Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bouchon Bakery, New York New York

How do you drop $100 for two at a Bakery-cafe? Have a deep love and appreciation for food, service, and quality. Some people consider Thomas Keller to be God, others consider him to be overrated...I'd say both have merit but the sooner is closer to the truth. The overrated part? How else could one describe a man who successfully set up a $275/person restaurant with a 2-month waiting list in a shopping mall or a Bakery that is packed from open to close every single day?

Arriving at TWC around 7:00 we waited only 15 minutes for seats and our fantastic server Oliver quickly introduced himself, handed us menus, and filled our water. Dehydrated from the walk from 2nd Ave I quickly finished my water and within 30 seconds it was refilled again by another server. Team waiting at a bakery-cafe in a mall...bestill my heart! While browsing the menu we were presented with Keller's famous Epi Baguettes and the best butter I have tasted in my entire life. Crusty yet chewy bread, sweet and salty butter...magical...and refilled for free.

For appetizers my sister and I decided to split the Grilled Gruyere and Fontina cheese on Brioche with Heirloom Tomato Soup and Heirloom Tomato Salad with hericot vert, cranberry beans, arugula, and basil vinaigrette. Both dishes were brought out within 10 minutes by a third server and presented with descriptions like a tasting menu at a 5-star restaurant. While the Tomato Salad was indeed excellent and the Cranberry beans especially tantalizing, there was no comparing to the soup and sandwich. Sweet tomato soup that tasted like a milky pureed tomato contrasted beautifully agaisint the thick and crusty bread topped with a sharp salty combination of perfect cheeses. At $9.95 for the soup/sandwich this dish absolutely blew be away.

For our mains my sister selected the Quiche du Jour consisting of goat cheese and spinach while I opted for the CB&J on Brioche with Banana chips. Like the Grilled cheese, the CB&J was flawlessly grilled and perfectly presented. The beautiful blend of crunchy cashew butter and smooth apricot puree tantalized the senses and made me rethink every PB&J I've thown together in the last 20+ years of my life. This is how "comfort food" is supposed to taste. My sister's quiche? Lets just say that I don't know how to make eggs so airy and beautiful, nor how to make feta and spinach come across so equally yet seperately. The dish was a work of art and gastronomic magic.

While totally satisfied, there was still far too much to sample, so sample we did. Wanting to sit and enjoy coffee for a while we chose to split the Deconstructed Apple Tarte with vanilla bean icecream as a dessert and while it was interesting and tasty, it did not live up to my hopes (nor the taste of Wolfgang Puck's Apple Strudel.) At this point we happily paid our bill and made our way over to the bakery portion of Bouchon for more.

Shopping for ourselves and others we selected one madeline, one vanilla macaroon, one nutter butter, 3 TKOs, 3 Chocolate Bouchons, a Peanut Butter Cup, and a box of 6 mini-Macaroons to go.Beginning with the madeline we started a gastronomic romp of amazing taste, texture, and quality.

Madeline - small, airy, lemony, wonderful.

Macaroon - Not dense but not light, flawless cream filling, smooth and sublime - the best Macaroon I've ever tasted.

TKO - Unbelievable. Crispy cookies around a wonderfully light yet thick frosting. This is not an oreo, this is decadence in the shape of a chocolate sandwich cookie.

Bouchon - Like a mini Pot au Creme infused into a chewy brownie. Lets just say that I don't much like pure chocolate desserts and I'm not a big brownie fan...yet I have since bought the Bouchon cookbook and will be making these soon.

Peanut Butter Cup - Huge, but not worth the $5. While the flavor was good and the quality of the ingredients notable, I've had equally excellent peanut butter cups at high end sweet shoppes before. Great, but nothing new. Then again, how much can one do with peanut butter and a chocolate shell?

Nutter Butter - Saving the best for last. This cookie is ALMOST life altering. Honestly, I don't even know how to describe the flavor, but if you could infuse butter and creme fraiche into a peanut I'd imagine you would have something like this filling...and that isn't even to mention the flawless cookies on each side. If there was a recipe for these available I'd probaby be in my kitchen right now baking.

All told, Bouchon is wonderful and can be done cheaply or extravagantly. A means to tasting Keller without dropping $550 for two and a great stop in a nice shopping area - how can you go wrong? While not every item was mindblowing, every single one of them was delicious and as good or better than any version I'd tried in the past, plus the service was on par with many a Michelin Star rated restaurant. TK may not be God, but I bet the Gods would accept his cooking as an offering.

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