“…a tiny little gift to me.”

Cati and I really enjoy food.  On the “Eat-to-live/Live-to-eat” spectrum, we are firmly planted on the “Live-to-eat” side.  We also have a special place in our hearts for Angelo’s 677 Prime, as we went there with our parents after our civil-ceremony wedding (in our living room) a few years back:

Wedding number 0

Not to mention, the food is beyond compare.  While perusing the local food blogs, this guy gave me a great idea for a birthday gift for my lovely wife: a special tasting menu, designed just for her (and me, of course).  I called ahead to make reservations and I explained to the hostess what I was hoping to have done.  She took my name and number so the chef could call me back to talk about it. 

Chef Ortiz called me back the next day.  I mentioned that I am fond of his cooking and a reader of Steve Barnes’s Times Union blog.  I mentioned the nature of the occasion and expressed that we like pretty-much everything that is normally eaten in civilized cultures.  I gave him free rein to make whatever he would like; within the budget I had in mind. 

He was very courteous and professional, and I got the feeling that he was mildly flattered by the request (not that he needs my endorsement). 

So we got there at 8PM Saturday, and were immediately impressed by the Ferrari and various Bimmers, Mercedeses, and other cars that say, “Yes, I’m rich.  Feel free to covet.” 

We were seated at a nice little window-side table, and Chef Jaime Ortiz came to the table and introduced himself.  He asked us one last time if we had an aversion to any particular foods; we said no, and things got underway.  Chef Ortiz and the sommelier, Ean, worked out wine and food pairings that were incredible.  I brought a pen and small pad so we could scratch down what we were being served.  I also busted out my little camera (no flash of course) and took pictures like that Russian spy from Dr. Strangelove.  Ean would come to our table for each pour and tell us a little about what we were being served.  He didn’t tell us too much about the food that would be coming out as I think he was trying not to steal the waiter’s thunder.  The waiter was super attentive and impressed us both every time he stopped by.  Below are the wines we were served, and the dishes paired with them:

Champagne:  Gaston-Chiquet  

  • Raw Olympia miaki oysters served on the halfshell with melon and apple cube salsa with a dash of lemon and tabasco presented on a bed of seasalt.

(too excited to take photo)

  • Tuna sashimi rose with flying fish roe, soyu herb stem, and tempura flakes.


  • Lightly batter-fried blinis with creme-freche, capers, red onions, and egg topped with American caviar drizzled with chive oil, and more creme-freche for dipping. 



Martinelli “Tessa Lee” Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Russian River Valley

  • Salmon carpaccio with grapefruit and crispy leeks, lemon-zest cream-cheese, dill oil, and micro-veggies.

(forgot camera again)

Hobbs viognier 2004 Australia (late season sweet wine)

  • Foie Gras with lingenberry sauce on duck prosciutto and butternut squash with duck au jus.  (This dish was rocket-to-the-moon good, and the wine-pairing was truly inspired.)

(shamefully, I forgot the camera again)

Solena Grande Cuvee Pinot Noir 2005

  • Veal topped with a pork foie (our first time having this) served on cream leeks with a candied fennel demi glace with a capered air topping. 


  • Alaskan black cod (sable fish) topped with murel mushrooms served on English sweet peas, fava beans, and calomunda slices (Brazillian lemon).



Matanzas Creek Winery Merlot 2004 Benett Valley Sonoma

  • Bacon pork foie with a vanilla bean and sweet potato puree topped with a pork tenderloin and dry toasted-apple slice. 



Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Alexander Valley

  • Kobe Beef topped with white truffle ice cream surrounded by small brussels sprouts and pommes frites




Oremus Tokaji Aszu 1999, 6 puttonyos


  • Banana rum soup with spicy rum rice pudding topped with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, and a small chocolate stick.


  • French toasted brioche with rosemary maple syrup, vanilla ice cream and apple sautee.


  • Then an assortment of rasberries and chocolate truffles on lollipop sticks (as if we hadn’t had enough food at this point). 


So, that’s 11 courses, 7 glasses of wine, 3 hours of dining, and two VERY content diners.  We debated our favorite dishes, what wine-pairings worked best, and the myriad of flavors in each dish.  This was the best meal of our lives.  We were the envy of many other patrons that night.  Chef Ortiz blew our minds (and taste buds) away.  Thanks Chef Ortiz for giving us a great night to remember.  The pictures do not do the dishes justice.  We had such a great experience.  My thanks (and Cati’s) to Steve Barnes as well for giving me the idea for this gift. 

And as for Cati, the star of the night; the poet Anatole France said, “Lovers who love truly do not write down their happiness.”  So, with that…


8 Responses to ““…a tiny little gift to me.””

  1. Steve Barnes says:

    Sounds (and looks) like a remarkable meal. I’m delighted I was able to point you toward a place that could deliver an unforgettable experience.

  2. Casey says:

    Hi Alex and Cati-

    I work with your mom at Shaw…she just showed me the web-site…how thoughtful of you!!! I am very impressed your creativity!!! What a wonderful evening and GREAT presentation of food!! I love the page!! Take care :)

    Casey Novak

  3. […] Yum May 10, 2007 at 8:38 am by Steve Barnes, senior writer One of the most gratifying parts of this job is hearing from readers who, following a recommendation of mine, have a stellar dining experience. Check out this one. Posted in General, Restaurants/chefs, Food/dining media, Recommendations, Web sites | […]

  4. Albany Jane says:

    Wonderful pictures! The whole meal looks just mouth watering. And how freakin’ cute are the truffle lollipops?!

  5. Wow, man. It looks and sounds incredible! What a special treat. And you even got props on the TU food blog for your post! Now you’re big time.

    Between your Russell Crowe / Gladiator quote on my blog and this post, you’ve really inspired me to make good on my whole “triumphant return to blogging” promise.

    See ya guys soon!

  6. Lydia says:

    Everything looks so scrumptious! I’m so glad that your special surprise for Cati met your expectations and even went beyond. In the process of orchestrating this event, you seem to have come across some wonderful people. These kind people add in making it even more special. Tell us more about Cati’s reaction. You know how I love details, details and more details.

  7. alex|dimitri says:

    Big thanks to everyone for commenting and keeping this blog’s vitality up. More posting soon.

  8. renee says:

    wow, you guys are really fancy! mad props to the for real super foodies!