New York BIRTHDAY!!! Weekend!

There is nothing like celebrating your birthday in New York City. The lights, smells, and sights are something that for anyone who hasn’t been there, it is wonderful to experience! Since it is not polite to reveal one’s age ( cough,31, cough), I will not bemoan on getting older. Everyone should know by now how much I enjoy good food and good wine. One of my favorite television cooking shows is Iron Chef on the Food Channel. So for this weekend trip we made reservations at two of my favorite Iron Chef’s restaurants, Gato, owned by Iron Chef Bobby Flay, and Butter, owned by Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. We also had to visit another favorite restaurant of ours, Robert, located atop The Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle. And last but certainly not least, we always have to stop in the historic St. Regis Hotel and have a cocktail at the also historic King Cole Bar. Let the culinary journey begin!

We had to  change our reservation at Gato to a later time because our train from Philadelphia was running late. My fiance, Eric, called Gato and prayed that they actually had a later time available…on a Friday night…in New York City. Fingers crossed. Good fortune shined down on us! The host was so polite and understanding. He said even if we were still running a little late, they’d hold our table!

Long story short, we finally arrived in New York City and our excellent cab driver got us to Gato just about on time. The front staff were so nice and friendly when we walked inside. They were glad we made it and so were we! The restaurant decor and layout is beautiful. I’d say it was rustic yet cozy and intimate. Low lighting, exposed brick ceiling and there is a decent sized bar right in the middle of the restaurant with seating all around. We were shown to our table by manager Rebecca Gaggatt. She really went out of her way to make our dinner special. I have to say again, all the employees at Gato were incredibly warm and friendly.

We started out with a drink from the bar. Eric ordered the Lorenzo, made with Hendricks gin, Manzanilla sherry, St. Germain and cucumber. He said it was probably the best gin cocktail he’s ever had and after I had a sip, I’d have to agree. If you love gin, plan a trip to Gato and order this drink. Outstanding! I started with a glass of Cremant D’Alsace, Brut Rose, Lucien Albrecht from Alsace, France. It’s a sparkling wine made the same way as champagne but the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Delicious!

Now to our appetizers! We started with their fresh ricotta, broccoli rabe pesto and house made focaccia. Eat this and you’ll never look at fresh ricotta the same again! It was so creamy and delicious. Add the fresh broccoli rabe pesto and the perfect bread paring for this, house made focaccia, and you understand why. Amazing! If it couldn’t get better, it soon did. We also ordered their roasted octopus, sour orange, bacon, oregano and shishito pepper dish. It’s a Gato favorite with the patrons and staff and I can see why! Oh my God! We’ve had octopus before but never as outstanding as this tonight! This takes octopus to another level. It was perfectly seared on the outside yet tender and tasty on the inside. It was perfect! We could have just ordered this all night and been satisfied but our entrees were next.

For our entrees, we ordered the tarragon chicken with crispy potatoes, goat cheese, dandelion and the charred beef with, Valdeon blue cheese, brown butter, red wine, broccoli rabe-ferro. The tarragon chicken was tender and juicy. The goat cheese was a great touch to counterbalance the tarragon. The charred beef was a bit overcooked to my liking but it was still absolutely delicious and the ferro was outstanding. And of course, with a great entree you need a great wine to go with it. We ordered a 1995 baga blend, tinto reserva, Quinta Do Poco De Lobo from Portugal. Yes, a 1995 red. The price was incredibly reasonable and the wine was amazing. With the seasoning and spices of our entrees, this wine was silky and smooth. A perfect balance. But I’m not done yet with Gato. Dessert is next!

For dessert, we ordered the dark chocolate and toasted almond torte served with a port gelato. Yes, it was as good as it sounds and even better. Chocolate and almond just pair so well and this didn’t disappoint. Add port gelato and you’ve died and gone to dessert heaven. It was the perfect end to a fantastic meal. And as a surprise, before we left, manager Rebecca Gaggatt took us on a mini tour of the kitchen and let us meet the chef that cooked our meal.

Gato exceeded our expectations. From the friendly staff, the warm, rustic decor, the food, drinks, everything was what you would expect from a restaurant owned by Iron Chef Bobby Flay. Don’t miss out. Next time you are in New York City, go to Gato. You will not be disappointed. Next up on the list, a Saturday morning birthday brunch at Robert on Columbus Circle.

For those unfamiliar with Robert, please familiarize yourself with them as soon as possible! This is already one of our favorite restaurants in New York. It’s located atop the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle and the views alone are worth the visit. Add the incredible service and food, and my friends, you have perfection. The attention to detail at Robert is outstanding. The front staff and waitstaff are so incredibly nice. Make sure when you reserve a table, that you ask for a table overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park. The views are so beautiful you may find yourself starring out the window for most of your meal.

A little background on Robert and us. Last year for my birthday, Eric Googled restaurants close to the Lincoln Center since we had tickets to see the ballet, Sleeping Beauty. He found Robert and made a reservation on my birthday for dinner. We had an incredible meal where our server brought out a chocolate cake with my name written in chocolate and a candle. This alone made them favorites of ours and we’ve always made a point to go back whenever we are in the city. Back to brunch.

