Friday, July 22, 2011

tucking in

Ooooohhhh, Restaurant Week!! This is the time to score reservations at all the restaurants I've been dying to try, a perfect plan for the heat of the summer when all the "swells" are out of town and a seat can actually be had. I immediately got on the phone with my uptown sister, but she was way ahead of me, having already booked us a table for lunch at Tocqueville Restaurant off Union Square. My niece joined us at this pristine eatery with its creamy colored interior and hushed elegance. So cool!
July is a great time to seek out the prix fixe specials of restaurant week. Summer vegetables are in and the crowds are out!

Tocquville's restaurant week menu for lunch was a prix fixe offering of three choices of a three course meal with wine pairings for eash course including dessert. We ordered everything! Well, heck why not?

The appetizers were a chilled pea soup, an heirloom tomato salad and an asparagus vinaigrette, all vegetarian options that were spectacular to look at and heavenly to eat. The stand out for us was the pea soup which was poured over a fromage blanc panna cotta (that's right) and surrounded by crunchy fresh pea shoots. The flavor was a knock out, with its distinctive green-pea taste and a hint of tarragon. The wine pairing for the soup was a Francois Cartier 2010 Saugvignon de Touraine; luscious, light and crisp, a perfect pairing.
Fresh peas are now available in the farmer's markets. Making a fresh pea soup is easy and delicious!

The entrees were all really good too: an artichoke risotto, a soft shell crab with watercress and hearts of palm salad and a marinated grilled quail. The quail was our favorite (sorry vegetarians), a truly guilty pleasure. The legs were the size of my pinky finger. I said guilty. The paired wine went perfectly: a Domaine de Gournier 2009 Vin de Pays Cevennes, complex and light bodied with a hint of spice.
Ok, now on to dessert.

It was all begining to feel over the top at this point and we were getting a little giddy with all the wine and good food. The ricotta mousse with strawberry granita was crazy good. It was served with a 2008 Schmitt Sohne Ice Wine that was one cool customer. A bitter chocolate Mille Feuille and a spread of at least five sorbets and ice creams finished us off. Who could keep count, they were so divine? The one that intrigued us most was a lemon verbena ice cream.

This herb is almost impossible to find in the markets. You have to grow it to insure a steady supply. I have a small plant in my backyard herb garden that grows well in summer but does not always make it through the winter. (The picture, left, is a beautiful specimen of this herb growing in the Queens Botanical Garden). The scent is like lemon tea, fragrant and perfume-y. I am going to try to make a version of this ice cream when I get back from vacation next week, so I will keep you posted on that.
Lemon verbena leaves have a slightly rough, sticky texture, better for infusing than for chewing on.

Meanwhile, take advantage of restaurant week. Many of the participating restaurants will continue their specials throughout the summer. Let someone else cook once in awhile!


  1. I just started making ice cream so I am looking forward to your lemon verbena version! I've already made ice cream with chocolate mint and today I'm taking on basil ice cream!

  2. I made a cantaloupe basil sorbet a few weeks ago that was a success. Infusing the basil in simple syrup was my approach. That is what I plan to do with the lemon verbena too. I will be very interested in how your basil ice cream turns out.


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