Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This is not a real post...or is it??

This is just to make you drool...and want to have dinner at Ai Fiore in NYC!

Hi Friends!!

I'm so slacking on my blog...and for all of my like 2 avid readers - I'm so sorry!  I've been so busy with work that I've let my blog rest for a while. 

While I'm still busy with work - I've decided to squeeze in some time to tell you about a fantastic dinner Dave and I had (to celebrate his birthday!).  A few days before his actual birthday, we went into NYC to have dinner and see a show (Matilda - I do recommend seeing it!!).

Now, let me clarify a few things first...  While I love a good dinner and show... the musical was Dave's idea - not mine.  We had seen the commercial on TV for the previews and it was the only - one and only - time that I'd ever heard my husband say "I want to see that" to a Broadway musical.   So yes - I immediately ordered tickets!

Second - I know nothing about restaurants in NYC...other than a small handful and none of which I wanted for Dave's birthday celebration.  So I asked the only person I could think of to give me a recommendation..  Michael - owner of Vittorio's Restaurant and Vero Italian Kitchen (our local favorites in Amityville - if you haven't been there yet...shame on you!) for a recommendation.

So, Michael - this meal ... one of the best I've had ... is all your fault.   Thank you!

He recommended Ai Fiori @ the Setai Hotel

As Dave and I looked at the menu - we couldn't decide if the food was Italian or French - as there were items of each ethnicity on the menu.  Now if I had been smart enough to read the About Us section of their web site.. I could have said with some intelligence the food "celebrates cuisine from the Italian and French Riviera and showcases modern interpretations of traditional regional dishes."

Yes, it does!

Being that it was my husbands birthday - I decided to just sit back and enjoy the meal - so no pictures to show you of the amazingly presented food.  Most of it looked too good to eat (but obviously, we ate!).  I hope, I sincerely hope I can do the food we ate justice with my descriptions... I probably won't, which is why you need to head on in and eat there yourself.

OH!  Before I even go into the food - I will say, if you want to know what impeccable - absolutely flawless service in a the food industry should be like - this is the place to go.  Seriously, I've never, ever experienced service like this before... Their level of care to their diners creates a true dining experience. 

OK, now the food. 

Dave and I choose to do the 4 course pre fixe menu on the recommendation of our server, who pointed out that each portion was of a small size so that you could enjoy each dish and not feel overly stuffed.  He was 100% correct!  I neglected to get his name, so rather than call him 'waiter' or 'server'... I'll call him Al.

With so much to choose from on the menu and my inability to make a decision when it comes to good food - I gave Al a list of what I was looking at and took every single suggestion he gave me. 

So - my meal consisted of:
An offering from the chef... amuse bouche if I were to be all technical, but I'm not even sure if I can spell that correctly!  It was a little shooter of an earthy, luscious, bright green fresh pea soup.  So much different than the muddy flavor of a pea soup boiled with ham until mushy.  Even though this was a puree...it had a brightness - a snap to it.  Ultimately a fresh, bright start to an amazing meal.

First Course:  Uovo in Brodo.  This was a slow poached egg nestled on a bed of frisee lettuce, Parmesan, black truffle and chicken broth - served with focaccia.

I have to take a big sigh...this was such a simply flavored dish and one I'd love to be able to make and eat at home.  I'd eat it daily.  To say it was delicious is such an understatement.  When brought to the table, the chicken broth was separate and Al poured it into the dish.  I have never, ever seen chicken broth this color...rich, intense brown (not the pale yellow we're used to) could be mistaken for a very light beef broth almost.  Once it was poured, the shaved parmeasan just melted into the broth to give it saltiness, nutty undertones - and once you broke open the egg - the broth thickened so slightly and added a velvety richness.  The frisee added texture that was needed and the truffle that earthiness it lends to every dish you put it in.  Using the house made focaccia was not enough to sop up the broth I couldn't get to with my spoon... If I wasn't in a fancy restaurant, I would have licked the plate clean (and no one would need to pay me $100, Elena!)*

