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A Summer Lunch at Bouley in New York

by The Wandering Epicures

Last visited: July 6, 2015

On July 6, 2015, Linda and I returned to Bouley for lunch to try dishes for my 75th birthday celebration at the Bouley Test Kitchen in three weeks. With us were our young neighbors in France, Luc and Gabriel.
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Linda and I had glasses of 2013 Viognier, Le Pied de Samson, by Georges Vernay. We enjoyed this, had a second glass with the fish courses and decided to choose it for the party.
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We were served a black seed baguette, a little round bread and  rich Beurre de Baratte from Normandy.
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The first of the three hors d’œuvres was
Blini of Scottish Smoked Salmon
Salmon Trout Roe, White Truffle Honey
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This was exquisite. The blini was light; the bait of honey was restrained and the evident truffle flavor counterbalanced its sweetness.

This was described as a tomato coulis, but it seemed soupier than that and had nice added spicing. There was a radish slice floating on top and fontina cheese at the bottom of the bowl.
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A kudzu crisp with aligoté and black truffle.
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Elegant and very good.

Gabriel started with
Hawaiian Hiramasa & Nantucket Blue Fin
Meyer lemon, passion fruit, fresh verbena
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Luc had the
Homemade Almond Soup
Glazed scallions

Linda and I had the
Malibu Sea Urchin
Green apple, Oscetra Caviar
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There was a generous portion of sea urchin at the bottom of this oversized shell. The green apple foam seemed excessively tart to me, overpowering the dish.

The bread cart arrived.
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I had a slice of hazelnut-pistachio bread. 

For the next course the other three had the
Porcini Flan
Golden Princess crab, black truffle dashi
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The porchini flan this season has Golden Princess crab instead of the Dungeness crab we enjoyed in the winter.  The combination provides a very flavorful crab dish with flan in the bottom of the dish.

I had the
Cage-Caught Chatham Tender Calimari
Chatham scallops, butter beans, aged balsamic
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The seafood was top quality and cooked just enough, but the balsamic vinegar and little red pepper flakes were overdone for such subtle ingredients.

We were offered an exquisite little extra course: a steamed quail egg with comté foam and Australian truffles. (If you want winter truffles in July, that is where you look.)
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The sommelier now served glasses of 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, Collelceto. Very good.
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Gabriel went on to
Organic Long Island Duck
Indian Reservation wild rice, wheat berries, black dates and Hand milled polenta
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Luc and Linda had the
All-Natural Pennsylvania Chicken
Baked “En Cocotte” with alfalfa, clover hay, organic butter beans, Brussels sprouts
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Linda was expecting a burst of alfalfa and hay aroma to arrive with the chicken, but the tender, skinless chicken arrived with just excellent butter beans,  puréed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. 

I had the
Organic Great Barrington Roast Pork
Apple cider vinegar, crispy angel hair, spicy arugula
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The pork and its glaze had a rich flavor, nicely counterbalanced by the arugula. But the “crispy” angel hair underneath was a soggy mess.

The pre-dessert was a white chocolate cloud with strawberries.
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The airy, frozen “cloud” dissolved quickly in the mouth, creating refreshing effect.

The first dessert for Linda and Gabriel was
Fresh Black Raspberries Gelato
Buckwheat sorbet
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The black raspberry gelato and buckwheat sorbet were delicious. The berries seemed so fresh that they reminded Linda of eating black raspberries long ago while picking them in the family farm patch in Ohio.

Luc and I had
Chilled Coconut Soup
Pineapple granité, 10 exotic fruit sorbet, passion fruit and coconut Ice cream
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Good tropical flavors.

For the second dessert Luc and Gabriel had
Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé
White coffee cloud, coffee ice cream, chocolate mousse
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Linda and I had
Hot Caramelized Anjou Pear
Valrhona chocolate, biscuit breton, hot toffee sauce
Huckleberry and Tahitian vanilla ice cream
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This was superb; the restrained caramel blended perfectly with the pear and chocolate elements. The little bowl of ice cream was a good complement. 

The mignardises tower finished things off.
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We had a very enjoyable, relaxing lunch. As is often the case, the starters and desserts outshone the main courses. We are still undecided which to chose for my party. The service was always good. The pace was slow, but that was suitable for the occasion.


9 February 2015

We had not been back to Bouley after its reopening in 2008 until we returned for dinner with Blair and Karyn on February 9, 2015. Bouley, named after its chef and owner, David Bouley, has had its ups, downs, closures and moves since its 1987 opening when it was soon considered by some to be New York’s finest restaurant. It is now ranked number two in NYC (after Le Bernardin) for food by Zagat, but only has one Michelin star, unusual for what is supposed to be a franco-centric guide.

