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Friday, September 24, 2010

Benoit and the Blue Ribbon Renaissance Party

Wednesday night was the launch party for Blue Ribbon's partnership with Renaissance Hotels in which they will offer their "famous comfort cuisine at upscale Renaissance Hotels throughout North America." The event took place at the new 'R Lounge,' overlooking Times Square, at the Renaissance Times Square Hotel.

But first, I stopped at Benoit on 55th Street for a brief dinner.

The chef at Benoit (Pierre Schaedelin, formerly, of Le Cirque) is the boyfriend of one the managers at my restaurant; I was urged to go sooner, rather than later--he has plenty of upcoming projects, one of which includes collaborating on a cookbook with Martha Stewart.

I arrived ten minutes before dinner service began and the maître d' directed me to have a seat by the bar,"I will come get you."

Upon entering the dining room, I was awash in an atmosphere of elegance and charm: plush red banquettes lining the perimeter and soft, gold light furnished by a scattering of chandeliers. The maître d' asked if I'd like any wine to which I replied, "a sparkling white."

I started with the duck foie gras terrine with toasted Parisienne brioche. Tasty; and lovely on the brioche.

Always opting for something new [to me], next I chose: tarte flambée (flammeküeche).

Satisfying as well and much larger than I'd expected, this dish could surely be shared with another.

I ended my meal (I didn't want to eat too much before the next event) with "Our Baba"--baba au rhum!

The baba arrived in a silver, dome covered bowl which my server uncovered to dispense rum and whipped cream on and into the baba.
As if the baba was not already perfect enough, a small dish of truffles also arrived, alongside my cup of espresso.

These decadent little cubes had the consistency of butter and a dark and powdery feel on your tongue. And at last, when I'd asked for the check, it arrived beneath a dish of sweetly candied almonds.

Next on the evening's agenda was the Blue Ribbon/Renaissance Hotels party. I arrived a few minutes early and sauntered to the bar to order a French 75. The R Lounge began filling up quickly, just in time to catch the first round of Blue Ribbon hors d'œuvre.

The launch party was also the debut for a few, selected, items which will be featured on the "Blue Ribbon Classics" menu at select Renaissance Hotels throughout North America.

The signature menu, which features twelve items tailored especially for Renaissance Hotels and their guests, includes: northern fried chicken wings, manchego and honey toast, smoked salmon toast, grilled cheese panini, BBQ pork sliders and fried rock shrimp. I tried all of them, except for the chicken wings--too messy.

(but my friend, Chris, didn't seem to think so)

My favorite was the grilled cheese panini, which all my friends and I were trying to figure out what kind of cheese was in it. (I thought I tasted at least four different kinds). And the manchego and honey toasts were interesting as well.

As the night wore on I was eventually joined by friends Andres and Cynthia as well and also met two lovely writers from The [New York] Times and Condé Nast. After we'd all finished our cocktails, we hopped into a cab and headed downtown for Amanda Lepore's 'Big Top' party at Carnival. But after just two corndogs between Cynthia and myself from the popcorn vendor, we both decided to part ways with Andres and Chris and instead, called it a night.
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