Sunday, November 3, 2013

NYC: Tocqueville & Magic Show


Sometimes, I fantasize that one day I will have a blog recognizable enough that restaurants will invite me to gorge my face for free, in exchange for some pretty photos and a review. My momma does this, you know. I can't read a lick of it, as it is in Chinese, but she has gone to places like Tojo's a zillion times, never paying the $$$$$ price point for the fanciest sushi in town. (Gourmet Vancouver : I would highly recommend taking up google's offer of 'translating' the page into English. Always good for a head scratcher.)

But then, I reflect on my dim photos and my severe LACK OF MEMORY at what any of the food consisted of, and I realize that it is a good thing that I am actually a really good school counsellor and English teacher. 

In this second last post on New York (are you sick of these yet? I find it slightly amusing that it is starting to be icicle season here in the Yukon, and I'm posting pictures of bare arms), you will get a glimpse of what might be a great date night idea: dinner & a magic show.

We hopped on a L train (then a G, then a...) to leave Brooklyn in exchange for the Flatiron District. 
I had scoped out their pre-theatre menu--three courses for $44, regular dinner menu way more than that-- and great reviews, and made a reservation for 5:30pm to leave ample time to take another train uptown for the show.

Upon arriving, we turned into neurotic piles of country bumpkins with low self-esteem. It was posh in there, people. Posh and hushed. We mistook the hostess' eyeball of our outfits as judgement, and started to panic that B wasn't dressed to their standard. Somewhere on the website, it says that suit jackets are recommended for men BUT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE 30 DEGREES FOR LIKE THE DURATION OF OUR VACATION SO B HAD NOT PACKED ONE, DUH. What made our paranoia worse was that after the once-over, she said "I'm just going to check if the kitchen is ready" and left, which we translated to mean "I'm going to get my manager to see if it's okay that you dine with us in only shirtsleeves, you HEATHEN."

She did come back, and escorted us inside, and we proceeded to realize that we were the first ones there (this being 5:28pm on a Friday) (but come ON, $44 menu?? Think of the VALUE, people!), and that the space was very fancy, and intimate... and echoed like a cavern. 

We got tucked into a corner against the back wall, which gave us an optimal vantage point with which to observe the servers, maître d and other waitstaff that were milling by the entrance and opposite wall, waiting for the other patrons to descend.

It was awkward.

     Maybe it would be unfair to say that our experience was terrible, because 80% of the problem was probably related to our own neuroses, but it was fancy in that particular vein where you feel like you took the wrong side street and ended up dining somewhere you don't belong. (Basically, I like windows. I like when servers smile. I like when there isn't a pause after I say "no drinks for me, thanks".)

Enough whinging! Onto the food (that I've googled to jog my memory banks!)

Aged cheddar, bosc pear, fennel and frisee salad with hazlenut dressing

Oysters served on the half shell, 6 pieces

Oven roasted squab and confit leg, with tomatoes and other stuff I don't remember since the menu has changed

Pan roasted wild sockeye, with summer squash, zucchini, hen of the woods and a basil emulsion

There are no pictures of the dessert, but we both had the selection of homemade sorbets, which were delicious, in contrast with the vast majority of the meal we had.

Uch, I think I'm being harsh.

(But not. )

Tainted by the stuffiness of the ambience?

(No. )

The salad in theory should have been awesome, but just wasn't. Too much hazelnut, as that shit is potent, in my opinion. Oysters were great. The squab was the right mixture of gamey and delicate, and seasoned well. The salmon, on the other hand, seemed like it had been swimming in too many Great Lakes and was almost inedible (and I am a Salt Monster).

Personally, I think Tocqueville is a skip, in a city full of amazing restaurants, but I'd also be curious to know if a second chance would garner a better response from us. Diners did start coming in at about 6pm, and the dining room was at full capacity by the time we were done around 7:30. The chattering of other human beings, laughter and all, did help the tomb-like nature of the room. Also, we realized after a few more days in NY, that everyone checks everyone out in this city, and the hostess probably had no issue with B's smart outfit, she likely was just doing what every other passerby did to us the rest of the trip.

Still, at least half of our meal was actually really good, and lots of  reviewers (internet people I've never met in real life) claim this restauarant to be New York's unsung food destination.

Also, what do I know; I like thinly sliced SPAM on top of a bowl of udon noodles.


Magic Show----- Steve Cohen's "Chamber Magic"

In contrast to the first half our date, we would highly recommend that you copycat this next portion.

First of all, you get to hangout in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, alongside 40 or so other people dressed in cocktail attire. Secondly, you witness MAGIC.  (And I don't even like magic shows, they make me feel uncomfortable and awkward, especially if the magician isn't good. Unless it's Gob Bluth.)

Steve Cohen, also coined the Millionaire's Magician (as he performs in the parlours of people like the Queen of Morocco, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia... and Martha Stewart), did not disappoint at all. I will refrain from telling you about all the tricks ("illusions, Michael!") that he performs, in case you want to see him for yourself one day.

Oooh, except for this one.

(Can you guess which one was mine, and which was Bry's?)

One of Cohen's most well known tricks is called the "Think-a-Drink". When we arrived, we were handed out slips of paper and instructed to write our favourite drink on it. He encourages you to be as specific as possible, ("pick a type of beer if you're going to write beer!") and quipped that it couldn't be any weirder than a suggestion he saw last week of "human blood".

Then, he proceeded to have all of us pass the slips over to the right, and had a random member of the audience collect them all. They were shuffled and reshuffled, and he employed a system to pick five of them at random by having 5 members of the audience choose one (this process was actually pretty complex, but suffice it say that it was done in such a way that we, the audience, were satisfied that he wasn't just picking five pre-planted suggestions). 

He then produced the infamous silver teapot, and proceeded to have the first audience member read theirs aloud. 

c/o his website

"Piña colada", she read.

"Okay, no problem. Now.. that's with what, a little pineapple juice? A little coconut cream? And rum?"

And, in front of our eyes, he poured one single shot glass full of a creamy concoction, that from my fourth row seat, looked very much like a piña colada. He then gave the shot for her to try, and she confirmed to everyone that, indeed, it was what it was supposed to be.

Gasps and shouts, people.

Cohen then did this four more times. I repeat, he poured a randomly selected, audience-chosen drink from one single teapot, four more times.

There was the cranberry juice that one fellow read out, to which his girlfriend shouted out "Boring! Add vodka!" --- he did just that.

The next one was simply "gatorade", and he raised his eyebrow at how pedestrian it was. He asked us at least to pick a colour. Many of us shouted out "Blue!", and out from the spout came a shot of blue gatorade.

The last one was a strawberry banana milkshake, and little by little, thicker clumps of a pale pink liquid came out of the teapot. I think at this point, I started making strange noises out loud and furrowing my brow, as things like this frustrate and perplex me. I hate feeling dumb.

The rest of the show was as varied and magical as this one single trick, and was truly a unique way to spend our first Friday night in the big city.



  1. I LOVE YOUR BLOG. It's awesome. You're awesome.

  2. let do your gourmet blog next year when you are in town.