I just turned 27 on April 19th (eek?). I treat my birthday a lot like I treat New Year’s Day. I try to do some physical activity to cleanse my mind and body, eat a lot of food that is usually not so cleansing for the body (but who can refuse birthday cake?), and I do some type of introspective ritual in which I reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead.
This year I started my day off right by taking a vinyasa class at Anjali Power Yoga. I have never taken any classes there before and I decided to try it out because they had a great new student special ($20 for 10 days of unlimited classes) and it was close to my new house. I really enjoyed the fact that they crank the temperatures up to 90 degrees. I definitely sweat it out while I flowed in and out of poses and I felt really refreshed and detoxed by the end of class. I also felt that I had worked hard enough to eat my birthday dinner and dessert without any guilt.
Although my boyfriend, Travis, is usually horrible at keeping secrets (as am I), he managed to not reveal where he was going to take me for my birthday dinner. I’m really glad that he ended up taking me to the one place where I really wanted to go: Pumpkin Restaurant. We went there only once before for Valentine’s Day and I have often caught myself daydreaming about some of the dishes that I had there over the past couple of months. Travis and I have been to a lot of amazing and upscale restaurants in the city (like Vetri, Le Bec Fin, Buddakan, etc) and I think Pumpkin has become our new favorite.
What makes Pumpkin Restaurant so special, you ask? The farm fresh ingredients, their ever changing menu, their creative combination of ingredients, the way in which they take many cooking cues from molecular gastronomy, and their beautiful plating. The reason why I bolded, “their beautiful plating,” is because that is the key component that I think makes them stand out from the rest. The way in which they plate their food causes every bite to be a completely new and different experience. The flavors and textures that marry together and tickle the taste buds with every bite creates an interesting narrative that involves all of the senses. If these pictures below don’t make your mouth water, you are either vegan or need a pair of glasses (no offense).
Green pea soup: This green pea soup was beyond amazing. I love how the servers at Pumpkin always come to the table with an empty cup or soup bowl with all of the fixings artfully pre-assembled. The tasty treats somehow become more inviting once they are covered up by the soup. I was able to scrape off a bit of the rye bread crumbs from the bottom of the cup with every spoonful of soup. Mmmm-mmm!
Escargot with creamy polenta, pesto sauce, fiddlehead ferns, and a coddled egg: This escargot dish was unlike anything that I’ve ever had. The coddled egg and creamy polenta were cooked to perfection and I thought that they were the two highlights of the dish. I also liked how the snails were already out of their shells. Their meaty, briny presence complimented the dish very well.
Foie gras with pesto sauce, crushed almonds, beets, and passionfruit chamomile jelly: I’m not really the type of person who would be compelled to order foie gras off a menu. The whole idea of it kinda of disgusts me. However, I figured that since everything at Pumpkin is ridiculously good, I should probably try it and not miss out on a good thing. I’m glad I took the plunge, because the foie gras was to die for! It was so smooth and rich that it tasted like butter. I smeared every last bit of it (as well as all of the condiments and garnishes) on lots of crunchy bread.
Beet sorbet: This itsy bitsy spoonful was so refreshing and a perfect palette cleanser. I would seriously eat a pint of this stuff.
Scallops with asparagus puree, black truffle, squid ink rice cake, and rhubarb: These scallops melted in my mouth. If I wasn’t so full, I could’ve imagined myself eating ten of them. The asparagus puree was out of this world and the squid ink rice cake added a crunchy and salty element to the dish. I also really enjoyed the powdered coconut that was sprinkled on top of stacked slices of radish.
Duck served two ways: Duck breast with carrots, ginger, and chamomile (top) and braised duck leg with farrow and potato cream (bottom). I was already pretty stuffed to the gills by this point, so I was pretty shocked to see not one — but TWO — plates served in front of me. It was very cool to eat two different cuts of duck meat that were prepared completely differently. The breast was light and refreshing while the braised duck leg was pure heavy comfort food.
The big finale – dessert: Flourless chocolate cake with mint ice cream (top) and chocolate whiskey banana mousse (bottom). After eating the braised duck leg, I really thought I couldn’t eat anymore. When the two beautiful desserts came out, I knew I had to mentally find a place in my stomach for them — since it was my birthday, after all! Both of the desserts were amazing, but I really only had a bite or two of each of them before I had to hang up the white flag and surrender. I definitely will need to come back to Pumpkin Restaurant just for dessert sometime so that I can really enjoy them without feeling so uncomfortably full.
The six course dinner at Pumpkin will truly be one that I will remember and talk about for a long time. Thank you Travis, for making my 27th birthday extra special!