Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Carlyle - A Birthday Dinner Extravaganza

One of the cool things about having a birthday mid-week is that usually you can find a way to have a celebration on the day, and then another on the weekend :) Rick made reservations at the Carlyle. I'd read somewhere that Sarah Jessica Parker had been spotted there a few weeks ago, and I'll admit, I was anxious to see where she chose to go to dinner herself. The fact it was close to our neighborhood sealed the deal.

It was fun getting dressed up - granted, I do find myself paying more attention to fashion and what I'm wearing than I used to. It's kind of a new hobby :) Around here, you have to be careful, because it could be a really expensive hobby. I actually wore a dress I ordered online - there was free shipping, so I figured I'd try it out and send it back if it didn't work. Thankfully it did work :) I paired some crystal earrings and a big flexible crystal bracelet, and I carried a cocktail purse with grey pearl beading. Rick bought me the purse at York Beach when we were on vacation:) Rick wore a sportcoat and slacks and looked like a million bucks.
We took at cab over to 35 East 76th Street and stepped inside. We were greeted in the lobby, and escorted to the dining room - every service person we passed welcomed us, and the hostess recognized our names and seated us immediately. Yes, the suck up factor was awesome :)

Our seat in the dining room was beautiful - we got to look at the huge floral arrangement in the center, and appreciate the architecture in the room. Although we had a "loud talker" seated a couple of tables away, generally the room was a nice respite from the city as the wall treatments were fabric and seemed to soak up much of the sound.

We ordered cocktails - I had a Cosmo and Rick went for the Grey Goose on the rocks. I love having a martini that is a little bit sweet before a special meal - the shape of the glass, the color of the cocktail and the relaxing feeling it imparts all contribute to making it a special evening. Our server brought a small basket of warm breads - 5 or 6 different rolls, along with 2 selections of butter. We were good - we didn't try them all :)

We were pleasantly surprised when the server brought out an amuse bouche - a tiny little something that the chef selects to start the evening. This evening it was a tuna tartar with granny smith apple and an asian sauce, and wow, it was really wonderful. The tuna was cut in a dice and placed on the sauce, on a small square plate. It was topped with the apple which was also diced, and a sprig of something green. It was about a tablespoon of food, but served with a small seafood cocktail fork so there were a number of yummy little bites to start our meal and anticipate what was to come!

We heard about the specials of the evening and recommendations. The lobster bisque was recommended, so I tried that. It was very rich, as you'd expect, and had 2 pieces of knuckle meat immersed in it. It was served in an individual china soup tureen - a beautiful presentation. Rick ordered a green salad with roasted baby beets and this wonderful cheese - it's flavor seemed to change like wine would depending what you ate with it - it smoothed the bitterness of the greens, and enlightened the sweetness of the beets. It was called Brillat Savarin and was a kind of brie, but firmer. Very nice :)

For dinner I selected the Colorado Rack of Lamb, and I wasn't disappointed. It came medium rare as I requested, along with an eggplant cannalloni which was sweet not bitter as I usually find with eggplant. The roasted tomatoes were red and yellow grape tomatoes and they were very nice. Also served was a small goat cheese flan - I was very interested in trying this as I had never tried a savory flan before. It was much more cheesy and firm than I expected, but tasty. I'll admit, the lobster bisque must have done me in because I struggled to finish my meal.

Rick ordered the special for the night, a pan roasted pork chop with parsnip fries, spiced carrot coulis and madeira jus. This special did look special! The chop was cooked beautifully to medium, and was very juicy. The parsnip fries were actually lined up and built up in a kind of cross hatch cube, each placed on the plate just so. The carrot coulis was served on the side in a separate dish, and tasted even lighter than the whipped carrots appeared.

I ordered a wonderful Sonoma Valley Cabernet with my meal, and Rick tried a gorgeous French Pinot Noir. The Carlyle serves these wines in glasses that are designed to enrich the experience of the variety of wine. So although we both ordered red, my glass was longer and thinner, but still round, for the Cabernet, than Rick's which was rounder and fuller in which to enjoy the Pinot Noir. I thought this was super as it's kind of a pet peeve of mine when you order a glass of wine and the glass is too small to capture most of the aroma. Even inexpensive wines benefit from fuller stemware in my opinion. Plus, lets face it - they are pretty!

After dinner, when I thought I might pop, the dessert menu appeared. Rick thought it was very important for us to order dessert as it was a birthday dinner, but I wasn't so sure. We were going back and forth, and considering sharing an apple cobbler, when the server came out singing (softly so that the whole room wasn't interrupted thankfully) Happy Birthday and brought a slice of flourless chocolate cake with a small round yellow cake on top, complete with rasberry sauce and a candle. How sweet was that? :) The flourless chocolate was one of the richest I'd ever tasted - almost like a chocolate bar. The yellow cake on top was tasty - rich but a nice light contrast to the chocolate. Rick mentioned to the server that he enjoyed the yellow cake, and the server appeared a few moments later with a small plate of little yellow cakes and a dish of raspberry sauce. Rick very much appreciated this :)

As we chatted and Rick finished his decaf, the server brought over a small gift bag containing a small box of chocolates and a thank you note from the chef and the manager for stopping in for dinner. I'm having a chocolate now - wow, just amazing. For a special occasion, the Carlyle really pulls out all the stops in service and really makes the evening special. I'd definitely recommend it.