[October 8, 2013]
Dear softrice fan:
Lover applauds my ability to make the impossible possible. In an impossible world to conquer, I discover another possible wonder for us to explore. This fantastical work of man is the Huashan Miku (aka Flower Mountain Enigma Grottoes). It is a labyrinth of towering underground chambers hidden for over 2,000 years and only recently rediscovered in 1999, which is a remarkable oversight considering its close proximity to the most popular mountain in China, Huangshan (aka Yellow Mountain). The 36 known chambers so far are a system of connected square palaces, each spacious enough to fit a small dragon. Adding onto the mystery as to how and why these grottoes were built, they are “coincidentally” situated at about 30 degrees north latitude, as are the Bermuda Triangle and the Great Pyramids.
Researching and planning a world of greater marvels for lover, I invade the travel books section at Barnes & Noble. This is what I do with my spare time, as I wait for Honey to color her nails with two layers of blue (effectively making them black). We were going out for an early birthday dinner at DB Bistro Moderne tonight. World travels cannot be done every day; restaurants, on the other hand, are local wins within my daily grasp.
db bistro moderne
55 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
DB Bistro Moderne is the most accessible ticket to the world of Daniel Boulud. This relatively economical French restaurant caters to business groups and hotel guests. Everyone else, such as Honey and I, are limited to the experience of a claustrophobic circus. Endless conversations filled the room with noisy jubilation, while servers juggled dishes back and forth their bumpy strip of dining space. Fortunately, all was controlled chaos, as we would soon learn from their excellent service.
No celebration is complete without wine. My drink of the night was the Melon de Bourgogne, Domaine Hautes Noelles, Muscadet Les Parcelles, Cotes de Grandlieu, FR 2012. The wine was a misleading muscat, dry rather than sweet, and entirely disappointing on my heart for all things good and sugary. Honey will have to fill the gap where the drink did not satisfy.
Fearful of a messy divorce, Honey sacrifices the beef soup in favor of the Maine Lobster. Our appetizer was a seafood salad, dominated by a lobster claw and meaty chunks, and accompanied by heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, and eggplant mayonnaise. The last ingredient appealed to me the most, but it barely registered on our taste buds. Besides softrice on her eyes, all Honey had on her sensors were an overabundance of pesto.
Our first shared entree gets me wondering what individual portions are like. This is the Glazed Duck Breast, served with farro, hakurei turnips and their greens. The kitchen considerately separates the duck on our behalf, acting on their own initiative rather than letting us do the work. Honey and I are only meant to enjoy their food (and pay at the end). Each serving has five thick pink slices of duck, sitting atop a bar of farro (think grainy risotto). Albeit the glaze is negligible, the duck breast is perfectly tender. If Peking ducks are put in another class, this might be the best duck that we have ever had. (The turnips and greens were a different story, one that is probably not worth telling.)
I have long been a fan of Brussels Sprouts, while Honey is a new convert. Our mutual interest in this vegetable led us to the Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Salsify. (We have no idea what salsify is.) I prefer the sprouts broken down into leaves, while Honey likes them whole. DB Bistro Moderne read our minds beforehand and found our middle ground by serving us the vegetable halved. Somewhat compromised and lacking in butter, the titleholder for my favorite Brussels Sprouts is still with the City Hall restaurant.
At long last, we arrive to the prize of our midtown pilgrimage – the Original DB Burger, a sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle on a Parmesan bun. Perfectly halved by the kitchen again, each side of the burger is held together by two cute “toothpicks”, separately labelled with a “D” and a “B”. Honey likes her positioned standing, while I prefer mine lying down.
The Original DB Burger is a rich, red meat burger. A premium short rib patty holds within it a slab of foie gras as a donut would hold jelly. Once you get to the center, it is a mouthful of wonder. Alas, this euphoria is only for one or two bites. The remainder of the burger is still good, if you like braised short ribs (which we do) and eliminate expectations of foie gras and black truffle (which we had). Perhaps the problem lies not with the burger; Honey and I just need more money to finance an all-truffle burger.
Our side of accompanying Pommes Frites were sufficient. Surprisingly, McDonald’s is still the gold standard. The fries came with three choices of lipstick – ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. I mix and match, knowing no sauce can ever dethrone the white truffle sauce at MK (in Chicago). Honey sticks to her ketchup and want more salt. Poor mustard never received proper attention.
Honey and I entertain the idea of eloping for a weekend to the Windy City, but I have grander ambitions. If we were going to do crazy, we need to do crazy right. Life memories are built on foundations of crazy. The idea I had in mind was an impromptu flight to Paris for an extended weekend, either for my birthday or hers. We would merrymake in the vineyards and tour the ladies’ castle during the day, have dinners among the candlelight and fireworks in a castle and atop the Eiffel Tower, and catch Moulin Rouge and a Seine River cruise into the late night fun. It will be an awful fast fling of money, but the experience will certainly be lifelong memories of good times with good people.
There is something romantic about my craziness. Entranced by my outrageous propositions, Honey is also crazy jealous of lover, because I am romance come to life. My plans were sweeter than our dessert.
Honey and I shared the Vacherin, a blueberry compote, crisp meringue, lemon verbena ice cream, and blueberry sorbet. The violet and purple makes me happy. Its coloring brings out a delightful blossoming of joy against the creamy white meringue. The combination of compote, ice cream, and sorbet brought a refreshing end to our meal.
The food and service at DB Bistro Moderne were a snowman in winter; built with effort and distributor of happiness. Instead of bombarding us with all the food we ordered at once, the kitchen customized a three-course meal for us. They timed our pace and never interrupted the flow to our conversations or consumption. Their portions, equally divided among two, were generous and delicious. All of this is for your taking, if you can endure a cramped and boisterous environment. If you like the food but not the ambiance, Daniel Boulud has seven solutions for you – his other New York restaurants.
Always in a puff of smoke,