A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"


Per Se – Twelve Steps to Heaven

October 21st, 2004

Earlier this year Thomas Keller, the famed chef from The French Laundry in Napa Valley, opened Per Se in the new Time Warner Center in N.Y.C. The restaurant opened with much fanfare, and I am happy to report that it exceeded my expectations. Per Se is not a restaurant for dinner, it is a destination for a culinary experience.

The restaurant is chic and elegant with beautiful views of Central Park. It is quite small, and rather formal with white tablecloths, custom china, and the finest crystal. The wait staff is very well trained and attentive, but I am happy to say they’re not intrusive or without personality.

Per Se is a mecca for food. Before you even look at the menu, you are poured a glass of Champagne. The chef then sends out two “tastes” to awaken your palate. The first is a baked cheese puff that is so light it could float. Then you are served a tiny cone filled with crème fraiche and topped with salmon. The waiter then describes several tasting menus, with five courses being the smallest. We opted to let the chef decide, and we also gave the sommelier free reign to pair wines with each course. There were a total of twelve courses, fourteen if you count the two initial tastes, and the food was spectacular. What made it even more interesting is that although my wife and I were eating the same dishes, they were often prepared in two very different ways.

The simple dishes like the celery or winter squash soups excelled because they exploded with flavor. Although all twelve courses were each outstanding, two were truly special because of the unique food pairings. The first, called “Oysters and Pearls” , had two oysters the size of peas, that are cultivated specifically for Chef Keller, in a sabayon topped with Iranian Ossetra caviar. The other dish, “Macaroni n’ Cheese”, was a Nova Scotia Lobster tail with a creamy lobster broth served on a mascarpone – enriched orzo. Did I tell you I was in heaven?

What made this meal enter the stratosphere were the wine pairings. The wines were not extremely expensive, just well chosen. A few of the more unique pairings were: sake with caviar, sherry with the truffle dishes, late harvest viognier with foie gras, and sagrantino passito (red dessert wine) with chocolate.

Did we eat and drink too much? Absolutely. But this meal was amazing. I will remember this dining experience for the rest of my life. If you like food and wine half as much as I do, and have a special occasion to celebrate, then you must go to Per Se.


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