new york in winter part four

fast forward to the next morning (mostly because after all that wine, i barely remember hailing a cab) and our lunch at jean-georges in the trump international hotel. set on the ground floor of the building, in a high, bright space with tall windows, the room is an oasis of calm in the frantic setting of columbus circle. the lunch menu is set up in an unusual format: the dishes are all in one long list (apps, soups, salads, fish and meat) and diners choose any two dishes from that list for a fixed price. additional plates may be ordered at a nominal extra cost. desserts are on a separate menu. we chose to stick to just a simple, three course lunch with a half-bottle of wine.

our amuse-bouche was actually a trio here. a soup spoon holding a softly poached quail egg with shaved asparagus; caramelized grapefruit with shaved pecorino; and a tiny verrine of bacon broth with a slice of radish. these tastes seemed to speak strongly of winter, while offering a hopeful hint of spring. the breads were absolutely outstanding as well, and included sourdough rolls and thick slices of country rye. the butter was served under a tiny silver bell, with a separate little mound of sea salt to be added at our discretion.

our starters included a luxurious butternut squash soup, gently poured tableside into a beautiful square bowl whose interior had been arranged with a landscape of diced roasted squash, black trumpet mushrooms and delicate green sprouts. the other choice was a dark green salad of roasted brussel sprouts, avocado and pistachios in a mustard vinaigrette, garnished with a few perfect leaves of arugula.

next came our entrees, beginning with a boned, lightly smoked quail garnished with asian apple pear and candied tamarind. the other dish was a pair of sweetbread "lollipops," where the meat had been lightly floured and sauteed, and then speared with a "handle" of licorice root. this was served alongside a smear of meyer lemon puree and a meltingly tender grilled pear half.

we asked for a visit from the cheese board to finish the savory part of our experience. from the two dozen or so options, we chose a stunningly ripe and rich epoisses; a fragrant, unctuous delice de bourgogne; and a hard sheep's milk cheese from spain with a drier texture, whose name was one of those unpronounceable combinations of too many consonants and not enough vowels that trips up even the most well-versed polyglot. these three cheeses were served lightly toasted walnut raisin bread, pecan halves and a dried fruit jam.

now we were ready for something sweet. the desserts were all two-part affairs...we chose the citrus and chocolate versions. the first was a bowl with grapefruit supremes, candied tangerine peel, shredded jicama "noodles" and a citrus broth, over which was spooned a drift of limoncello granita; flanked by a miniature chocolate poppyseed cake with a spoonful of meyer lemon curd and a dusting of halvah powder. the chocolate plate featured the chef's molten-centered chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream, paired with a teeny-tiny panini made from chocolate brioche slices, taleggio cheese, a bit of black olive and a drizzle of gianduja. while the first part of this pairing has become a cliche, it was rewarding to eat the original version that has spawned so many, many, many imitations. the chocolate sandwich that accompanied it was a revelation...one that i hope goes on to become as ubiquitous as its partner.

we were then offered coffee and the most adorable plate of mignardises, including peanut butter and jelly chocolates and wee little macaroons, which we had packed up to go. we were also offered homemade marshmallows, cut dramatically from a glass serving jar at the table.

we left the restaurant and walked up through central park, nothing the many thousands of daffodils poking through the dead leaf cover from last autumn. ultimately, we made our way to the metropolitan museum of art. with no real purpose in mind, we spent time in the newly re-opened greek and roman sculpture gallery first. the sheer number of works is astonishing, especially when you consider how old all of these objects really are. we sailed through the impressionists and the modern rooms, ending our brief visit back in the main lobby, which is an amazing space all on its own.
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