How to Nail the Off-Registry Wedding Gift? A Very Special Experience for Two

Going off-registry for a friend or family member’s wedding can be risky — best reserved for only daring friends who know the couple well. But for those who are up for the challenge, a thoughtful off-registry gift that truly complements the couple can the most meaningful. We got married this past December, and one of the more unexpected but happy surprises have been some of the off-registry wedding gifts from friends and family. Knowing my French husband Olivier and I love cheese and wine, one friend gave us gift cards to boutique shops we hadn’t yet tried in our neighborhood, Moore Brothers wine and Beechers cheese. Other friends gifted memberships to MoMA, so we can get our culture on a bit more (while there’s so much to do in New York you’re a boring person if you find yourself bored, it’s also easy to be lazy and miss some of the city’s many arts and culture offerings). But the coolest gift so far showed up at our door last night at 7pm: Dante Giannini, a personal chef to make a romantic dinner for two in our tiny Chelsea kitchen, making “farm to table with seasonal ingredients” in a “classic French/American” style. We had a moment: Olivier joked that now Dante’s cooked a three-course gourmet meal in our kitchen, I can’t complain anymore about not having enough space. Ha. But seriously, the meal he managed to cook on a counter space of less than two feet square was quite incredible. A few photos of our night:

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Creative use of space! All this fit in our kitchen.

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Braised pork chops…

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…plus a mint-yogurt sauce for the appetizer.

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The finishing touches…apple salad and truffle oil!

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Prepping the table: Decanting a Durigutti Malbec from Back Label wines + lots of candles = roooomaannncceeee.

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We finished every bite!

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Buttery sauteed mushrooms to top a lamb chop entree.

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Lamb chops with lentils, sauteed mushrooms, basalmic reduction. Delicious!

DSC_0464Homemade apple crumble ice cream and lemon tart. Tasted like cookie dough!

5-Course Gourmet Supper Club Goes Under the Table in Brooklyn

Olivier and I were invited to our first supper club — a private dinner by a pro chef held at someone’s apartment — yesterday night in Brooklyn. It was a five-course dinner with wine and beer pairings by Under the Table Brooklyn. I was seated next to Krista from TheLovelyBits.com and we had fun talking shop:

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And what a way to get introduced to supper clubs. This wasn’t just any way to stuff your pie hole — all of the proceeds went to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in the Philippines. Now that’s the way to feel good about your food!

Dinners by UTTB usually have themes. (One they recently hosted was an “Innards Dinner,” featuring all of the inner portions of animals — cow brain, tongue, intestintes, etc. Hey, when in Brooklyn, right!). But since this round all of the food was donated, the theme was, well…Top Chef New York: A couple of talented cooks doing an amazing job with limited ingredients. A few generous local vendors ponied up the goods, including classic lager from Brooklyn Brewery, fresh salmon from the Chelsea fish shop F. Rozzo & Sons, bone marrow from the old school SoHo New York butcher shop Pino’s Prime Meats, a variety of wines from the Brooklyn shop Slope Cellars, and something tasty from the South African NYC restaurant WOZA. Plus with a family donation of $100, our friend Sam went with Italian chef Matteo Boffo to the Park Slope Food Co-Op and bought the rest of the edibles, including fresh seasonal veggies and eggs.

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While the $100 price tag wasn’t cheap, I have yet to hear of any place in NYC that serves a gourmet five-course meal including wine pairings that comes anywhere close. And the food? Phenomenal! Here’s an overview, in pictures:

First course: Celery root puree. Homemade porcetta added robust depth and a satisfying saltiness, while chunks of sweet roasted turnip, braised fennel and pickled black radish gave the dish depth and texture. Yum!

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Second course: Cured salmon. This was my favorite! Matteo cured a chunk of salmon and an egg yoke, making them both fully “cooked” and safe to eat. What, exactly, is curing, you ask? (Well, I asked.) As Matteo explained, curing is an ancient food preparation where (typically) meats are coated in salt and/or sugar (both in this case) and left to sit out and “stew” for seven or eight hours. This process sucks out all the moisture, the same thing that happens when you cook over heat, and voila! The meat is prepared, just as safe as if you were to grill it over the BBQ or broil it in your stove. Even cooler, the process preserves the natural colors and texture of the meat, as you can see below. The salmon was tender and slightly chewy, and the yolk reminded me of candied (but not sweet) fruit. Honey-roasted beets added crunch, while cream cheese and candied lemon kicked in a little sour-and-tart. I’ve never eaten any dish quite like it.

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Third course: Saffron risotto. This was a simple dish with roasted bone marrow and parmesan, with saffron our friend Sam bought in a street market on a trip to India. A bit simple but a nice “palate-cleanser” (if you can call cheese and meat that, I just did) between courses.

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Fourth course: Coconut curry salmon. Some of the best curry I’ve ever had. More salmon, but the skin was decadent, deep-fried to a crisp. And the sauce. Oh my God the sauce: mushroom, green pepper, potato, cilantro, lime, lemongrass ginger, tumeric, and scallion. Everyone at that table probably thought I had hit up Mary Jane before dinner, but I swear something about it tasted like chocolate. Olivier said it was probably because my tastebuds just love chocolate so much that my brain tricks me to think anything I like must be the brown stuff. Possible. But Matteo humored me and said that curry actually DOES pair really well with white chocolate (even if it wasn’t in this dish). Anywhoo, whoa. Good stuff.

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Fifth course: Lavender & rosemary gelato. Homemade slightly-sweet but refreshing rosemary gelato. Over an soft, olive oil cake that reminded me of pound cake but richer. Drizzled in olive oil. With fried rosemary on top. Wow.

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When we left the apartment four hours after arriving, it felt about 10 degrees warmer (but still coldish at about 40), with a crazy foggy mist. An eerily beautiful end to a seriously indulgent night:

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