Manhattan Meals #1: Bouchon Bakery
Last week, B and I went down to Manhattan for a short little “mini vacation.” I had to go down for my regularly scheduled post-transplant CT scan, and we thought “well, why not try to have a little fun while we’re there?” After all, most of the time I’ve spent in Manhattan thus far has been tied to all the cancer stuff — so a little enjoyment of the city was long overdue! So, we spent an overnight in midtown, and had a great lunch and dinner. Today I’ll tell you about where we had lunch, and dinner is next!
(Oh, and before I get too much further: I had a completely clean CT — which was wonderful, fabulous, thrilling news!)
When I was thinking about this little trip and trying to decide where I wanted to eat — because, let’s face it, you know that was the only thing I was thinking about! — I knew without a doubt the first place we were going to try was Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Mmm, mm, mm, mm, mm. If I could eat lunch here every day, I would.
The restaurant is in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, in a big open area on the third floor of the mall. There’s a gigantic Samsung sign hanging over the dining area — slightly distracting, but not enough so that you don’t notice the awesome views of the city and Central Park out the huge facade of windows behind it:
In addition to the seating area, there’s also a takeout counter — how perfect would it be to pick up a sandwich and some sweets and head across the street to Central Park for a picnic? (Pretty perfect.) It was hot and muggy the day we were there, though, so we decided to linger a bit, get a table, and enjoy the air conditioning.
Peeking into the kitchen…
Do you ever eat out somewhere and wish you had multiple stomachs so you could order everything on the menu? That’s exactly how I felt.
I was torn between the vegetable jardiniere on toasted multigrain, the CB&J on toasted brioche (um, hello, can we talk about this for a second? Cashew butter? homemade apricot jam?? homemade toasted brioche??? In other words, this is PB&J’s upper-crust, super special cousin. I was seriously tempted.) — and the quiche. If you read The Soul of a Chef, you’ll probably the remember the section where Ruhlman spends time with Thomas Keller in the French Laundry kitchen out in Napa, and learns about Keller’s constant pursuit of perfection. I’d read that Bouchon’s quiches were an embodiment of this perfection — that Keller is a bit of a “quiche freak.” Well, then! For me, it was definitely going to be the quiche.
The quiche of the day was Quiche Florentine, with spinach and Emmental cheese. This was seriously the best quiche I’ve ever eaten. It was rich yet super light, quiveringly custardy, with a deliciously delicate, caramelized brown crust. It came with a side salad of simply dressed fresh greens.
B ordered the turkey sandwich — pepper crusted turkey with braised bacon (!), roquefort aioli and lettuce. All the breads were baked right there, and this one was a yummy rye.
After our great lunch, we decided to stop by the bakery to pick up some treats to bring back to the hotel with us. Above the bakery counter, there’s a mural that says “Le Porte bonheur du matin” — sadly, I don’t speak French (though I want to learn it), so maybe one of you can help me with the translation. When I looked up a translation online, the gist seemed to be “The Door to Happiness in the Morning.” Does that sound right? it sure sounds right to me, based on all the delicious pastries they had there! If I lived near Bouchon Bakery, it would be my door to happiness each morning.
Walking in line to pick out some goodies, the first thing you see are the beautiful crusty loaves of bread.
Next, we come to the case with sandwiches for takeout — up top, there was a some type of pizza or focaccia; below, some of their ham and cheese sandwiches on baguettes (plus, I was tickled to see those French hermetic terrines that I adore), then some other delicious-looking sandwiches below.
And now we come to the breakfast pastries. Oh my. “Door to happiness in the morning” is right.
And finally: here’s what I was looking for! The dessert case!! Macarons, tarts, cookies, cupcakes, eclairs, opera cake, parfaits…a girl could die a happy death surrounded by these beauties.
If you have dabbled at all in blog reading over the past year or so, you know that everyone has gone ga-ga for macarons, it seems (not the coconut macarOONS, but the chewy French cookie made with almond flour, of endless flavors, sandwiching a creamy filling – the macaRON.)
Anyway, I’d never tried a macaron. They’re on my list to try my hand at baking this year, but I figured Bouchon’s macarons would probably be a good place to start for my first macaron experience. They had chocolate, vanilla, and caramel….
Along with three seasonal flavors: peaches & cream, something strawberry, and “fruits of the forest” (i.e. mixed berries.)
About this time, I was really beginning to regret that it was already 2:30 and we had dinner reservations a few hours later. Doesn’t this fruit tart look gorgeous? I think those gilded metallic green “leaf”-like things are pistachios. Neat.
I picked out my treats, and as I was checking out, happened to see these dog treats…biscuits infused with foie gras!
So what did we eat? I picked out two macarons – chocolate and the “fruits of the forest,” just because I liked that phrase. These were mega macarons — about 2 inches in diameter, not the little buttons I’ve seen in pictures on other blogs. They were delicious: very light crust, soft and cakey underneath the crust, chewy more towards the center…I could have even taken a *bit* more filling, but what there was was delicious, and I really had no point of comparison, this being my first macaron tasting. Here’s the fruits of the forest macaron (I ate the chocolate one before I could snap a picture): the lighting in this picture doesn’t show it, but it was a pretty shade of lavender.
Of course I had to get a bouchon at Bouchon Bakery! Bouchon translates to “cork” in French, and that’s exactly what these little brownie-like chocolates resembled. Delicious.
And finally, a TKO – Thomas Keller’s Oreos. And oh, what an oreo it was! Delicate, crumbly, ultra-chocolatey cookies holding a smooth layer of vanilla buttercream between them…these were really great. Another example (as with the CB&J) of Keller elevating a childhood favorite to something very chic and adult.
So all in all, it was a really memorable lunch and one that I plan on repeating when we go down again. After all, I have to do my research and taste some of the other dessert offerings, right?
Ten Columbus Circle, Third Floor
New York, NY 10019