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NY Bite Club: July Edition

August 22, 2012

Excitement and anticipation, I carried these feelings as I walked up the stairs of an unassuming brownstone in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Good thing I had JZ with me.  It makes it somehow more reassuring to share the experience with someone familiar, whether or not it turns out to be a good one.  We are in it together.

I ring the door bell.

A friendly man answered the door and welcomed us in.  This was Daniel.  This brownstone was his home, shared with his wife Alicia, the other half of the equation.  And this was my first dinner at the NY Bite Club.

We exchanged greetings and were led to the living room where four large tables filled the space half full of other guests.  Our assigned seats awaited us, right next to the beautiful fireplace.  I give our bottle of white to the waitress to chill in the fridge.

I peeked over through the elegant archway into the kitchen where Daniel had joined Alicia to continue preparations for dinner.  I couldn’t resist my curiosity and used our wine as an excuse to check out the kitchen.  There were plates everywhere.  Too many white porcelain plates to count filled with our first course.

No, the wine wasn’t ready yet.  Of course it’s not after only 15 minutes.   I rejoined JZ back at our table.  This time, we had guests.  A party of four had completed our table and round of introductions took place.

First course: Ceviche – Bluefish, Chickpeas, Horseradish, Lime.  

A light refreshing first course for the summer heat.  I cleaned my plate and put down my fork to wait for the next.

Second course: Gazpacho Watermelon, Champagne, Mint, Serrano, Feta Cream.

I had my doubts about this dish.  You see, I have reservations about fruit in savory dishes.  And by reservations, I mean strong disdain.  With the exception of pears/apples with blue cheese in salads, I tend to shun all advances of fruits beyond the dessert course.  Given that this was a tasting menu, I lifted my spoon to try it.  The gazpacho was thinner than I had expected.  A bite with the mint chiffonade, feta cream and the soup was complex but left a clean taste in my mouth.

By this point of dinner, we had a good dialogue with our neighbors.  They kindly poured us a bit of the wines they brought while we waited for the freezer to work on ours.  It got to the point of such comfort that we all picked up these little bowls to slurp up the last bit of soup.

Third Course: Salad – Grilled Peaches, Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata, Corn, Thai Basil.

Another fruit dish.  By now I had resigned to being slightly miserable for the rest of the meal if this was where the dinner was going.  Looks like this was not my night.  Good thing our wine was now ready to drink.

I look at this visually stunning dish.  It was beautiful to study and minus the peach, had all of my favorite ingredients.  I dig into it with blind faith in Daniel and Alicia.  The peach was firm, not terribly ripe yet, and the grill imprinted a smoky char.  Eaten with the soft buttery burrata, hints of basil and sweet crunchy summer corn jumped out from the peach and cheese.  And with that first bite, this course changed my entire evening.  From then on, I was on a new state of elation.  With each subsequent forkful, I paused to stare at my plate in awe, unable to believe that this was real.  This was summer.  My kind of summer on a plate.

Fourth course: Gnocchi – Potato & Parsnip, Lobster Knuckles, Crispy Shallots, Leek & Corn Jus.

Some where between the salad and the gnocchi, we had engaged in a full-on food centric discussion with our neighbors.  We covered topics from clam bakes to the Fulton Street seafood market in the Bronx to immersion circulators.  I was in food nerd heaven.

The gnocchi was the first course that night where any real cooking had been done.  The little potato and parsnip pillows were sweeter than I had anticipated, addicting to eat.  The lobster added more delicate sweetness to the dish and that little scattering of crispy shallots was just perfect.

On my way to the restroom off of the kitchen, I caught the sight of our entrees being plate.  I ran back for my camera to get a shot of the kitchen in action and sat down, looking forward to the next course.

Fifth course: Meat – Flank Steak, Avocado Cilantro Mash, Plantains.

Daniel and Alicia kept the last bit of the meal equally light for us.  Two thin slices of flank steak were served with a avocado mash.  It was surprisingly simple, perhaps a little too low key compared to the previous two courses.  My steak was a little on the medium side, making me eye with jealousy at my neighbors with their perfectly reddish pink medium rare steak.  Ah, this is life.  You sometimes don’t always get the steak you want, how you want it.

Palate cleanser: Grapefruit Lemon Verbana Sorbet

Of course, there was still dessert.  Not before a small quenelle of  grapefruit and lemon verbana sorbet.  Intense grapefruit flavor with a refreshing lemon verbana.  I puckered with each spoonful.  This certainly did cleanse my palate and get it ready for dessert.

Dessert: Chocolate – Mousse, Raspberry Sauce

Finally, time for dessert.  Instead of the planned pavlova, a small mound of chocolate mousse covered with a deep crimson raspberry sauce was served instead.  The mousse was dense, not terribly sweet and the sauce had the most unexpected savory note.  Just how I like my desserts.  By now, a few guests had slipped away from the dinner party, leaving an extra plate of dessert for us.  I shameless dug into the second plate of the mousse.  After all, no point in wasting a perfectly delicious dessert.  I let the fat kid in me indulge that night.

So it was now almost three hours later and within that time, we had made some new friends and savored an amazing 6 course dinner.  All this within the walls of a brownstone deep in Brooklyn, under the cover of night and without the neighbors catching onto the gig.  How secretive!

JZ and I walked back to the kitchen where service was finally winding down.  We thanked Daniel and Alicia one more time.  For not only this meal but also for inviting us into their beautiful home.  Back into the subway for Manhattan.  This time, I carried contentment and a food induced high with me.

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