Thursday, February 12, 2009

NYC Birthday Blowout: Part One

by Xani

And the celebrating keeps right on happening! The morning of my birthday, EP and I jumped on a train and headed to NYC for a weekend of fun, friends, family, and of course, FOOD. The train ride was uneventful (except when EP told the conductor it was my birthday, and he announced it over the intercom to the ENTIRE TRAIN! "Alexandra, Alexandra... happy birthday Alexandra"), and when we arrived in the city, we headed straight to our hotel where I found this wonderful surprise!

Pink champagne and cupcakes, care of my fabulous sister.

The cupcakes were from Billy's, and while we didn't eat them right away (didn't want to spoil our lunch... see below), we ate them later and they were fantastic. The champagne went down easy as we got ready for dinner that night (see further below!)

So yeah, lunch. We met up with cousin Ann and headed down to Prune, of bone marrow and bloody mary fame. After a short wait, we were seated in the totally cute, tiny, old-time-y space. Mosaic-tiled floors, antique mirrors, and an open kitchen make this place feel so homey and special at the same time. They brought out a little dish with celery sticks (ew) and ripe olives for us to nibble as we looked over the menu. And I ordered what is now my new favorite cocktail, a "Ghost of Mary." (They don't do their famous bloody marys except during weekend brunch.) This "essence" of a bloody mary is everything you love about the breakfast drink, without all the pesky tomato pulp weighing you down. I am totally making these come tomato season!

Onto the food. Unfortunately the bone marrow is not available at lunch (foiled again!) but the menu had lots of other intriguing options. We ended up ordering:

  • Cold spicy eggplant, fried salt cod, hard boiled egg
  • James Beard's onion sandwich with fried chicken livers

  • Pasta kerchief, poached egg, french ham, pine nuts

  • Potatoes, one way or another

Readers, its going to be tough to describe these dishes. They were all so unusual, it's like there's nothing to compare them to! All the flavors were familiar, but combined in ways I'd never tasted before. The presentations were beautiful, but not too pretty to eat. And everything was damn yummy.

The eggplant was like a crazy interpretation of baba ghanoush, but with totally wild flavors (hot sesame oil, we think?), and a perfectly cooked, almost hard-boiled egg.

The onion sandwich was, as predicted, raw onion (very sweet ones) and lots of butter (of course, it's James Beard's sandwich, after all) on lovely white bread. The fried chicken livers were excellent, and put the ones we sometimes get at Lexington market to shame!

The potatoes, which we ordered "another" way, as a cold szechaun potato salad, instead of "one way" (fries), were... interesting. The weakest dish of all, the cold shreds of potato seemed a little undercooked to us.

But the pasta... oh, the pasta. This dish was incredible. Two extra thin sheets (kerchiefs) of pasta, with a perfectly poached egg in between, in a pool of rich buttery broth, with ham and pine nuts and big shards of Parmesan cheese, as a bonus. HEAVEN.

While Prune was cozy and delicious enough to keep us happy all afternoon (and possibly all weekend) we had more eating to do! We were just blocks from Butter Lane cupcakes, and even though we had cupcakes waiting for us back at the hotel, we just couldn't resist stopping in...

Butter Lane is highly praised on Cupcakes Take the Cake blog, and one of their features is a icing tasting bar where you can sample all their freshly made icings, then order the cupcakes you want and they are iced to order! We got a small sampling:

Excellent cupcakes. We particularly liked the french vanilla icing (made with egg whites and sugar) and the raspberry (very fresh tasting). The banana cupcake with cream cheese frosting was waaay to sweet for me!

After a couple hours of rest back at the hotel, it was time to drink the champagne, get glam, and head out to dinner at Five Points. I have to give a big shout out to fellow (former) Baltimore blogger Roopa, of Raspberry Eggplant , who came to my rescue when I was scrambling to find a birthday dinner restaurant, and gave me several recommendations, all of which sounded fabulous. I settled on Five Points and it turned out to be PERFECT. Gorgeous setting (with pretty trees and a babbling brook through the center of the restaurant), really fabulous food, and... competent service (our waitress was fine but boring-- also someone had sent two bottles of Prosecco to the table and it took the waitress half an hour to hunt down who they were from! Finally the mystery was solved-- thanks to my wonderful friend Hayley for sending them!!). Everything we ate and drank at Five Points was delicious, but the real joy of the evening was the company. Ann, Steven, Lauren, Brian, and EP were such wonderful dining companions! We all ate, drank, talked, laughed and generally had a fantastic time. Here's the food porn:

Amazing gnocchi appetizer

Risotto cakes

Wood-oven pizzetta with potatoes and truffle oil!

my favorite bivalve...

Gotta have burgers

Brined double cut Berkshire pork chop

Ricotta Cavatelli

No ordinary chicken

Birthday smiles...

and wishes!

After our lovely meal, it was time to hit the town! Before the night got too blurry, we headed to 230 5th, solely because of their winterized rooftop deck which includes warm drinks, space heaters, and.... wait for it... ROBES! Hundreds and hundreds of robes for guests to snuggle up in! We loved the robes!

Really, really loved them....

We really didn't love the plastic-ware they served the drinks in, the weird seating policy in the lounge, the snooty waitresses, or the horrible music. So we bailed and went to make merry in nameless Irish bars near our hotel. We capped off the night with a couple of Billy's cupcakes back at the hotel (How were they? Don't remember. But I'm gonna go with AMAZING, as I'm sure they were at the time).

And that was my birthday! And it was so fun and memorable. Thank you so much to everyone who made it special-- love you!

Coming up, more fun and food in NYC!



  1. Ooooo. I have been dying to eat at Prune ever since The Amateur Gourmet started bloggin about it. And then the chef beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef! Curse you eastern seaborders and your easy proximity to each other. Where am I gonna go? Indianapolis?

  2. So...that cocktail has tomato water in it, I'm guessing?

  3. If you put the robe on backwards, it can be a Snuggie. I went to 230 for a work holiday party. It was fun since everything was free, but I don't think I'd go back.


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