Tony took me to dinner at Union Square Cafe for my birthday Monday night. The meal was even better than I'd hoped.
Tony had made sure in advance that USC would be able to accommodate his allergies* to gluten and dairy. And once there, he did what he often does when presented with a menu that doesn't make it possible to tell which dishes would make him sick: He told our waitress that he was going to be both her easiest and most difficult customer and asked her to bring him an appetizer and entree that were gluten and dairy free; everything else was up to her and the chef. And they delivered.
Sweetie was presented with an appetizer of Octopus and Lobster Mushroom Carpaccio, Roasted Yellow Pepper Coulis, and Rocket. He was very pleased with it. I was pleased with myself for trying it and finding it not so bad.
My appetizer was the salad of Watermelon and Tomato with Watercress, 3-Corner Field Ricotta Salata, and Vanilla-Basil Vinaigrette. The dressing was awesome; every so often I'd catch a nice round suggestion of vanilla.
For the wine to drink with dinner, I selected the 2001 Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett. It was beautiful, just sweet enough, and wonderfully complex, with flavors that changed with each glass. I'm giddy now just thinking about it.
Before our entrees were brought out, one of the waitstaff laid down a serrated knife for Tony, so it looked as though he'd be getting a steak. During our dinner conversation, he'd mentioned that he'd bought some figs that day that turned out to be bad and he'd lamented that he could rarely eat duck out because it was often prepared in a way that involved gluten or dairy.
My boy was so happy when his entree came out: It was duck. With figs! Specifically Pan-Crisped Duck Confit, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Mission Figs, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Chicory. I got King Salmon with Fresh Corn Polenta, Roasted Onion-Radish Salad, and Salsa Verde. I enjoyed the supercrispy, megarich bite I tried of Tony's duck. My salmon was cooked perfectly, and I relished all of the sourced-from-the-Greenmarket side dishes that came with it.
For dessert, Tony got the trio of sorbets, and he also could have gotten the Flourless Lemon Cake with Greenmarket Berries (and without the Moscato d'Asti Zabaglione). I almost went for the lemon cake myself, but I got the Mint Semifreddo with Chocolate-Brownie Chunks and Milk Chocolate Sauce instead. Mint, brownies, and chocolate sauce? Yes, yes, and yes.
Toward the end of the night, after one of the waitstaff had cleared our wine glasses, our main waitress came over with our bottle, which she'd kept on ice nearby and which still contained enough wine for Tony and I to each have another half glass. She insisted on getting us new glasses so we could polish off the bottle. She was terrific, and so was everything else about my birthday dinner at Union Square Cafe. *smooches Tony*
*FOOTNOTE UPDATE/CORRECTION on Sept. 17: Tony explained to me tonight that he has celiac disease, which means he has an autoimmune, not an allergic, response to foods containing gluten. He also gets arthritic symptoms from dairy foods, but that response isn't as severe, and he's been lucky in that he has no lingering joint pain from when he used to eat dairy.