I have lived in NYC for nearly 11 years. The contrast of hearing crickets in the Santa Fe desert to the raucous cacophony of THE city when I first arrived was jarring to say the least, but now it seems strange to have it any other way.
Eleven years marks another milestone for me. While it is not the big ten, it is my 11th wedding anniversary, and the timing feels more suitable to celebration than last year. With that mindset I went about finding a place to enjoy toasting the occasion.
I am still easing my way back into formal dining, and the starched linens and such felt too serious. I needed a place that offered a celebratory vibe, but also where one can get a little bit more primal and eat meat straight off the bone. (There are no rules in 2021.)
I landed on The Dutch in SoHo.
Upon arrival I was immediately complimented on my dress by one of the three muses at the front door. It was shiny pale green silk with a tiny dragon print which had not seen the outside of my closet for nearly two years. As I was getting ready for the evening the routine felt foreign. How does one “gussy up” again?
My dining companion and I sat in the Oyster Room on what appeared to be reclaimed church pews. The pews had drilled holes in starburst patterns which made me immediately question the hostess seating us, “Are these benches also speakers?” They were not. The dark ceiling beams were overshadowed by glowing vintage orbs. On the side of the room was an unused raw bar – a sign that even though dining crowds are returning, not everything is back to usual routines.
The dinner began with the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail Crab Louie and Wagyu Steak Tartare. Chef Andrew Carmellini cleverly slips additional bands of flavor into his cuisine. The shrimp were not blandly poached as is so often found but rather, appeared to have been boiled in a seasoned broth of seafood stock. The Wagyu Steak Tartare flecked with crispy blue potatoes lacked the traditional raw egg yolk accompaniment but improved upon it by incorporating a Béarnaise Aioli.
My dining companion selected the Grilled Snapper – a healthy, light, summery, dish. I managed to sneak a bite but had had tunnel-vision for their signature Hot Fried Chicken – four crunchy, perfectly cooked pieces with two petite glossy honey butter biscuits, a little slaw and a bottle of homemade hot sauce. The chicken tasted more than chicken. It reminded me of a dinner that I attended at the home of a famous Bordeaux winemaker. It tasted like a real bird. Consistency wise, the chicken was plump and tender which led me to assume that it spent some time soaking in something good before gracing the plate. The seasoning was surprisingly subtle. While I personally enjoy more heat, that level played well with the 2017 Lieb Cellars Estate Sparkling Rosé and its delicate bubbles and notes of fresh red berries and stone fruit. The North Fork of Long Island bubbly was also an obvious natural pairing with the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail Crab Louie, but more surprising was the pairing with the Wagyu Steak Tartare. The tartare was rather light, fresh and elegant with an herbal and salty caper component which generated an affinity for the wine.
Gazing out of the window I remarked out loud how many suits were passing by. “I haven’t seen people walking by in suits in so long!” Lowering my gaze below the light blue striped awning, a neon hard seltzer ad that rhymes with Kite Flaw shines from the convenient store across the street next to graffiti and a skull mural. By now several of those suits have filled the place along with families reuniting after a long time apart. Everyone is jovial and the mood is hopeful.
I looked to my husband and noticed that his n95 mask folded in his top pocket had formed into an unintentional pocket square and looked both dapper and oddly resilient. We tucked into the caramel custard, coconut shaved ice and strawberries, and then slipped back into the city past throngs of outdoor dining fans. Out into a city, grateful to dine once again.
Heading to Vermont
Soon I will be using my sniffer for judging again after an extended pause on the wine competition circuit. My nose brings me places that I never dared to dream – next Vermont where I am heading to judge my first non-commercial wine contest.
The 2021 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition by WineMaker Magazine is being held at The Grand Summit Resort Hotel & Conference Center in Mount Snow, West Dover, Vermont. Billed as the “World’s Largest Competition for Hobby Winemakers,” entries will come from all around the world with one thing in common – no professionals allowed.
There will be wines made from Native American varieties, French-American Hybrids, and the more typical Vitis Vinifera. I will also encounter beverages created by fruits other than grapes, as well as those made from flowers, vegetables and honey. Wine kits will be pitted against fresh fruit in similar categories. I will face dry wines, sweet wines and all in-between wines, fortified styles and sparkling and cider.
Some of my earliest days were spent making blackberry and dandelion wine with my dad. I look forward to providing feedback to those wishing to improve and rewarding ones who are currently excelling.
Thanks for reading!
Aimée Lasseigne New
NYC Brand Ambassador