The menu tasting.
The day that I had simultaneously been looking forward to and fearing since the day that we booked our venue, Essex House.
Looking forward to – well, the reason is obvious.
Fearing – look, when you are as obsessed with food as I am, your friends expect a lot. They have high standards and they are going to come to your wedding in forgiving stretchy dresses and loose pants sizes. And we booked at a hotel…I was nervous that we were going to get standard banquet food. You know the type…mushy chicken with flaccid skin and overcooked filet that had the flavor of beefy cardboard. I was real nervous, y’all.
I had no reason to be scared. The food was better than tasty. For an event of this scale, it was exceptional.
From the moment that w sat in the swanky SouthGate restaurant, we were treated like VIPs (which, I guess we were, but still…okay by me!). Personalized menus, a discussion with the brand new banquet chef, personalized explanation of the dishes and the servingware used by the world’s greatest coordinator, Cecilia DeAngelis, and more food than we could possibly eat.
Okay, this was awesome.
My mom got the idea from Lincoln’s prosecco bar - Prosecco offered with mix and match fruit purees and liquors to create your own signature drink. We asked Cecilia if we could offer this for an hour at the reception and she made it happen.
Because, wow – pretzel rolls make it HAPPEN. I also made a very diva request that the butter be served spreadable – nothing worse than ice cold butter that just won’t spread on bread. It would have totally taken away from the thick, toasty crust and the soft innards. They delivered on the spreadable butter. Thank you! Crispy chicken confit with gnocchi, Cabot clothbound cheddar, spinach, and maple pepper lardon crisp
Why didn’t I eat more of this at the time? I’m crying just remembering how delicious this was. The chicken is juicy and crispy at the same time, served atop pillowy gnocchi that soaks up the rich chicken juices. The bits of crunchy lardons are smoky, sweet, and a little spicy. And that clothbound cheddar is one of my favorites, with a calcium crystal-studded texture and nutty, salty, umami flavor. It’s not cheap, either! It really says something that this is a plain ole option when you book at Essex House. You are really getting what you pay for – no nameless mild cheddar substitute here.
The winner across the board – we all loved this. Unique enough to stand out but not just unique – also delicious and appetizing. The smoked salmon tartare is light and fresh, bound with a creamy, tarragon inflected dressing. The tart is sweet, providing the perfect creamy counterpart to the lush smoked salmon. It’s unexpected but also familiar – at a Jewish NYC wedding, we have all had smoked salmon once a week since birth! The Dijon vinaigrette is light and acidic, pairing well with the sweet pears. This was an excellent dish and I would eat it again tomorrow.
Pan roasted Atlantic Salmon (front) and roasted Chatham cod with wilted leeks, sweet onin risotto with lardons, and New England lobster fricassee
The salmon in front is good – moist, seared to a lovely medium rare and served over some nutty black rice. It was just not exceptional. I could make it at home, and more to my tastes.
But the cod…
OMG…the cod. Whoa. This is an outstanding preparation. The cod is moist and very mild – none of that overtly fishy taste that less than fresh cod has. It’s slightly crispy on top and covered with what can only be described as creamy, sherry scented lobster bisque with hunks of sweet, buttery lobster. The risotto underneath manages to be creamy yet not gluey – hard work for risotto done on a mass scale. Though I loved it with the smoky, fatty lardons, the venue was accommodating enough to offer this kosher style for our many kosher guests.
I told everyone to get this.At the tasting, it was my number one favorite.
Beef short ribs with potato dauphinois and bordelaise reduction
Of course, the night of the nuptials, I was in the mood for red meat, so I got this honkin behemoth of short ribs. Note to future brides – never go with the filet for your option. It’s just impossible to cook it to each person’s liking and if it has to be done ahead of time – which of course it does – it’s going to get dry and rubbery. The short ribs actually only get better after sitting around for awhile, and these are tender and robust, with scalloped potatoes and a deep, winey sauce.
Lemon meringue pie
Buttery shortbread crust cradles a tangy, smooth lemon curd filling. Small, tanned peaks of impossibly airy meringue are capped with gold leaf for a sweet, decadent dessert that basically screams bridezilla in the loudest, best way possible. Some tart berry ice cream and an excellent (a little soft, but wonderfully chewy and bright) macaron would make this a perfect dessert along with the cake.
This came into our lives. Smooth vanilla ice cream between two sturdy yet biteable chocolate chip cookies. I mean come. on. This is just what you want to eat in your fancy clothes after dancing so hard that you threw out your back. This dessert blew our minds, and our guests minds, too. Something this fun and whimsical perfectly fit our fun and pretty whimsical wedding. Classy right up until the end, when cravings took over.
Any foodie would be thrilled with the food options at Essex House. The team is a dream to work with, the options are limitless, and the food really tastes so delicious.
Toldja I would eat at my own wedding.