Last week, CT was on a stay-cation. I am a big fan of the stay-cation, especially when you live in NYC. There is so much to do and see, that it is nice not having to worry about going to work. While investigating things to do during her time off, she came across a post about a crayfish festival going on at Aquavit. It was $28 for a half pound of peel and eat crayfish and a buffet of various crayfish dishes along with some traditional Scandinavian dishes. Yes, you read that right, $28 for all you can eat at one of the oldest and classiest restaurants in Midtown. CT’s friend, MvB, also joined us for this.
CT says: I have been to Aquavit a few times before and always enjoyed it. However, after learning that Marcus Samuelsson had handed over the reigns of Executive Chef to Marcus Jernmark (previously the Executive Sous-Chef), I was excited to go back and try it again!
The bread service. I really liked the flatbread in the middle. It was almost like a whole wheat matzah. The butter was room temperature which allowed for easy spreading.
Before we hit up the buffet, we were each given our portions of the peel & eat crayfish. These were chilled and quite different from the crayfish you would get at a traditional Southern crayfish boil. It came with a hollaidaise-like sauce. These little suckers don’t have much meat in them; only the small tail. For those more adventerous, there is also some yumminess in the head that is just waiting to be sucked out. However, they also have some sharp points on their shells, so eat at your own risk.
Do you have a problem with your food staring back at you?
CT says: I have never peeled my own crayfish before; it was quite a difficult task! However, the little bit of meat that came out was thoroughly enjoyable. I also like the dipping sauce that it came with – a little tangy but not overwhelming. I don’t know if my hand could have peeled much more than my half-pound though – sharp little suckers!
Now onto the main event, the buffet. It was split over two tables with cold items on one table and hot items and dessert on the other. It was quite a selection of dishes that were all promptly refilled by the attentive staff.
Here is my first plate. To quote our friend, Zach, it was a “feeler” plate. Let’s see how good you are at playing the match game. On the plate is gravlax, hot smoked salmon, horseradish herring, crayfish herring, cheese, crayfish Caesar salad, homemade duck pate, Caraway cheese tart, “Gentlemen’s Delight,” and crayfish Skagen. Gentlemen’s Delight is an egg yolk salad.
Everything was really good. I don’t think I actually have eaten herring before and was pleasantly surprised by it. It was flavorful without being too “fishy.” My parents always kept it in the fridge, but I never touched the stuff. I am sure the store bought herring pales in comparison to what I got.
There was also a lot of crayfish in the various dishes. It is so much better when the chefs do all the work of extracting the meat.
Here is CT’s first plate. She got everything and the boiled potato. I skipped that since it would take up precious room in my belly.
CT says: I really liked everything on my plate! The smoked salmon, crayfish herring and gentleman’s delight were probably my favorite of the group. I am also down for anything cheese, so the slice of cheese and cheese tart satisfied that craving. Surprisingly, I wasn’t blown away by the duck pate – I usually like it a little smoother, but that’s just a personal preference.
Here is my second plate which was of the hot items. A potato casserole, corn on the cob, Swedish meatballs, “pickled cucumbers,” lingonberry jam, and some tomato salad from the cold table. Again, everything was great! The meatballs were so good! I love dipping in the jam to get the salty/sweet aspect.
CT says: I was really excited for the meatballs – it has always been a favorite of mine, but I was somewhat concerned about the quality, being made for a buffet. However, I was not disappointed! These were as good as I remember, and the lingonberry jam was the perfect accompaniment! I could’ve eaten just a huge plate of these.
My third plate with some of my favorites.
Another round for CT too!
Since CT was on vacation, she got a flight of Aquavit ($17). She will have to tell you what flavors she got. I had a taste and boy were they strong!
CT says: Aquavit is basically vodka, and here they infused it with various flavors. I started with the Mango, Lime & Chili (middle) – I’ve had this before and it’s great! Just a hint of mango-lime with a little kick at the end. I then moved on to the Lingonberry (right) – I thought it would be fitting to pair with my meatballs and lingonberry jam. It was good too, just a tiny bit sweet. Lastly I had the Blueberry & Elderflower (left) to pair with my blueberry cake (yes, I thought a lot of my flavor choices!) I expected this to be sweet, but it wasn’t at all. However, it contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the desserts. Overall, three great flavors. I’ve tried a few of the others in the past, but these are among my favorites. I also really enjoy walking through their bar and lounge area where they show the aquavits being infused with various ingredients such as whole chilies and lingonberries. At first glance, they just look like pretty wall decorations, but that’s actually what you’re drinking!
Lastly, some dessert for us. Blueberry cake and a variety of cookies to try.
CT’s dessert plate.
CT says: I really liked the blueberry cake. The cake was moist and the frosting was very light and creamy. The gingersnap cookies reminded me of my childhood; we used to get boxes from Ikea and snack on them while the parents shopped. The shortbread cookie was good, but nothing special.
My dessert plate. The cake was very fresh and light. I liked the frosting a lot since it wasn’t too heavy. I also got a ginger cookie that was nice and a good way to end the meal.
All in all, this was a great deal. I am so glad CT found out about the Crayfish Festival before it ended. There was a ton of different dishes to choose from and the quality of each dish was quite high. It was also nice to catch up with MvB as I had not seen her in a while. I would definitely recommend going to Aquavit if they have this again.