Tom has always joked that my birthday celebration each year went on for a week. I can’t deny it. I love celebrations, holidays, and anything special. This year, though, I decided to ignore my birthday. And then I got an email advising us of a UNO alumni Christmas party at Fulton Alley.
Since I had never been to Fulton Alley, didn’t even know UNO had a Christmas party, and it was my birthday, I decided to meet up with a friend of ours and then go somewhere to eat nearby.
Our dear friend Dominic Massa joined us for a very nice party in a very nice venue. The food there was about what one would expect of a bowling alley. I wondered where it came from. Since Fulton Alley is part of the Harrah’s umbrella, I assumed it was from there.
It was all stridently ordinary, but that’s not a bad thing in a venue like this one. There was charcuterie, cheeses, pizza, Southwest eggrolls, short rib quesadillas, Brussels sprouts, and shrimp and grits at an “action station.” A charming little holiday hot cocoa bar with fixins' was dessert.
We chatted a bit and had a glass of wine and moved on. I got a few suggestions of where to go after the party from callers to the radio show (airs 2-4pm weekdays 990 AM), and one resonated. I briefly thought of the Windsor Court Reveillon, but that is an event in itself.
The Four Seasons is a short walk from Fulton Alley, so we made our way to the downstairs Chandelier Bar which I admire on every visit there. I was told there was a full bar menu. Both restaurants are terrific there and I expected nothing less of the bar food.
We had a very nice waiter and a great table that was almost secluded. The bar snacks included a small bowl of little red peppers and another of potato chips. It was the Four Seasons so I incorrectly assumed these were housemade. Dominic chuckled at the idea saying they were exactly like Zapp’s, so I asked the waiter, who replied, “There’s a local company that makes them and we add Creole seasoning.”
“Zapp’s,” we all said at once. Jinx. Just for yucks, I asked if they were cutting potatoes back there for the truffle fries, a question to which he replied negatively. Yes, I am obsessive about this practice, and in a place where the bill was $94 for a cocktail and three apps at a hotel like the Four Seasons, housemade should be the norm.
The bar menu wasn’t that large or that interesting, but I did want to sit in this bar at some point. Dominic wanted the duck pate, we got fried oysters for Tom, and I was intrigued by the idea of cracklins on the menu.
All three appetizers arrived rather quickly, and the cracklins turned out to be the most interesting on sight, to me at least. A small pile came in an elevated dish with a bright dipping sauce. The crust was beautiful, and they were hot, and that is where the good feelings end. I took a bite and got nothing but fat, and then another with the same thing. Maybe the cracklins I buy at a roadside stand have been sitting long enough for the fat to become harder, but fluffy fat was not appealing. I sent this back.
Dominic liked his pate much better. It came with the same new-fangled crackers I am seeing...regular Saltines amped up these days. They are buttered and dusted with Creole Seasoning, making it a fancier version of a very good plain Saltine cracker. The pate was smooth and creamy, and I could taste the Cognac. But a little of this goes a long way and I left it to Dominic.
There were six oysters on a small plate with Gribiche sauce. These were crispy fried golden brown and smallish. They disappeared in seconds, and both guys at the table were happy.
The cracklins were replaced by a totally underwhelming fried chicken sandwich on brioche bread. It came unadorned on a plate with messy condiments and other fillers too uninteresting to investigate.
Dominic was also pleased with his Roffignac, a Cognac and raspberry-citrus shrub and seltzer cocktail, named for the man responsible for the city’s streetlamps and cobblestones appearing in 1820.
It was a fun evening and a great end to an unexpectedly delightful birthday. And now I don’t have to wonder what it would be like to savor the ambiance of the Chandelier Bar at the Four Seasons.
It is quite nice.