Dinner at Marea

20140609_113554Have I told you about my nephew the gourmet? Those are words I never thought I’d say, because a few years ago my (wonderful) nephew Patrick had a seriously limited palate. He did not like fish. Mushrooms, ugh! And cheese, not so much, except, I think, grated Parm on his pasta. Nonetheless, in 2006 we picked our way through Tuscan cuisine during a week in Italy very nicely (fortunately he loves red wine), and there’s something to be said for someone who’s not constantly trying to filch food off your plate. My Fettuccine con Tartufo (White Truffles) was safe, for instance, as was my Pasta con le Sarde (Sardines).

Well, that’s all changed now, thanks to more travel and a wife, Sarah, with excellent and varied taste in food. (They live in the city.) He broke down on the fish issue when they visited Vancouver B.C. I mean, what else would you eat there? He jumped straight to sushi, and never looked back.

So it’s no surprise that when they treated me to a celebratory dinner in New York last weekend (how lucky can an aunt be?), he started off our dinner at Marea with Pacific snapper crudo, and ate seafood for every course except dessert. Our dinner was wonderful – Marea has two Michelin stars and three from the New York Times, plus countless other accolades. I started with fantastic grilled octopus with a scattering of tiny smoked new potatoes in varied colors, then had house made tagliolini with manila clams and calamari. That was topped with a clam in the shell with bread crumbs (how I love what Italians do with bread crumbs), and a pert red pepperoncini pepper on the stem.

Patrick had sublime lobster risotto for his pasta course and I believe Sarah’s pasta was the strozzapreti with crab, sea urchin, basil (as opposed to the fusilli with braised octopus and bone marrow.) They both had fish for their main course, but for some perverse reason I ordered the duck breast as I’d read online raves for it. I don’t usually order boneless duck, and this was even skinless as it turned out, and quite rare, but still good with the accompanying spring peas and a large ravioli filled with…I realized I wasn’t sure, I though I heard the waiter say “beet” but it was not red or yellow, so maybe confit? Or … ? It was a hot day and I was fading fast!

By then I’d had a flute of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé (link is to pronunciation, visit the Champagne house here) at the bar which Patrick surprised me with (I’d been wanting to try that, how did he know??), and most of a glass of a red Sicilian wine at the table. So my memory was blurred. But I perservered to enjoy a lovely and interesting dessert, chocolate budino (pudding) with apricot sorbet and candied black olives. Yes, tiny black olives, and some crunchy stuff, too (was that “crunchified” olive oil?). It was one of the better desserts I’ve had, and there’s a picture of it here on flickr.

For once, I did not take any photos at table, nor did I try to walk off with a menu, which is why you see here only the muffin they sent us home with for our breakfast the next morning. Cute, huh? (And, yes, it was delicious!)

p.s. Michael White is Chef-Owner of his restaurants which make up the Altamarea Group. If you want to try his excellent cuisine closer to home, take yourself to Due Mari, which we are lucky to have just up the road in New Brunswick. I definitely recommend their dinner tasting menus, you have the run of the regular menu for four courses (a few supplements, yes, but there’s plenty to choose from without that). $99 in New York, $58 in New Brunswick. Due Mari’s menu uses less expensive ingredients, but still….such a deal.

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