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Frozen_milkOne night last week, I made an appointment with Pastry Chef Nancy Olsen at Peacock Alley in The Waldorf Astoria – New York to get the lowdown on her “Frozen Milk”, an accompaniment to her signature Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake. I wasn’t really sure what to expect since I was going solo. Dinner? Ahhh dining alone; so exquisitely vulnerable. Dessert tasting? More than happily obliged.
Upon arrival, the hostess greeted me and proceeded to take my coat. Once announced, I was escorted to the kitchen for the private demo. I have worked in and around restaurant kitchens before, but each time I am simply in awe. This is where the magic happens. This is where the secrets rest.
I’d met Nancy only once before at an event and knew right away that we’d get along. She is small in stature and her eyes shine with the future. She is excited about what she does…and it shows in her work.
After saying our hellos, she welcomed me around the pastry counter to unveil her wondrous contraption – the PacoJet®. If any reps of PacoJet® should be reading this, please call Nancy asap and offer her a highly paid endorsement as she is one of the best spokespersons I have ever met. While my version is not nearly as exciting as hers, I was amazed at the ease at which she produced Frozen Milk & Banana sorbet – within a matter of minutes. You create your mixture for ice milk by stovetop, place it in a bleaker, and freeze it. Snap it into the PacoJet and sharp blades chop it up resulting in a smooth & delicious accompaniment to decadent chocolate cake – so much better than an icy cold glass of milk. Really. I tasted, I collected my data, and I proceeded to the bar where Nancy encouraged me to sit for cocktails and treats.
I began with a Millionaire’s Martini. Instead of plain olives or onions, I enjoyed the addition of two green olives stuffed with bleu cheese. OK, this is good. Bartender Nick brought me over some black olives soaked in cabernet, and almonds toasted in espresso. Soon scallops appeared before me with shiitake mushrooms and a sweet mango sauce, along with tuna tartare sushi with mustard oil, avocado, and apple, wrapped in rice paper.
After downing my martini and beautiful savories, I was presented with two glorious cocktails: a lemony-milky martini called Five-Star to marry with the oh-my-God-soft-as-a-down-pillow lemon soufflé, and a Chocolatini to kiss the elegance of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake and Frozen Milk. In addition, Bar Manager Frank Caiafa introduced me to Tuaca, a Northern Tuscany liqueur flavored with vanilla and citrus, what he promises as the perfect accompaniment to the lemon soufflé. I did manage to leave the bar safely, though at the time I warned them about preparing me a cot in the back, just in case.
Dining alone wasn’t so troublesome as about half-way through my tasting an adorable couple, Mel and Eileen from London, joined me at the bar for white wine and Manhattans. For what seemed to me in the beginning as a jaunt to Peacock Alley for research turned into hours of fascinating and personable conversation.
It was a Tuesday evening, and yes I ended up not getting home until about 1AM. Perfect. While I may never have sauntered into this bar/restaurant, unless staying at The Waldorf Astoria, I will definitely return – preferably not on a weeknight however.
In other news, I attended The World Chocolate Tasting: An International Chocolate Extravaganza on March 8, held at the 92 St Y and discovered some very interesting tidbits. My favorites: Kee Ling Tong’s, Kee’s Chocolates, dark truffles in black and white sesame seeds; SerendipiTea’s chocolate bit-filled teas; and, Crave’s Sinful Truffle (bittersweet chocolate ice cream with a splash of Grand Marnier).
Also, C-CAP was recently held at Pier Sixty – Chelsea Piers in New York. This year’s honoree was Thomas Keller of Per Se/French Laundry fame. Star foodie jaunts such as Aquavit, BLT, Fauchon, Payard, Le Bernardin, Blue Hill, and AD Restaurant at the Essex House, among others, provided tastings to benefit future culinary arts professionals.
Saturday afternoon, I had a lunch with a friend at Daniel Boulud’s almighty Café Boulud, and honestly I was not impressed.
The interior is beautiful and very dignified, as well as the clientele. However, I expected a more flavorful cuisine. I had the Tuna Tartare with Black Truffles, which was bland and oily, and the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with Winter Black Truffles and Brussels Sprouts, which again was bland and fairly greasy. Let’s just say that due to the weight I was beginning to feel in the pit of my stomach, I could not finish my meal. The only saving grace was the Mirabelle Eau de Vie, which transported me back to a certain lazy, wintery vacation at Courchevel in the Alps. Maybe it was the day, maybe it was a stand-in chef, but whatever the case, I was disappointed after hearing all the hype attached. One star Michelin? I don’t agree. I must say that my guest and I were well taken care of by the staff, and I truly appreciate that. However, unfortunately, that is not everything.
Last night’s French Tuesdays’ 3rd Anniversary party proved a giant Laurent-Perrier splash. The line following the sidewalk of Tavern on the Green, where the party was held, was evidence enough. Champagne was poured, bodies were bougéd, and a rough Wednesday morning was reported by many, including my friend Carolyn and myself.
There may be a few outings planned for this week, so we’ll see how they go over. No matter what the experience, it’s always very exciting to try out the culinary wonders of New York City. I’ll keep you posted. Have a delicious day!

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