouts salad on the Thanksgiving Live episode that I had wanted to replicate for our own Thanksgiving but didn’t.  I had kind of been thinking about it ever since.  Brussels sprouts are one of those things that you assume are gross, but then you get into fine food and everyone assures you that they’re the best things ever, if they’re just cooked right.  Since I’m not going to make myself a brussels sprout salad at home, and Thanksgiving had come and gone, when I saw a similar dish on the Bar Americain menu, I knew we had to order it.

 Brussels Sprouts, Honey Crisp Apples, Goat Cheese,
Pomegranates, Apple Cider Vinaigrette

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I don’t think I need to tell you that it was delicious.  Everything this night was delicious.  And that dish was healthy, right?  Brussels sprouts and apples? And pomegranates?  We’re talking super food, people.

We balanced all that health out with ordering what seems to be their speciality side dish – hot potato chips with blue cheese sauce.

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I don’t like blue cheese (I’m just not a mold person), but it didn’t have an overpowering blue cheese taste.  And the chips were hot and fresh.  The cute couple next to us had told the waiter that they loved Bobby Flay, so they got chips and dip on the house.  I thought that was sweet.  They also had their adorable little son with them, so I would have given them chips and dip on the house too.  That was something I really liked about the restaurant – it was pricey, yes. But not pretentious.  There were several tables with kids and families.  And honestly, it wasn’t that pricey when you considered you were in the middle of Manhattan.

I was leaning towards the rabbit, until we asked Alfredo Linguini his opinion.  He highly recommended the pork, which was brined for some incredible amount of time. (I really should have blogged about this meal sooner.) So Trena and I went with the pork.  Meg chose the duck and Marisa chose the fried chicken.  I think we were all pretty pleased- the bite I had  of Marisa’s chicken was possibly the best fried chicken I’ve had in a restaurant.  The skin was crispy and the chicken was very moist but it wasn’t greasy at all.

The pork chop was … delicious.

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Yes, that’s a quail egg on top.  It’s all for looks – there wasn’t really much of it to do anything, but it didn’t matter. The pork chop was insanely moist. And those sweet potatoes?  They had plantains in them.  Good night.

We made sure to save room for the most important course, and we asked Alfredo for advice.  He had three recommendations. We took him up on all three.

I’m going to put them in order from good to amazing.  None of them were bad, but one was definitely superior to the others.

Bourbon Praline Profiteroles with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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These were good, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t have gotten them a second time.  This is Alfredo’s favorite dessert, so perhaps we put too much trust in Alfredo Linguini.  Yummy, but at the end of the day, profiteroles and ice cream.  We weren’t fighting over the last bite.

White Chocolate Banana Mousse Cake Passion Fruit Sauce

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This at least gets some props for creativity.  You needed to like banana to like this, but it wasn’t a cloying banana taste.  It almost sounds like the product of a Cutthroat Kitchen adventure, if Alton was to make someone use banana Runts in their dessert.  But it didn’t taste like that at all.  It was very smooth and more refreshing than I expected, but we agreed it needed another texture profile.  Throw some of that bourbon praline on top or something.

Pistachio Creme Brûlée with Biscotti

IMG_6677Winner.  Somehow Alfredo knew that this would be my favorite, because he put it right in front of me.  And gave me a birthday candle in a blackberry.  Does it get any better than that?

I would wrestle someone for the last bite of this dessert.  (The girls were nice and gave it to me without wrestling.  Or maybe I just was able to eat them under the table.)  This was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten, and for a girl whose favorite food is ice cream and could probably eat dessert following every meal… that’s saying something.

The picture doesn’t do it justice.  I should have taken another picture once we cracked into it, because the creme brûlée was so rich, so creamy, so naturally green… I don’t think I’ve been so in love with pistachios since my tour del gelato in Rome.

To say this dessert was delicious would be an understatement.  If it was alive, I would give it Best Performance by a Supporting Actor for my birthday.  It needed to deliver big, and it did.  It was the best finale of the best 30th birthday I’ve ever had.

Stuffed, we headed back into the snow and managed to hail a cab to Penn Station.  The day was over.

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