Friday, August 29, 2008

A Belgian Blowout at Markt

On Thursday evening I convened with one of my teams from work at Markt, a Belgian place in the heart of Chelsea. We were there for lots of food, lots of beer, and lots of bonding, and we got all three.

As always, I planned the event, which meant I got to work with the lovely managers at Markt, who were exceedingly accommodating and flexible throughout the whole process of planning the dinner. As a group of 9, we had a $45-per-person set menu with a range of choices for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. They also created beer pairing options with each course, which was really cool.

We started with large quantities of their French bread and butter. They kept baskets of this coming throughout the meal, which was awesome. The bread was addictive-- highly chewy with no hint of a crackly crust, but delicious nonetheless. I ate a lot of this bread.

The remnants of one of many loaves we packed away

On to the appetizers. We had a choice between the lobster bisque; country pate with toast, dijon mustard, red onion relish, and cornichons; and their mixed greens salad. The lobster bisque was pronounced good but exceedingly hot and very rich.

Hot bisque, comin' through

A couple of my teammates chose the pate, but they were at the other end of the long table, so I didn't get the download on that. It looked like a large portion, for what it's worth.

So much pate.

I got the mixed greens salad (as did most of the other members of our party). Since there weren't that many appealing veggie entree selections, I asked for a double portion of the salad, which they provided. I also asked for the dressing on the side, which they didn't do, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt-- it's always tough serving a large party. The salad had a light dressing and came with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts scattered across the top, and large rounds of goat cheese on toasted baguettes drizzled with honey. The flavors in this salad were certainly strong and interesting. It's not my favorite combination of ingredients (although I do like goat cheese), but it was certainly a welcome departure from the normal mixed greens.

At first I thought those were hard boiled eggs on the side

Then came the entrees. Their house specialty is mussels in a white wine sauce, and many people at the table got them. They came in large black pots accompanied by yummy fries (of which I consumed several). The fries were good-- is any fry ever truly bad?-- but could have been a little hotter. The consensus with the mussels was that they were good at the top of the container, but once the eater got down to the ones at the bottom of the pot, the wine sauce was overpowering. Too much wine, I guess, if that's even possible.

Check out the beautiful steam action

Crispy, golden frites

My friend JW got the steak frites, which came with a small side salad. He let me eat the salad, which was basically an extension of my main salad.

It's like a rosemary epee

Up close on tiny endive salad

There were also partakers in the poached salmon, but again those were at the other end of the table, so I did not get a picture.

And, of course, all along there was beer (or, for me, wine. I just can't stomach beer).

Special glasses and everything

Finally, after much beer and many frites, we made it to dessert. The popular choice was the Dame Blanche, which was vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and a cookie. I had my friend SG's cookie and whipped cream, and they were delicious.

Odd angle, but good dessert

Other people got the Belgian chocolate mousse, which was deemed delicious (albeit small), and the apple tartlet with vanilla ice cream (also pronounced very good).

As the partner on our team declared when this arrived in front of him, "Did anyone order a shot?"

Lovely pastry

Unfortunately, I chose to go with the mixed berries with a hoegaarden sabayon. It was truly disgusting. The sauce tasted like beer (duh, you're saying, it's hoegaarden). I know it's beer, and I know I don't like beer, but I figured it would be a light hoppy flavor-- not like dousing a bunch of berries in beer. Which it was. I tried to wipe the sabayon off the berries but was largely unsuccessful. Seriously, seriously gross.

It looked like hollandaise and tasted worse

All in all, despite the disastrous beery berries, we had a really good time at Markt. The service was outstanding, and they dealt with our large group like pros. The room was a little loud for conversation, but it lent the outing a boisterous and upbeat feel. I'd definitely recommend Markt for a group, a date, or just a night out. Like BXL, it's a solid three Offset Spatula joint: a fun place for food and a good vibe. Oh, and did I mention the beer?

Markt Restaurant
676 Sixth Avenue, at 21st Street

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