Finally, the Gracie's post! After almost two weeks, and two phone calls to the restaurant, I finally received the course details from the meal Andy and I had there with my parents.
I wish I had received the details while everything was fresh in my mind, but I think I still have a good grasp of my opinion of the meal.
I was really looking forward to dining at Gracie's. It was the last meal of my parents' trip, and we were all ready to enjoy it. After looking at the menu (and after a little convincing on my part) we decided to do the 7-course meal with wine pairings. All of the multiple-course meals (5, 7, or 9 courses) are tailor-made for each table. You tell the waiter what things your table doesn't like (in our case- our mixed dislikes consisted of sweetbreads, veal, and goat cheese) and he relays this information to the Executive Chef, Joe Hafner, who then decides upon the meal. After the courses are decided, the waiter (not a sommelier) picks out the wine pairings.
Now, while this all sounds fantastic- it requires quite a bit of time. We arrived at 8 pm for our reservation, were seated around 8:10, and received nothing to eat besides a wedge of bread and a half-glass of champagne until 9, and the amuse-bouche arrived first:
This was a teaspoon full of beet salad- which, while delicious, did nothing to cure the hunger (which was mounting) or the slight champagne buzz we were all experiencing.
Another twenty or so minutes passed, and we received our first pour of wine, a Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran, Bourgogne ’06 and the first course, an Avocado & Blue Crab Salad with shaved avocado, Meyer lemon, pickled onion & tarragon lemon vinaigrette:
This picture is a testament to our starvation. I had forgotten even to take a picture before I had to put a bite of this in my mouth. Luckily, the bite was delicious- and I'll say beforehand, that this was my favorite dish of all of the courses. The crab was fresh and briny, and the Meyer lemon wedge on top was a nice sweet and sour sensation in the mouth. I could have eaten a lot more of this.
After another twenty minutes, we received our second pour of wine, Louis Latour Valmoissine Pinot Noir, Burgundy ‘05, but no food yet. My dad commented to the waiter, who said that four other tables had ordered the 7-course meal at the same time as us, so things were a little crazy. Now, here is where I started to become critical. The first thing that our waiter said to us when we ordered the 7-course meal, was, this is the best way to do Gracie's, and I tell that to everyone. So, I believed we all assumed that most people take his advice, and order either the 5, 7, or 9, with our without wine pairings. Therefore, when our waiter explained the reason why everything was taking so incredibly long, it seemed a very poor excuse for a restaurant that advertises these course menus and claims that it is the best way to enjoy the restaurant- the staff and the chef should be prepared. And, five tables is less than half of the restaurant's capacity, so it made even less sense to me. We were all pretty displeased by this point.
Ten minutes after the second wine pour, we received the second course of House-made Gnocchi with
braised oxtail, black trumpet mushrooms, celery root puree, fontina:
The gnocchi was different- hand rolled and extremely fluffy. I also loved the tender oxtail and creamy fontina. It was a lovely savory dish perfect for the winter weather.
In between the second and third courses, they came around with more bread- and Andy and I had to dive into another large slice because our hunger mixed with the ever-present glasses of wine were not a great combination. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I think we were all fading a little. For the third course (which arrived a little after 10 by this time) we had Pan Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with brioche tart au pommes “tarte tatin”, quince jam, hazelnut crispies, paired with a Chateau de Malle Sauternes:
Even though I was feeling a little skeptical about Gracie's by this point, I can't deny that this foie gras was phenomenal. Luckily for both my dad and I, Andy and my mom don't like foie gras, so we had a double portion (and left our poor meal-mates in hungry agony). The foie gras was done to perfection- salty and beautifully seared. The apple tarte tatin was the perfect compliment to the saltiness of the liver and I thought it was the most innovative of all the dishes.
For the fourth course, we had Crisp Striped Bass with French lentils, smoky bacon lardons, quail egg paired with a David Bruce Petit Syrah, Central Coast, CA ’05:
My dad, the wine guru of the bunch, really did not like this pairing. And, two weeks later, this dish isn't too memorable. The fish was nicely done and flaky, but the components of the dish fell flat.
For the fifth course, we first received duck breast:
Which none of us enjoyed. I am generally a true fan of duck, but we had to comment to our waiter that we couldn't take more than a bite. He quickly took it away, and promised another dish in its place, but asked for more details on what we thought were the faults of the dish. In an effort to be honest and really explain what my first reaction was after a bite- I told the waiter that, usually, the attraction of duck is its deep, fatty, almost smoky flavor and this dish tasted like bland, undercooked chicken.
Luckily, the dish that came in its place was a dish we had all been eying from the regular menu, Buffalo Tenderloin with gorgonzola polenta, braised escarole & poblano pepper, charred tomato jus paired with a
Mitolo “The Jester” Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia ’05:
Buffalo is the "in" meat now, and that is fine with me. It is tender and flavorful and I loved the creamy polenta. I appreciated the course-switch, but I think we were all a little unhappy that it meant an extra wait.
By the time the sixth course arrived, it was around 11:15. We were all a little tired, a little tipsy, and too hungry. The problem was not only the poor timing of the whole meal, but also the portion size. Of course, you expect smaller portions in a 7-course meal because you don't want to be stuffed by the end of it, but these were too small- just a little more than a bite. So, after over two hours of eating, to still be very hungry after five courses, did not seem right. Maybe if the pacing had been quicker, we would have felt full- but we certainly had a lot of time to digest in between courses.
The sixth course was the cheese course, a paltry slice of Monteray extra mature cheddar with onion marmalade, paired with a Ferreira ’85 vintage port:
The cheese was tasty, but it was a little overpowered by the large quantity of onion marmalade. My favorite thing about this course was actually the port, which I really enjoyed and thought was the most memorable of the wine pairings.
Then, a little before 12, the desserts arrived served with a La Spinetta Moscato di Asti. They brought out two different desserts (we each got our own), a Banana & Chocolate Terrine: banana cake, chocolate ganache, brittle crunch, banana gelee, espresso chocolate mousse:
And a, I think, type of apple cake (which was miswritten in the email as a chocolate tartlet):
I loved the Banana and Chocolate Terrine, but I had a serious problem with this course, which is hard to tell from the pictures...the desserts were huge! They were way more than enough for one person- and none of us could understand why the rest of the courses were so small and then, at midnight, we were served a large piece of cake. The savory courses were what I wanted more of- more gnocchi, more crab, a bigger piece of buffalo tenderloin. By midnight, I wasn't as interested in eating too much of a sweet thing, even if I did still feel a little hungry.
For the amount of money this meal cost (about a $100 per person with wine pairings), the pacing should have been better, the waiter more knowledgeable about wine pairings, and the servings slightly larger. I really hate to feel disappointed about a meal that I had such high hopes for -but we all left feeling that way. I think the way to go may be to order a la carte off the menu, because the 7-course menu seemed too much of a gamble- both in terms of timing, and wine pairings.