Sunday, June 13, 2010

Homage to Fromage -- lunch at Artisanal

I love cheese. Kate loves cheese. Actually, I think Kate loves blue cheese almost more than any other food.  She eats it on crackers, on salad, on burgers -- the more blue cheese, the better.  But I digress -- suffice it to say t that we love cheese, and what better place to go for lunch than a French bistro who's main focus is all about cheese?

Artisanal restaurant was founded by Tim Brennan, who also runs Picholine.  (I remember dining at Picholine years ago, and yes, ordering the cheese course, which was educational, inspiring, and absolutely amazing!)  I was sad when the Murray Hill restaurant staple, American Place, closed, but thrilled to learn that a restaurant devoted to cheese was opening. I've eaten there several times, and I'm always delighted by it.

Kate and I started with one of our favorite foods -- gougeres, which is french for "melt in your mouth cheese puffs".  They came in a little basket, and are served warm.  We've made them before, too, and they are quite easy to make.  ( has a couple of recipes for them.)  We went for healthy/salads next, before we shared the Artisanal signature fondue.  What I love about the fondue is all the sides you can order to dip in the cheeses.  I especially like the tart green apple, but I also like the fingerling potatoes and, of course, the traditional chunks of sourdough bread.

We debated about sharing a dessert fondue, but we ended up with Kate ordering the profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, and I had a mini coconut parfait with lime-basil syrup (funny, it tasted like a virgin mojito!)

We felt a little like we were playing hookey, but we were actually biding our time between Kate's annual MRI scan and her appointment with her oncologist.  Truthfully, I hate "MRI Day."  Kate had her first MRI when she was four years old, and had emergency surgery to remove a massive brain tumor just a couple of hours after the MRI.  She continued to have MRIs every 3 months, then had a second surgery when she was seven. She now has an MRI once a year, and it's not really as hard as it used to be -- until she was nearly six years old, she would have full anesthesia in order to keep her still for the scans; now she takes her Ipod or a favorite CD and listens to music in order to drown out the noise.  But it's still not exactly a fun day.

Other parents will understand that you wish you could take away all the hurt and pain and take it upon yourself, but that's not possible. I've tried to turn "MRI Day" into a fun day, sort of a Mother/Daughter date.  I know that may seem silly, but Kate and I have done some fun things together -- this has become sort of our own personal holiday.  We have taken lemons and made lemonade.

I have fond memories of hanging out at McDonald's together on MRI Day. There's one near the hospital that has a giant cage with balls to play in, and Kate loved to crawl in and out of it and jump and hide.  Once, I let her run around in her pink pajamas in a playground, and she found a hose and tried to squirt me.  We've gone to movies, had our nails done, explored restaurants in the neighborhood, and shopped for earrings.

So this year, we had lunch at Artisanal, and we got to talk and hang out.  When Kate said her prayers that night, she mentioned that she was grateful that she got to skip school and spend time with her mom. I can think of better ways to spend the day, but I'm glad we have figured out how to have some fun on this crazy day.

I think we'll have to go back to Artisanal again when it's just for fun, and maybe next time we'll have the dessert fondue (and, of course, try out some new cheese!)