Last updated on February 9th, 2015
As with most parts of our relationship, my husband and I ended up with a much better anniversary tradition than we would have if we planned it from the start. See, I unintentionally started this little game with our anniversary dinners when I started thinking about how we would celebrate our first one back in 2006.
That first year, Dan and I went to Hearth for the simple and selfish reason that I had never been and really wanted to sit in the pass. We had such a rocking time that for our second, we decided to keep the Marco Canora theme going and tried Insieme, which had opened a few months earlier. Terroir, Marco and Paul Grieco’s wine outpost in the East Village, seemed a bit too casual for the third anniversary dinner, so we ended up at Craft, Tom Colicchio’s flagship and the spot where Marco won his James Beard award. And where we completely overordered, but that’s another story.
So to keep the lineage going, what to do for the fourth anniversary? Craftsteak, Craftbar… reduced to dinner at ‘wichcraft? Or how about taking it all back to the beginning, to the granddaddy of New York greenmarket cuisine: Gramercy Tavern, where Tom made his name starting way back in 1994 and Marco got his original start.
It was a pretty nice build-up over the years, and I can’t believe it took me this long to sit down and have a proper meal. The campfire associations from the open hearth at the expediting station and the ersatz Shaker and Colonial Americana decor touches brought me up to New England, while Dan felt more like we were back on our honeymoon in Northern California with the mural in the front Tavern Room, the dining room’s whitewashed walls, and the ironwork details above doorways.
Corkage at Gramercy Tavern is a reasonable $35, but when perusing the wine list earlier in the week (yes, I’m one of those people who read menus ahead of time) I found a 2007 Anthill Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, which had been tickling the back of my mind ever since I read a Food & Wine recommendation. At $78, it was low enough to make me switch gears and abandon our bottle of Barolo at home for another evening.
Everything was hands-down phenomenal, but my two favorite courses were appetizer and dessert. One of the starter specials that evening was an egg crepe with Maine crab and corn (I see now that it’s made it onto the regular menu). The crepe was more of a pasta square, like the “kerchief” you get with your poached egg at Prune, into which was folded a warm pile of my favorite crustacean. What sealed the deal here was the acidity of lime zest and what tasted to me like tarragon, little flavor elements that kept the filling from verging on too rich or too starchy and bringing a real roundness to the dish.
As we were slowly taking care of the last bites of our mains (crispy duck breast with bok choy and olives for the lady, beef sirloin and flatiron with a smoked eggplant, tomato and corn confit for the gentleman), something caught Dan’s eye across the room and he yelped, “Sundae!” Yes, folks, it was a blueberry sundae with corn ice cream and toffee popcorn. I’m a huge fan of mixing savory and sweet, and the ice cream retained enough of its cornbread taste to mix with the chunky blueberry sauce. To bring the savory elements into higher relief, the sundae was topped with a dollop of black pepper whipped cream.
As a final gesture, the kitchen was kind enough to give each of us separate tastes of petits fours—Dan is allergic to tree nuts, so he was spared certain doom by macaroon and given his own little selection instead. We left, toting our to-go bags of ginger caramel coffee cake for the next day (also a signature Union Square Hospitality Group touch; they do it at Eleven Madison Park too), just full enough to resist digging into them as we took a late romantic stroll on the High Line before heading back to the suburbs.
Year Five suggestions, anyone?