After being seated in the lushly decorated dining room, we ordered a bottle of 2010 Benoît Lahaye Brut Nature Champagne. This Champagne without sugar dosage was crisp and a bit toasty. Very nice. The menu offers an option of a Prix Fixe of three courses, with many choices in each course, for $125. It also offers a Tasting Menu of six courses at $185. Unusually for a tasting menu, there are three choices for each course. (A cheese course can be added at a supplement.)  With the help of the sommelier we ordered a bottle of 2013 Cuilleron “La Petite Côte” Condrieu and a bottle of  2009 Serafin Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin. Both were very enjoyable and typical of their type.

The first amuse-gueule was a piece of salmon with Tasmanian mustard; the second was kudzu starch on a thin wafer topped with black truffle.

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These were nice, but one had to be careful not to take too much mustard for the mild salmon.  Blair said that his was completely covered in mustard and making it impossible to not have a mustard dominated bite. The second amuse was luscious.

Karyn’s first course was
Chilled Wellfleet Oysters
Yuzu, Miso, Meyer Lemon Cloud.
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The delicate tartness of the meyer lemon complemented the plump oysters.

Blair had
Hawaiian Hiramasa & Nantucket Blue Fin
Meyer lemon, fresh passion fruit, verbena olive oil dressing.
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The fruit sauce complemented the fish and wine well. 

Linda and I had
Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms
Sweet Garlic, Special Spices, Grilled Toro, Black Truffle Dressing.
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The various mushrooms had good earthy flavors, enhanced by the truffles and other flavorings. The toro tuna pieces were an unusual combination with the mushrooms, but seemed to work well.

At this point the bread cart with many varieties was wheeled up.
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We received thin slices of our selections. (I chose hazelnut/pistachio.) House-made creamy butter was provided.

We then received a small extra course of smoked sturgeon and salmon roe with Chinese mustard green.
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The smoking was evident and good. The server said there was herring in the dish, but we could not detect it.

Karyn’s next course was
Connecticut Organic Quail Egg,
Serrano Ham, Artichoke, Sunchoke, 24-Month Comté cloud.
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She said it was one of her favorite courses.  Rich balance of flavors.  

Linda and Blair had
Porcini Flan
Golden Princess Crab, Alaska Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi.
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There was abundant sweet crab meat underneath a savory dash. Truffle flavor complemented the dish and wasn’t overbearing. Very good.

Mine was
Hawaiian Spot Prawns in an Egg-less Ravioli
Pencil Malibu green asparagus, black truffle dressing.
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The server announced this as Scottish langoustine, which I think had been substituted and probably went better than shrimp with the earthy truffle flavor.

For the next course all four of us chose
Chatham Day Boat Lobster
Wood grilled, razor clams, tomato cardamom coulis, homemade fusilli pasta.
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The server announced the pasta to be chestnut gnocchi, which they were. The sauce was just right with some lobster stock and enough tomato to give some needed acidity, but not too much. 

Karyn went on to
Organic Long Island Duck
Indian Reservation Wild Rice, Wheat Berries, Black Dates, Hand Milled Polenta.
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The duck was perfectly cooked and the dates added a nice sweetness.

Blair chose
Grass Fed Tartare of Buffalo
crispy baby fingerling.
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The tartare was well executed. The fact it was buffalo was not evident given the preparation and other flavors involved. None the less it was an excellent tartare. Underneath was a bed of truffle shavings. 

Linda and I had
Organic Colorado Rack of Lamb
Biodynamic California eggplant, Swiss chard, Gewürtztraminer glazed Alsacian Munster.
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This dish was surprising in being almost entirely meat, which just a few garnishing touches. But the various cuts of lamb were perfectly cooked and delicious.

Linda’s pre-dessert was
Spiced Clementine Soup
Elderberry, yoghurt sorbet and tangerine, mandarine
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The elderberries and accompanying soup were delicious.

Three of us had
Chilled Coconut Soup
Pineapple granité, Amaretto ice cream.
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Well matched tropical flavors.

We all had
Santa Barbara Organic Fig Tart
glazed walnuts, wild huckleberry, buttermilk ice cream.
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Very good.

Since we had not ordered the chocolate option, one was placed in the middle of the table to share.
Hot Valrhona Chocolate Frivolous
Mandarin sorbet.
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This was what we would call in France a moelleux de chocolat with a mousse au chocolat alongside. It was good that we could share it as it would have been a very rich dessert for one.

A mignardises tower finished off the meal.
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We enjoyed ourselves during the entire evening. The ambiance is French and lush, without overdoing it. The tables are well spaced and the noise level low. The pace was right; the servers were efficient and attentive, although I found their descriptions of the complicated dishes, with occasional variations from the printed menu, too detailed to follow and remember. Well, the dishes were more complex than I prefer, but the flavors were all pulling in the same direction within a dish and were not overdone. In the previous two weeks Linda and I had been to two of New York’s three-Michelin-star high temples: Eleven Madison Park and Jean Georges. (No blog posts now.) I enjoyed Bouley more as the flavorings showed better balance, restraint and respect for the ingredients.

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