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Wine pairing? EMP

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On our upcoming visit to Eleven Madison Park, my husband and I are debating whether to select the wine pairing or not. If anyone has had the pairing recently, I'd love to hear your thoughts. As background, we both like our wine and have at times gotten through 2 bottles plus a glass of dessert wine during a great dinner out, it's a big part of the meal for us. Our last pairing was at Robuchon in Macau, which was wonderful. I enjoyed tasting wines I normally would not have selected and the difference they made to each course. We are not oenophiles by any stretch but do appreciate great wine. I believe the wine pairing is around the $145 - $190 mark? Please correct me here! The other option I've read and am pleasantly shocked by is the policy that EMP offers a corkage charge to bring your own wine! Does anyone really do this and is it the norm at all? Many thanks in advance!

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  1. I've been with a dining party where we brought our own wine (as well as stemware). I didn't orchestrate it, my companion did.

    If it was me -- an admitted vino neophyte -- I would leave it to Dustin Wilson and his staff to tailor something to your liking (which they can and will do upon request and advance notice).

    But if you have a few select bottles you'd like to celebrate the meal with, and you know your cabs from *cabs* then go for it.

    1. My wife and I are not big oenophiles, either. However, my wife did elect to go with the wine pairing. I chose the beer pairing, as for those in the know, EMP has an amazing beer pairing (the sommelier was so excited I went with the beer pairing, he was downright giddy). What I really enjoyed about both pairings was how flexible it was for us. The sommelier asked, did we want to try a wide range of things, or prefer larger but fewer number of pours. Additionally, they took time to understand what we loved and didn't, and crafted the pairing as it went on -- it really was interactive. I've had pairings at Per Se, Gramercy Tavern, etc., and none were as good as EMP's, in large part b/c it felt so impersonal. That's not to say it isn't pricey -- it is. But unless this was your third or fourth trip to EMP, I couldn't imagine going and not doing a pairing, too. You will try some outstanding wines, and not feel wanting for more. My recommendation, go all the way. EMP was head and shoulders above any other place I have been in making you feel like dropping $800 on a meal is worth it.

      1. No need to bring your own stemware to EMP!

        1. There is so much food and so much wine the flavors for me became muddled. Even if you love wine, you may be better off with a bottle or two. All the flavor changes became washed out.

          1. Well, if you love food and you love wine, you don't want to bring a single bottle to EMP. It's conceivable (though hardly ideal) you could get away with the right choice of two bottles--say a Champagne or dry Riesling and maybe a red Burg--but short of that you'll really be missing out.

            1. My understanding is that if you decide to bring your own wine to somewhere like EMP it best not be on their wine list, and preferrably be an old/obscure/sentimental etc selection.

              I have not been to EMP (yet) but other restaurants have gladly done a "1/2 pairing" for me since i have a low tolerance, it was a half pour per course so i stayed sober enough to avoid embarresing myself...!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ttrockwood

                My husband and I were at EMP at the beginning of April and thoroughly enjoyed the wine pairings. In fact, we thought they were the most thoughtful and consistently perfect pairings we have experienced (e.g., compared to Alinea, Grace, Blackbird, and Next here in Chicago, and a few elsewhere). I will add we are partial to pairings when partaking in tasting menus, as we enjoy leaving all decisions to the professionals. We were, however, intrigued watching MS Dustin Wilson tending to a nearby six-top, and it was the only time we've ever seen port tonging in person. In speaking with our outstanding Somm (preparing to take the Master test, which, IIRC, means he's a Level III), he said that for larger parties, even as small as four-tops, he recommends letting the staff choose bottles. These groups can finish multiple bottles without being over-served, they can drink "special" wines, and often come out even cheaper than if everyone did the pairing. He said for a two-top he believes the pairings are the way to go, and obviously they've put much effort into developing them.

              2. Brilliant, thank you all for your words of advice. Definitely leaning to the wine pairing more so now, I do love to leave decisions to the professionals at a dinner such as this!

                1 Reply
                1. re: hkgirl

                  Good choice. Just talk to the somm about what you like. They do a fabulous job and the pours are good sized.