Monday, June 15, 2009

Earthly Delights

There's this woman named Marlo who's passionate about both food and theatre, and has formed a company called Eating Their Words which combines the two. 

Then there's a group of people calling themselves the Story Pirates, an independently funded group of actors/teachers who do creative writing workshops with children, taking their stories, keeping their words ("I like to go a lot to school") and turning them into musical comedies that adults who are not the parents of said children are not only willing but eager to watch, and not even slightly sorry they did.

Here's a snippet from one of them (paraphrased and abbreviated):

"I'm a frog, and my name is Mr Rhubarb."

"I'm a sweet pea dressed as a bunny and my name is Mrs Rabbit"

and they're getting married. The vows are abbreviated ("YES!") and the official proclaims:

"And now, by the power invested in me by the state of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you ... whatever it is you'll be when you are married."

They absolutely do not kiss, and no one seems to expect them to.
And then there's David Bouley.
The entrance hall to his restaurant has shelves upon shelves of apples lining the walls, floor to ceiling. Better than any damn yankee room fragrance. 


About thirty people, including perhaps half a dozen children, walked through his gorgeous restaurant, down a stone staircase into a room with vaulted ceilings where we sat at three round tables (I sat next to a delightful actress who has been in a couple of Marlo's previous events) and ate a breathtaking meal as we watched a series of short plays, each inspired by ingredients in the menu.

Talk about an utterly unique food experience. It was so New York that most New Yorkers would be beside themselves.

We whetted our taste buds with foam with ikura. The waiter described the asparagus, peas and crab floating in a dashi base as "flan", but either way, that was my favourite item. The halibut was crowned with lovage (which I've never seen in any grocery store), and accompanied by ramp puree. As a nod to the children, we had two dessert courses (one with three frozen confections, the other mostly chocolate, except for the prune-armagnac ice cream, which was to die for - and I'm not a fan of ice cream), as well as trays of mille-feuilles, pistachio-almond tartlets (sized for a dolls' house), fruit jellies, truffles and other cookies which I was to chocolated-out to do justice.

And then there were the breads; I thought I'd like the saffron-walnut the best but actually, the fig was much better.

After spending a couple of hours with a friend, taking a walk down Riverside Drive, I walked back down to 35th Street (I had started up at 104th), loving the sculptures in the centre of Park Avenue just north of 46th:

Our evening meal was wonderful, but the dessert was life-changing.

Chikalicious is a very, very small place that serves only desserts. 

Chika is a genius at outlandish flavour combinations that not only work ("work" isn't even slightly emphatic enough) but make your taste buds perform opera.

Our amuse-bouche was a tiny scoop of coconut sorbet atop a bed of lemon grass jelly (no really, it was divine).

I had (I wish I had a menu so I could remember exactly) something with diced plums in something creamy and tangy atop a bed of kataifi accompanied by basil sorbet (Oh. My. God) and tiny dollops of - something I could not identify, seeds a bit like grenadilla, but much smaller, and in a clear suspension rather than yellow-orange.

Jonathan had a thing (cheesecake? flan? something) swimming in a sea of jasmine-something-something tea syrup with watermelon topped with the most perfectly crisp almond cookie.
Barbara's bed of strawberry confit was topped with a mille-feuille doing double-duty as a cannoli, accompanied by sorbet, the flavour of which I cannot recall.
Finally we ended with a tiny marshmallow covered in toasted coconut (I really should try out that marshmallow recipe), a chewy (their word) chocolate truffle covered in toasted almond bits, and a fresh cape gooseberry dipped in a syrup and coated with superfine sugar.

The portions are all perfectly miniscule, just exactly the right size.

You float out in a cloud of bliss.

I'm ruined for any other dessert, as I have no doubt that nothing could ever come close.

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