October 7, 2011
One Sweet (Birthday) Morning
My birthday was on October 1. I share that birthday with Jimmy Carter. AEJ shares her birthday (January 5) with Walter Mondale, so together, we’re a semi-successful Democratic presidential ticket.
By coincidence (or, maybe it wasn’t coincidence at all, but a gift), John Corigliano had a world premiere performance with the New York Philharmonic on September 30 – my Birthday Eve. AEJ and I made plans to drive down to NYC for the performance, plus a pre-performance dinner with Jerry Junkin (Director of Bands at UT-Austin). Jerry’s wife, Stephanie The Magnificent, was planning to join us, but had to cancel, so in her place, three people were invited (it takes three people to equal one Stephanie) : Gary Green (Director of Bands at the University of Miami, where I’ll be in mid-November, for a performance of Harvest with Joe Alessi), Kevin Sedatole (Director of Bands at Michigan State – and the person responsible for Asphalt Cocktail), and Joe Alessi (not sure who he is – I couldn’t figure out if he was the guy from the Alessi utensil company, or some trombonist).
All of us, minus Joe Alessi, met up for pre-dinner drinks. (I went with the Grey Goose Citron and tonic.)
After cocktails, we walked down to La Grenouille – a classic French restaurant that’s been around since the early 1960’s.
You know if the waiter is wearing a bow tie, it’s a nice place.
Either that, or it’s a Chippendale club.
In this case, though, it was not a Chippendale club. (We’d be saving that for after dinner.)
First up: an assortment of fresh breads. Buttery breadsticks, and some spectacular gougéres. (Sidebar: all photos are from the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on a 5D Mark II body. The restaurant was very dark, so some of these shots are a little grainy, having been shot at ISO 3200.)
Next up: another small complimentary offering from the chef – a bit of carrot ginger soup.
My first course was this wild mushroom risotto. I love a good risotto, and this was a good risotto. Check out the slivers of parmesan.
Kevin Sedatole had this salad, but I forgot to ask what it was. Is this the foie gras salad with duck prosciutto? We’ll pretend it is, because that’s probably what he should have ordered.
Jerry Junkin opted for…
AEJ’s first course was the farm-raised poached egg with leeks. As she does in life, she wins the “Prettiest Award.”
For the main course, I think all of us — except AEJ — ordered the same thing: La Grenouille’s famous grilled dover sole with mustard sauce. The waiter filets the fish at the table.
And well-fileted it was.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture with the mustard sauce, which was possibly the highlight of the night. I got distracted by the smell, and started eating before I could get a picture. Oops.
AEJ ordered something that wasn’t even on the menu: cheese souffle. (Being the lifetime recipient of the Prettiest Award does have advantages.) Holy hell, cheese souffle is a wonderful thing.
Her souffle came with a side of some weird spiky green.
More free treats from the chef! This was one tasty madeleine.
For the main dessert, AEJ went with yet another souffle, successfully completing the Egg Dinner Trifecta.
Here’s the gang – minus the always camera-shy AEJ. Left to right, this is Kevin Sedatole, some short dude, Gary Green, Joe Alessi, and Jerry Junkin.
Jerry Junkin is probably the best host in the world, even when he’s hosting from a city that isn’t his home. He set up the dinner, invited a great group, and most impressive of all: he had a car waiting for us to take us to the hall. *
* may or may not be an accurate picture
Off we went to the concert.
The premiere was wonderful. Corigliano’s work, “One Sweet Morning,” was written for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. (There’s a great story about the piece in the New York Times.) The piece delivered both the visceral impact and ravishing beauty that I love so much about his music.
After the concert – more food and drink. The last thing I needed was more food, so I stuck with drink. (One almost always needs more drink.)
I told John that I loved his piece, but I was a little hurt. “I was really hoping you’d stick a little of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song into the last movement of your 9/11 piece,” I told him. “I mean, it is my birthday.” He insisted that it was in there. I’m guess I’ll take him at his word.
Here I am with John Corigliano.
This was one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a long time.