Worth Trying: An At-Home Fine Dining Experience Almost as Good as Being in a Restaurant
The first thing I was struck by when I began unpacking my Intersect by Lexus meal from its current restaurant-in-residence The Grey was the thoughtfulness of it all. I order dinner a lot these days, so I’ve become quite accustomed to the typical unpacking of food in takeout containers. But this wasn’t like that. It felt like unwrapping a present. All the food was labeled and looked gorgeous. And there were surprises—The Grey executive chef and partner Mashama Bailey and managing partner John O. Morisano’s book, freshly made granola for breakfast the next morning, penny candy! I was so giddy and filled with joy seeing all of the care that went into delivering little old me this fine meal.
The menu changes weekly, and this week’s menu was full of hearty dishes, starting with sourdough bread and butter. The sourdough bread was crisp and chewy, the type of bread you’re used to having in a restaurant before a meal. It’s worth noting at this point that the food comes chilled, so you’re given instructions for how to properly reheat it. Needless to say, I have a new appreciation for the timing aspect restaurants must manage for each and every meal. The sourdough bread I was able to reheat in my oven in a couple minutes, while my main—yardbird—took a little bit longer to reheat. What better time to dig into the appetizer?
The starter was absolutely delicious. Nutty, uber crunchy rye crackers with creamy smoked catfish dip. The stark difference in textures was the thing that I loved the most here—the creamy with the crunchy. Plus, the fish was great. The catfish wasn’t fishy at all. It almost had a smoked ham quality to it—nice and meaty and hearty. And the white wine that was paired with it (Daniel-Etienne Defaix’s 2017 Chablis ‘Vieilles Vignes’ from Burgundy, France) complimented it well, adding a little acidity to the mix. Together, it was all very balanced. I’ve never been to Savannah, Ga., where The Grey resides, but I’ve seen plenty of pictures, so I closed my eyes while eating this catfish dip, specially curated Spotify playlist in the background playing Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and just imagined myself sitting in Savannah enjoying this dip with these crackers.
Included in the delivery box was pickled turnips. It was flavored with coriander seeds, which made it fragrant; it was acidic, but not too sharp. It was less sharp than a typical burger pickle. Very tasty, and a really smart way to incorporate a palate cleanser into the package, which was great as I moved into the main.
Now onto the yardbird. I’d never had yardbird before, but I could not have had a better introduction. The chicken was perfectly cooked, nice and tender. It was essentially attached to this garlic trencher, which is effectively a garlicky piece of crusty bread underneath the chicken that had soaked up some of the chicken’s juices. The crunch of the bread with the tender chicken was such an enjoyable bite, and I loved the nod to classic Southern cooking. There’s a fried chicken place in my hometown of St. Louis called Hodak’s, and they place their fried chicken on white bread to soak up the grease. I always loved that chicken-y bread, and this felt like a nod to that down-home, soul-satisfying type of fried chicken, despite the fact that this yardbird was more like roasted chicken. But I loved it with all of its nuances. You’re instructed to drizzle captain sauce over the top of the chicken. I found this sauce kind of hard to explain. It’s sort of jammy and has almost a date kind of note to it, but it’s salty and slightly smoky and tomato-y. It’s a sauce I’ve never had before, but it suited the chicken and lifted it up because it is was flavorsome. The way I stuffed this chicken into my mouth would’ve been embarrassing if I were in public. It was really so good, I practically ignored my wine, (Paitin’s 2018 Langhe Freisa ‘Bonina’ from Piedmont, Italy) which was very nice while I was plowing through this chicken. It was a perfect portion size and so, so good.
Sitting alongside my chicken was collard greens. I’m not usually a big fan of collard greens, to be honest with you, but I knew I’d love these the minute I smelled them. They smelled smoky, so I was immediately intrigued. You’re directed to drizzle it with a chili-infused apple cider vinegar, and it was incredibly delicious and cut through some of that smokiness. Do I prefer it to a potato side dish? No. Was this incredibly enjoyable for what it was? Absolutely.
For dessert, I was given a slice of devil’s food cake with candied pecans, bittersweet chocolate sauce and what appeared to be a cocoa-infused whipped cream with a glass of jammy, sweet, syrupy Madeira (a Henriques & Henriques 2007 Verdelho Madeira from Portugal, to be specific) to pair with it. After pretending I’d lived out my childhood dream of becoming a pastry chef and plating the cake to my liking, I dove in. This cake is exactly what you’d expect. It’s rich, luscious and deeply chocolaty, but I didn’t find it to be overly sweet. It is sweet, of course, but with the bittersweet chocolate sauce covering it, the candied pecans and a chocolate crumb that offered some saltiness, as well as a whipped cream that errs more creamy and bitter from the cocoa than the overly sweet versions you might get at the grocery store, I found that it wasn’t cloying. The Madeira makes a nice pairing here because it is so inherently sweet and fruity in a wintery way that the cake is not, so they fill in each other’s gaps, which was lovely.
It had been almost been an hour and 15 minutes since the delivery showed up at my door when I realized that it had been so long. Most delivery dinners I eat in less than half an hour. They’re usually good, but they’re not an event. Just when I thought I’d experienced all the virtual hoopla and “at-home experiences” we could possibly think up, I was presented with an entirely original dining experience. And perhaps that was the part that surprised me the most. I would rarely refer to dining at home in my studio apartment in Queens as an experience. But this meal changed that.
For the hour and 15 minute I was eating, I was listening to a specially curated playlist by The Grey, I was pouring the wine pairings, I was reheating the meal per the instructions it came with, I was taking care to plate well (phone eats first!)—more than anything, I was dining. I wasn’t cooking, I wasn’t eating, I was dining. In sweatpants, sure, but I was dining in a way I haven’t in some time in New York City. And I was so delighted the entire time. This might be weird to say, but it felt loving, the whole experience. The playlist, the food, the wine pairings, the packaging, the very specific instructions, the note from Bailey and Morisano, a copy of their book, the penny candy in the box, the freshly made granola for me to have for breakfast the next morning. It all felt so loving and hospitable in a way that delivery from Seamless or Uber Eats or what have you just isn’t. And for that alone, this is worth trying—not to mention how delicious the food is. I would highly, highly recommend ordering this for takeout, like, this week if you can snag a spot. Run, don’t walk, to your computer to reserve your dinner.