TOM: Tuesday Dinner

Have you ever been rendered speechless by a meal? Well, up until last week, I hadn’t. But the absolute perfection we experienced at Tom Colicchio’s dinner in New York changed that.

Let me start from the beginning with how this dinner came to be. As I mentioned previously, our trip to NYC was formed around Tom: Tuesday Dinner. My friend Melissa and I are HUGE fans of Top Chef, and both have a bit of a crush on Tom (for anyone not as obsessed as me and unaware of his connection- he’s the head judge). Back in the fall we got wind that Tom was going to open the private dining room of his flagship restaurant, Craft, on two Tuesdays of each month to only 32 guests. He himself would personally prepare a 10-course tasting menu built on seasonal ingredients found in the market on that particular day.

The reason? He states it best: “All young chefs dream of cooking nightly at the small, signature place that defines them, changing the menu based on what’s at the market that day, with their hands on every plate that leaves the kitchen. Through the years I’ve never let go of that ideal.” This would be his opportunity to “shoot from the hip” with “no-holds-barred cooking”.

The mere thought of his hands on our food made us giddy. No doubt we were going to do this. Ridiculously excited, the research began. Reality quickly set in. What little information I was able to gather regarding the booking process was disheartening. One particular comment put it into perspective- the reservations are the hardest in town to snag next to Momofuku Ko. Are you serious? I don’t even live in New York, and I know that those are nearly impossible to obtain.

Here’s what we were up against: There is 1 phone-in reservation line that opens at 10 a.m. EST, 6 weeks to the day prior to your desired reservation date. Reservations are taken only in parties of 2 or 4, no more, no less, no in between. Do the math- with only 32 seats, potentially only 8 people get a reservation for each dinner. Plus there are only 2 dinners each month, and probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Manhattan alone that want in on one of them.

But when I want something badly enough (and lord knows I wanted this!), I am not easily dissuaded. A team of 6 was formed, and after much dialing, redialing and near insanity from listening to a busy signal for what seemed like an eternity, we scored reservations. No, we didn’t get them on the first try, and it may have actually been 3 months later than we originally desired, but who’s complaining? Good things really do come to those who wait.

The big day was finally upon us. We arrived for our 8:30 p.m. dinner reservation and were promptly escorted to our table in the intimate room, just a few feet away from the open window to the kitchen. Are you kidding me? These are the best seats in the house! From this perfect vantage point we were able to watch Chef Tom’s every move- plating, tasting, stirring. Hard at work but seemingly at ease, he was often smiling and chatting, even glancing out into the dining room from time to time.

Just the close proximity to this man was enough to put perm-a-grin on our faces, atnd the best part had not even begun. Yes, the food. How was it? Let me put it this way- you could ask any of us separately what our thoughts were and I’m pretty sure we would all have the same answer. This dinner may have just ruined us. It was easily the most memorable dining experience of my life and I can’t imagine anything else ever coming close.

Now to the fun part- the menu. I’ve included a smattering of notes and photos, which unfortunately do not do the food justice. No flash photography was allowed and I’ve never gotten around to deciphering all the little buttons on my camera that would probably help in such a situation. I also need to apologize for getting lost in the moment a few times, and devouring my food before snapping a pic.

Course 1: Poached Egg “Caesar”

Course 2: Cuttlefish “Pasta”

Topped with crispy pig ears and spicy red pepper sauce with chick peas and garlic, this was a table favorite.
Course 3: Halibut
Mint, Chamomile & Chanterelles

mmmm…savory and sweet, the fish literally melted in my mouth

Course 4: Soft Shell Crab
with Bacon Jam
I love the crunch of soft shell crab, and paired with soft pork belly oozing with flavor, I was in heaven
Course 5: Pancetta-Wrapped Monkfish
Spring Onions & Porcini

Course 6: Roasted Guinea Hen
Fava Bean Raviolini

Both dark and white meat with a crispy skin on fava bean raviolini in a light sauce. This is the point at which Tom was dubbed the “King of Sauces”.

Course 7: Australian Wagyu

I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of this dish. The wagyu beef was perfectly tender and succulent. Add in buttery, earthy, nutty morels and fresh peas bursting with flavor, and I was a goner.

Course 8: Taleggio
This warm, creamy cheese was served over a bed of slightly crisp, perfectly diced potatoes, onion, and bacon. Topping it off were paper thin slices of cornichons (crisp, tart pickles).
My thought at this point: I don’t ever want to leave this place. Ever.
Course 9: Rhubarb Semifreddo
Pistachio Puree & Prosecco Sorbet
Can my life be like this every day? Everyone deserves to eat like this. If they did, there would be no war.
Course 10: Brooks Cherry Napoleon
Brandy Syrup & Toasted Almond Ice Cream

Really? 2 desserts? Is that necessary? Why would you want to do this after that Semifreddo that was pure ecstasy? Probably because this was even better. I’m not sure how that was possible, but it was.

As we took our last bites, we were struck by the fact that none of us felt overly full, which is amazing considering the feast we had just consumed. Content and at a loss for words, we all sat smiling at each other. And it wasn’t just about the food, it was the entire package. The service was seamless, the music incredible, and the wines perfectly paired with each dish. At that moment in time, I can’t imagine that there were four happier girls on the planet.

As we headed for the door a little after midnight, the Chef was relaxing at the front bar, so we stopped to chat with him and express our gratitude. When I told him that Melissa and I came all the way from Nashville just for his dinner, he said “Really? I’m coming to Nashville this weekend!” What for? “Bonnaroo!” We knew he had great taste in music by the awesome playlist we’d been listening to the entire evening, but his cool quotient rose a few notches with this new bit of information. Oh Tom, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways……

Post dinner: the happiest girls in the world with Tom

Tom Tuesday Dinner
Private room at Craft
47 E. 19th St.
New York, NY