To start my birthday brunch, we ordered the Isabell. It is made with Prosecco and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. It’s garnished with an edible violet. It’s almost to pretty to drink but we did and enjoyed the light effervesce immensely. For our entrees, I ordered the lobster Benedict and Eric ordered the classic eggs Benedict. Both were amazing! The lobster melted in my mouth. The hollandaise sauce was whipped to perfection. Even the english toast was beautifully crispy! To end a wonderful birthday brunch, we skipped dessert but our server brought out mini chocolate cakes for us to enjoy. This, my friends, is service to perfection. Please go to Robert whenever you visit New York. Go for brunch, dinner, whatever. You will not be disappointed! Now to the St. Regis for a quick cocktail and snack.

The St. Regis. What more can be said about this historic landmark. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean. Even if you are staying somewhere else, the staff treat you like royalty. One of these days, we’ll try staying here but for now, we always visit and go to the King Cole Bar. The bar is a historic landmark. And again, look it up and you’ll see what I mean. We kept it simple and ordered their charcuterie board which was delicious. I ordered a glass of La Porte Du Ceillou Sancerre and Eric ordered a Midsummer made with Bombay Sapphire gin, St. Regis cabernet, St. Germain and grapefruit juice. Everything as usual was delicious. The King Cole Bar is so warm and cozy you will want to stay for hours. And the fact that you are in a historic location, you’ll definitely want to stay for hours. Now, on to the my favorite Iron Chef’s restaurant. The place I’ve been dying to go to and now my wait is over. It’s time to have my birthday diner at Butter!

Butter is owned by Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. To me, she is the GOAT (greatest of all time). She can take the simplest of ingredients and make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Whatever you have in your pantry, she can show you how to make a wonderful meal without having to spend a fortune on extra ingredients. She comes across as down to earth, not flashy or showy. Someone who can be your best friend but also put the fear of God in you. She is a world renowned, highly respected Iron Chef. What’s not to like? But, back to her restaurant, Butter!

When you first walk in to Butter, you have to go downstairs. You are immediately met by a wonderful hostess and taken to your table. We were seated at a corner booth that overlooked the entire restaurant. It may have helped a little that Eric told them that this was my birthday! The service was second to none. We started with the Purple Paradise. This single drink actually serves two people! It’s made with hibiscus infused absolut elyx, absolut citron, berry liqueur, shiso, yuzu, lemon and prosecco. Who comes up with these drinks!? The best part was that it was served in a chilled pineapple rose gold container. The presentation was stunning and the taste was delicious. It had everything, citrus, lightness and sweetness. It was perfect and it came with two straws! Bottoms up!!!

Now for our appetizers. We truly indulged. First we ordered their oysters on the half shell, a full dozen. It consisted of both east and west coast daily selection of fresh oysters. It was served with a miso mignonette, serrano chili vinegar and a house made cocktail sauce. Best oysters we’ve ever had? Yes. The accruements that accompanied the oysters were great individually and combined. The balance of brininess of the oysters paired beautifully with the citrus spice that the oysters were paired with.

Next, we ordered the stuffed Northshire Farms shishito peppers. It came with lime, sour cream and smoked shallot dip. The smoked shallot was a perfect compliment to the spiciness of the shishito peppers.

For our entrees, I had the “Tiffany’s” of entrees. I got Creekstone Farms New York strip steak. This steak came perfectly cooked medium rare. It came with roasted hen of the wood mushrooms and tarragon butter. Now I’ve had a lot of steaks. Paired with a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Lou Frejau 2010, I literally started to cry. It was beautiful. It’s what a perfect steak and perfect wine should be. Oh, and I need to add this as well. The steak was not a typical 8oz cut. This baby was at least a 12oz cut. I couldn’t finish it but it tasted just as great the very next night for leftovers. Eric ordered the pan roasted chicken breast with whipped Japanese sweet potatoes and sage. Again, this was avery large chicken breast and he couldn’t finish his either! The chicken was juicy, buttery and tender. The sweet potatoes were perfect. Not too sweet but nice and creamy. Now on to dessert!

For dessert, we ordered their double chocolate cake with a meringue on top along with a house made whipped cream. Along with dessert, we ordered two glasses of 100 year old Grand Marnier. Yes, I said 100 year old! It paired beautifully with the chocolate cake. A perfect end to a perfect birthday dinner. We liked Butter so much that we went back for brunch the next morning before leave to go back to Philadelphia.

Brunch at Butter. Come with a full appetite and empty stomach. You won’t leave hungry. Remember when I said she takes the simplest ingredients and makes you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven, brunch is what I meant by that. Eggs were perfect. Fennel sausage was decadent. Skirt steak melted in our mouths like, well, like butter! Both salads were gorgeous. The sexy smoked salmon was gone in minutes. Breads, pastries, fruits, you name it, Butter had it. Top the brunch off with a carafe of their peach mimosa and freshly brewed coffee, and you are set. We spent the better part of two hours eating through the entire menu. Or at least we tried. It was simply delicious. The best part? It’s only $40 per person, all you can eat. Come hungry my friends, come hungry.

I have to add one final note about Butter. The decor of the restaurant is stunning. It’s spacious, modern yet warm and inviting. The dining area is big and spacious as well as their bar area. You can also purchase a signed Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli cookbook if you so desire. We were hoping to meet her that night but out hostess informed us that she’s been busy taping new episodes of Iron Chef. Hopefully next time we go, I’ll finally be able to meet her!

Dinner at Gato!


Birthday brunch at Robert!



Cocktails and a snack at the St. Regis’ King Cole Bar!



Dinner at Butter!



Brunch at Butter!


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