Earlier this week, I was graced with a once in a lifetime opportunity: I was able to tour the kitchen at Per Se. Rebecca, a classmate of mine from culinary school, is doing an internship there and she took Clare (another classmate) and me through the entire, multi-roomed back of the house. It was the most pristine, well-organized, meticulously staffed place I have ever seen. The pastry section alone was a wonderland of chocolate molds, and bagged nut brittle in neat rows, tied off with thin black ribbons. They even have a special room that is colder for tempering chocolate. While I have not been in that many professional kitchens in my life, I can safely say that there is no topping the one at Per Se.
Like all good ladies who lunch, we started our meal with some bellinis. I thought they were spot on, not to sweet from the peach, and not too dry from the Prosecco.
I ordered the Vegetable Jardiniere On Toasted Multigrain roasted eggplant, portobello mushrooms, fennel bulb, red onions & roasted sweet bell peppers with gruyere cheese. The bread managed to be dense and satisfying in a way that only multigrain can be, yet light at the same time due to the fact that it was perfectly toasted. All of the vegetables were tasty, though some were cut a little too big/thick and either fell out or were hard to bite into. The fennel was my favorite touch. That said, put gruyere on most anything and I’ll eat it.
Clare ordered Hearts of Romaine grilled chicken breast, pickled red onions, creamy parmesan dressing & shaved botarga. She proclaimed her order “boring” when she placed it, but, a few bites in, she seemed very pleased with her choice.
Rebecca started with the soup of the day which was a cold corn soup. I am not a huge fan of cold soups, but this one was hard to resist (I couldn’t stop myself from going in for a second bite). Creamy and delicate, it tasted strongly of corn without any of the graininess that can result when you puree it. She also ordered the quiche of the day (wild mushroom), which she graciously shared with the rest of us. The quiche had some of airiest custard I have had in a while, and was gone in no time.
I was pretty full at the end of the meal, but I had to order dessert (research, of course). While I was intrigued by bakery’s namesake bouchons, I decided to go simple with a double chocolate chunk cookie with vanilla ice cream. The cookie was chewy all the way through, not an easy feat for a cookie of that size. It wasn’t the best cookie I’ve ever had, but it was quite satisfying. Chocolate baked goods (usually cake) + vanilla ice cream = my favorite sweet fix.
After lunch we walked the few yards over to the Bouchon Bakery counter. I wanted to get something to take home to Dave, and Rebecca had been talking up the Nutter Butter, which sounded right up Dave’s alley. The treat is comprised of two jumbo peanut butter cookies, stuck together with peanut butter buttercream. I had one tiny bite later that night, but it was too much for me. Dave ate it right up.
If you find yourself near Columbus Circle with a little extra cash to spare (we were able to get a pretty good deal, thanks to Rebecca), Bouchon is definitely worth checking out. I’d say it’s the kind of place you’d take your parents when they come to visit you at college. Better yet, it’s a place that my New York grandmother would have taken me to lunch after school (we always used to go to Sarabeth’s) .