Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken liver parfait .... Yum. Seriously.

I was in New York for a brief business trip late last week, in on Thursday, out on Saturday. What did I eat? Oh nothing -- just one of the best things I've ever eaten.

The trouble with business trips is the business. I get so tied up with the business part that I don't have much time to plan the leisure part. I usually hit the city with no more than a vague meal plan. 

This time, I started by heading downtown to 14th Street/Union Square, for a quick lunch at Baohaus, Eddie Huang's tiny Chinese-inspired sandwich shop. I met Eddie briefly at the Southern Foodways Symposium in October, where he was as outspoken as his reputation. In person, he's calmer and very polite. His career has already jumped from hip-hop to attorney to chef. Now he's an author, with his new memoir "Fresh Off the Boat."

With all that going on, I was surprised to find him in the shop at 238 E. 14th near 2nd Avenue. After a quick hello, I tucked in to a selection of bao, small sandwiches wrapped in steamed Taiwanese buns -- fiery hot chicken mali, the "Chairman Bao" (pork belly with crushed peanuts and cilantro) and beef brisket. The little sammies at cheap enough, around $3.50 each, to try several. They were good, but what was great was the fresh soy milk, served hot. It was steamy and sweet, a warm cup of goodness on a January day. 

Was that the best thing I've eaten? No, but it was good. While walking, I sent out a Tweet looking for dinner suggestions that night. Back came two really good suggestions: Head to 19th Street between 5th and 6th, for a cocktail at the Flatiron Lounge and then go a few doors down to the tapas restaurant Boqueria. Home of mixologist  Julie Reiner, Flatiron is a serious cocktail bar, with the bar crowded with housemade syrups, even their own grenadine. I did the natural thing with a Manhattan.

Boqueria was packed, but perching at the tapas bar gave me a chance to watch the man who runs the charcuterie section, slicing gorgeous Jamon de Iberico and running pan con tomate under a broiler. At one point, he took short break and noticed I was watching. He patted his chest with a broad gesture and declared, in a heavy Spanish accent, "I LOVE my job." Since I was tucking into cojonudo -- fried quail eggs on chorizo -- potatoes brava and a very garlicky little skillet of shrimp with guindilla pepper, I think we both were loving our jobs.

The blood orange sangria was good, but it still wasn't the best thing I ate.

That came on Friday night, at the Breslin. The Breslin, the sort-of-English and very meat-central  gastropub, only takes reservations if you're staying at the Ace Hotel. Luckily, I was, because the wait to get in was pushing 2 hours.

Chef April Bloomfield is associated with both the Breslin and the Spotted Pig. The Breslin's menu is short, with intriguing choices like beef and Stilton pie and Scotch eggs. A good source swears the dry-aged rib eye is the best steak in New York, but it's also only served for two or more with a price to match. But since Bloomfield is an acolyte of the nose-to-tail cooking style, terrines and sausages are the way to go here.

The bone marrow and onion soup was wonderful, with a slightly sticky richness, and the seafood sausage was like the essence of shellfish stuffed into a casing. The roasted cauliflower was dusted with Szechuan peppercorn. But . . .the best thing I ate? Hands down, the chicken liver parfait.

I have a love/hate relationship with chicken liver. Fried, I can't handle them. Something about that chalky texture. But if you beat them with a lot of butter until they're smooth, they become something else entirely. I've had, even made, some very good versions. But nothing I've ever experienced touched this one.

The texture was whipped, so it was light and smooth. The color was dark and rich, instead of the usual grayish brown. It was coated with a dark brown madeira gelee. And it was served with thin slices of airy bread that had been brushed with oil and crisped. It was so good, I used a fork to scrape the little ramekin clean when the bread ran out. It was so good, I considered a second order for dessert - and regretted later that I hadn't.

It was so good, I may never be able to make it or order it again. Yes, that good.


Anonymous said...

I love chicken liver. I think Russ & Daughter's has an awesome chopped liver, it's almost a toss up between that and their wonderful fish!