I left my heart in New York...Gramercy Tavern review

Not really, but I am so glad I lived in NYC when I did. It is the greatest place, and we had a fab weekend.

When I lived in NY, I was 23-26 I think. I loved it but it was hard- hard to be a single woman there, hard to move through your 20s (which are hard enough anywhere) there, hard to afford living there as a gal in the education field. When I left, it felt rather like an escape. I had grown immeasurably as a person and woman but that growth was hard-won, and I was tired. I knew I was glad to have done NYC on my own, knew that I was leaving with a confidence that was deserved and valuable- that if I could do NY, I could do any city, visit any city, live anywhere and do it well. That’s a great feeling. But I think it took me a few years of further honing myself outside of the context of my time in NY before I could really love it again in the ways I had before I moved there.

In the past few years, time spent in NY is only invigorating. What a treat to live so near a place like that.

Ok, enough of the love letter.

Gramercy Tavern was not only an amazing culinary experience but also further reinforced my sense that Danny Meyer is a genius. As at Union Square Cafe (also Meyer), the service is absolutely perfect. In my opinion, service can boost or diminish the gastronomic experience of a place: you can have great food, but if you have a pretentious a-hole serving it to you, the whole experience is lessened. Meyer totally gets that. Everything is welcoming, friendly, accessible. The waitstaff is incredibly well-trained, and that comes through not only in the deep amount of detail they can provide you about everything on the menu but also in the very obvious passion and pride they have in what they do and where they work.

T and I opted to go the tasting menu route: I with the vegetable theme and he with the summer. As you may know from my many tributes to Yotam, I think that if a chef can make vegetables sing with their true flavors rather than as a supporting actor sponge for the flavors imparted by meat, he/she is a true artist.

In that regard, I think even Tom would concur that my menu was even better than was his (and let me tell you that his rabbit dumplings in green garlic broth were insanely good).

My first course was a spring bean salad: wax beans, snap beans, baby lettuces and a deliciously light dressing. It tasted just like the produce I’d seen and sampled at the Greenmarket that morning (as I’m sure it was). Tom started with an Arctic char, icicle radish and marinated cucumber salad. Delish.

Second for me: Roasted asparagus, nettles and pickled shallots on a bed of tapioca balls and some sort of delicious sauce accompaniment. For Tom: this insanely good cucumber pea soup with sambal chili.

Third for me: (one of my three favorite dishes of the night) Warm sunchoke and spring vegetable salad on a bed of black lentils and lemon vinaigrette. I didn’t talk while eating this course and shared minimally with Tom. His: smoked-to-order trout on a bed of pureed cippollini onion and pickled onions.

Fourth for me: (my very favorite) the vastly understatedly named: Carrots and Barley. Y’all, this was the orangest dish I’ve ever seen and it was amazing, and I’m going to try like hell to replicate it in some way. The freshest baby carrots mandolined into slivers so fine they were translucent, perfectly cooked barley, a broth made from carrot juice, pureed carrots, lemon and the tiniest bit of butter. It was beyond sublime. Tom agreed. If I’d been served 8 bowls of it for my entire dinner I would have been satisfied. Tom had: the aforementioned rabbit dumplings in green garlic broth (my other favorite).

Fifth for me: (my least favorite) roasted cauliflower, red quinoa, prunes and peanuts. I just didn’t love anything about it. For Tom: flat iron steak, favas, peas, some great sauce.

There was another salad in there that tasted like perfectly cooked stir fry but it was cold. There was also an herbed goat cheese-stuffed gougeres amuse-bouche, a ginger-raspberry palate cleanser, chocolate mousse with sesame ice cream, and a french toast with rhubarb compote, wine, coffee. Who can even believe we weren’t exploding at the end.

Interestingly, almost every dish included something that had been pickled; I’m never one to just eat pickles, but this was different. You got the sense that many spices were involved yet the taste was subtle. Pickled green tomatoes, pickled cucumbers, pickled this, pickled that. It was great.

The last thing I must share with you is the best red wine I’ve tasted in a long time. From the Sagrantino producing area of Montefalco, in Italy’s Umbria region, it was 98% Sagrantino and 2% Sangiovese and made by, as I learned, a pretty unorthodox vintner named Paolo Bea. It was a perfect wine, and while I don’t think I’ll be able to find it in DC, I’m going to try.