Second Course: Tortelli. This was a ricotta and mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere and a red wine glaze. 
In my life, I've never tasted a cheese like the sottocenere, which was melted so gently over the top of the lovely pillows of cheese filled, perfectly cooked home made pasta.  I had to look up what this heavenly flavored bite of amazing was... and no wonder it was so amazing!  It's a raw cow's milk and slices of truffles, then rubbed with various herbs and spices. It is aged in an ash rind as a way to preserve it over a long period without losing flavor, a tradition in the Venetian region.  Get your hands on some.  Now.  I'll wait.... 
I've never had such a pasta dish - with all the cheese, it was not too cheesy and the flavor of the sottocenere and the red wine glaze cut through any of the heaviness that you can usually get with such a cheese flavored ravioli.  I want this again.  Soon!
OK.  I did it again....but only because Al told me to! 
 My third course: Capesante. Yes, friends, I ordered the pan seared sea scallops, hedgehogs, hen of the woods, puntarelle, sugo di funghi.  Yes, I had no clue what a hedgehog or hen of the woods were ... Dave had to tell me they were mushrooms...I had to look up puntarelle (a form of chicory) - but I thought it was radicchio...but at the time, I didn't care what the heck they were!  One of the best, most well cooked scallops I have ever had.  So sweet and succulent and the earthy, woody flavor of the mushrooms and the sauce... balanced perfectly with the bitter, tart flavor of the puntarelle - a stronger word than spectacular needs to be inserted here - I'm just not sure of what that word is!
Course Four: Torta di Olio.  Ligurian Olive Oil Cake, with marscapone cream, grapefruit slices and lemon ice.
Ever have olive oil cake?  I've heard about it and always thought it was going to be really gross.  I mean...Olive Oil cake.  I'm OK with it on salads and cooking with it... but a cake?  And - as we all should know by now, I'm not a huge dessert fan .. but Al said to get it, so I did.  One of the most heavy but not dense, flavorful but not overly sweet cakes that I have ever eaten. The marscapone cream was a delightful moistness to a dry, but not really dry cake.  I know that makes no sense...but its the best way to describe it.  The grapefruit slices and the lemon ice - so completely perfect tartness to balance the dense, flavorful, moist but dry cake. 
Being I'm not a baker - I could imagine trying to make this cake and failing miserably...and making it the horrible concoction that my mind thought it was.  I was so glad to try it - and will do so again, in a split second!
The end of the meal - yes, we got another offering from the chef at the end of the mean (I've never even heard of that!) of four delightfully flavored, decedent, elegant flavored chocolates and candy jelly's.  My favorite - dark chocolate and Meyer lemon.  <sigh>
So - let's talk about Dave's dishes.  I just had a small bite of each, so I will preliminarily say, I'm not going to do this justice...
Dave's Meal:
First Course: Cassoule.  Coco beans, pork belly, calamari and pearl onion.  Strange combination, but what wonderful flavor!  No, the Coco beans were not the ones chocolate is made of... but a small bean with a similar flavor and texture to a lentil - sort of...that's the closest I can come up with... they're small white beans, but not as meaty as a white bean.. simply delicious!
Second Course: Corzetti.  Hen of the woods mushrooms, green garlic pesto, walnuts and lemon with a free form pasta (similar to linguine).  If you were blind folded and tasted this - you'd be struggling to find out what meat was in this dish.  That is how rich and hearty the mushrooms made this dish... the walnuts added a great texture and the lemon - a brightness that just sang with the dish, along with perfectly cooked pasta.
Third Course: Merluzzo.  Laurel crusted Atlantic cod, chorizo, potato with manila clam jus.  I can't describe how amazing this dish was - as Dave only let me have one...small...bite.  The cod was perfect, the sauce so flavorful - briny and sea tasting... and while I didn't get to taste them...the potatoes were teeny tiny little balls of perfection - according to Dave.
Fourth Course:  Budino di Cioccolato.  Chocolate creameax, hazelnut praline, fior de latte gelato.  Dave loved it - I tried a bite of the chocolate creameax, which was the best tasting chocolate I've had in a long time!  But at this point, I was so engrossed in my Olive Oil cake...and full... I didn't dive in for more.
Yes - of course I would recommend this place.  The entire experience was delightful...pricey, but so well worth every single dime.
So - I'm recommending a recommendation - and doing so very highly!  Next time you're in the city and need a special place to have an amazing meal ...  Ai Fiori is the place.
I'll post again soon - have a great meatloaf recipe for you!!
Until Next Time...

*This - my blog friends is a story for another time!