I was smack in the middle of a really fun book: Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton. She is the chef/owner of Prune in New York and it is her memoir. While, unfortunately, I have not yet dined at Prune, I was having a blast eating up her words. And, lamentably, it’s been too long since I’ve really delved hungrily into a good book.
Last Monday evening Maggie and I were sitting in the living room, happily plotting our lazy night in with the pups and our jammies as we were plum tuckered out from a slightly, ahem, indulgent weekend. This conversation was happening through me reading my book and Maggie compulsively Tweeting on her iPhone. It was about 7:30-ish, I’d say.
Then suddenly Maggie nonchalantly asks me to remind her of the name of the book I’m reading. “Blood, Bones & Butter”, I tell her. To which she replied, “So I guess you know about this thing at Lucques tonight?”
Turns out Suzanne Goin was hosting a dinner in honor of Hamilton’s book with a four-course prix fixe menu, with a copy of the book for $95. Oh yeah, and Gabrielle Hamilton was going to be in the house, dining, drinking, mingling and signing copies for the guests.
Well and so – after a panicked phone call, a string or two pulled (thanks Matt!), and the two of us paint-over-rust-style getting ready, Maggie and I managed to get to Lucques by 8:15pm for our two saved seats at the bar on that sold-out night.
The restaurant was as full as I had seen it since their annual rib roundup and the menu was simply beautiful. I couldn’t help but notice all of the dishes were not only seasonal (of course), but were all dishes and/or ingredients that had prominence in the book. They were even roasting lambs and potatoes on a spit on the dining patio.
|Suzanne Goin and Lamby|
We took a few moments to enjoy our wonderful house-made bread and fresh butter, Lucques olives, roasty, oily almonds and coarse salt and our glasses of 2009 Nikolaihof, Gruner Vetliner from Hefeabzug, Austria (selected by Caroline Styne) before our first course arrived. I needed to soak it all in for a moment. I mean, Hell, a mere forty-five minutes ago I was in my jammies in the big, brown chair, curled up with my book. Now I’m sitting in my dearest restaurant (still clutching my book) about to eat gorgeous food in the same room with the author of my book and the chef of my chosen food.
It’s true. I haven’t written much about Suzanne’s restaurants over the years, though I eat at them all regularly and mention her often (just put her name in the search engine of this blog and see). But it’s certainly no secret that she’s kind of my culinary hero.
So let us begin with the Asparagus vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, eggs mimosa and American proscuitto. This dish was served somewhere between room temperature and ever so slightly chilled. The asparagus was perfectly and delicately blanched with a succinct, little snap. The dish was fresh and light and was perfect in waking up the palate, getting it all prepped for what was to come.
And what was to come was the Roast Windrose Farms’ lamb with potatoes from the coals and a salad of English peas, pea shoots, Meyer lemon and chanterelles. Seeing both of these dishes transported me immediately back into the book. The first chapter of the book was all about the ornate lamb roasts Hamilton’s family hosted in her childhood. She described the process with such love and nostalgia that I could almost smell the lamb and feel the chill of the cold water in the stream behind the house while grabbing a cold drink from it’s bed. The pea salad took me instantly to her story of hiding on the floor of her childhood butcher shop having absconded with a handful of the fresh peas the butcher and his family grew – Gabrielle eating them raw, right then and there.
And Suzanne did it all a beautiful and savory justice.
The lamb and potatoes were simply without equal. Faultless. Suzanne accomplished the perfect, simple – and seminal - potatoes Gabrielle spoke of that changed her world in Greece. The salad, which was reportedly the crowd’s favorite, was also Maggie’s preferred dish as well. And it was sublime. It was refreshing, vibrant, and in contrast to the soft and almost sultry lamb, crisp and bright. The chanterelles added that bit of Earthiness and the Meyer lemon provided the perfect touch of sweet citrus to round it all out.
We paired the lamb, et al with the 2005 Domaine Gallety, Cote du Vivarais from France (also Styne’s pick). We both loved this choice.The wine was big and confident without dominating the food.
And finally we were served the Cornmeal shortcakes with strawberries, mint and crème fråiche. I don’t recall this dish from Blood, Bones & Butter but from Sunday Suppers at Lucques served instead with peaches. Interestingly enough my mom served this dish at our first Dinner at Eight. And it was amazing. Suzanne’s cornmeal shortcakes are heavenly. I, obviously, would have liked to have seen considerably less strawberry goo. With this we opted for a glass of the rosé champagne.
What a night. I was able to say hi to Suzanne, get a hug in, met and briefly chatted with Gabrielle and a few of her friends. I ate the food I was reading. I ate the food I love. I got my book signed by the author. All in my favorite restaurant. Yes. It’s true.
I finished the book just last night. A week after the dinner. Suzanne’s food lingers on my palate and Gabrielle’s words linger on my mind.
I feel happy.