Louisa and I hosted one hell of a dinner party on Saturday night (full details soon, I promise), at which eight bottles of wine were consumed between six people. (Not to mention the Manhattan apiece enjoyed by me, Nick and Louisa.) Like I said - a hell of a party. So it's no wonder that the three of us were a bit dazed when we gathered at Aquavit for brunch.
The waiter started us off with a glass of Glögg each. Glögg, for those of you who, like me, are among the uninitiated, is not dissimilar to the German mulled wine Glühwein. Marcus Samuelsson, the chef at Aquavit, starts his with citrus and spice-infused vodka and adds red wine, port and sugar. If you think that sounds potent, you'd be right. Wowza. Delicious, but a bit too much for this one post-party.
In addition to the Glögg, Aquavit offers a complimentary cocktail or glass of juice with its brunch, which is a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord - yes, a smörgåsbord! An all-you-can eat, stuff-yourself-with-gravlax-and-pickled-herring-and-meatballs brunch! For my cocktail, I chose the Danish Mary, made with aquavit (instead of vodka) and garnished with a cucumber, lemon wedge and fresh horseradish. Unlike the Glögg, this hit the spot, and the magic of the hair of the dog kicked right in.
First up, fish and eggs! Nick went straight for the table of pickled herring (there are always at least six varieties on offer), but I couldn't face it, and opted instead (clockwise from three o'clock) for a big pile of gravlax, a pond of the unparalleled espresso-mustard sauce, a bit of mushroom omelet, a tomato wedge, potato salad and a cup of langoustine bisque.
Everything was delicious, in particular the potato salad, which has a healthy dose of salty capers, and, like everything else, a bunch of chopped dill. The mushroom omelet also deserves a shout; it was filled with sauteed wild mushrooms (Yay!) and some kind of oozy, delicious, creamy substance (could have been a very mild cheese) that soothed my wounded soul.
The gravlax was, as always, superlative. I cannot get enough of Aquavit's gravlax, and I can't imagine I ever will.
Next up, a cold meats course! As you can see from my plate, I couldn't resist the siren call of the gravlax this round, either. Clockwise from the gravlax, we've got cornichons, another tomato wedge, steamed potatoes, beet salad, bread and, in the center, a slice each of foie gras and country pâté, topped with grainy Swedish mustard.
Aside from the gravlax, my favorites in this round were the country pâté (I think I'm hopelessly doomed by my Eastern European peasant roots to prefer it to foie gras forever and ever.) and the perfectly steamed potatoes. The latter went a looong way to curing my hangover blues.
Finally, the hot meats course - or, as Louisa termed it, "the hot meat injection." (I may pay later for revealing that one.) The one problem with this course is how full of gravlax I typically am by the time I make it here. I suppose I could work on that, but I don't wanna! In any case, here we have (clockwise from top) red cabbage, cucumber salad, Swedish meatballs, Johansson's Temptation (potatoes with cream and anchovy), roasted brussels sprouts and parsnip, cider-mustard rib, venison and Swedish sausages and lingonberry sauce in the middle.
I have a special affection for Aquavit's Swedish meatballs (particularly smorgasbord-style, when I can freely up the proportion of cucumber to meatball), but they were outshone by the awesomeness of the braised ribs. Holy man, were those good. Possibly their fattiness worked some sort of alchemy on my alcohol-soaked body - whatever the reason, I really want them again for dinner, preferably tonight. And the Johansson's Tempation? Also sinfully delicious. (And the fantastic name doesn't hurt, either.)
Finally, dessert. I couldn't even get up from the table to help myself, so Louisa brought me a yeasted, brioche-like roll studded with raisins and glazed with egg and sugar. It was great with coffee, but didn't rock my world like the savory courses. In fact, I have to say that dessert at Aquavit has never rocked my world. For me, it's all about the meatballs.
And the gravlax, of course.
65 East 55th Street
Between Park and Madison