Although Macaroni Day is a super fun day to celebrate (especially when you add cheese!), the national food holiday for today (because there’s so much “official” about this list, lol) is Grand Marnier Day. Grand Marnier is a liqueur made from cognac and bitter orange essence, giving it a sweet, orangey flavor. It’s for this reason that Grand Marnier can be found as often in desserts and other culinary dishes as it can be found in drinks, being used to add a citrusy depth of flavor to any dish. Why, another national food holiday in the past, Crepes Suzette, is traditionally made with a flambé of Grand Marnier liqueur. Try your Grand Marnier a number of different ways for this food holiday: why, with all the different food and cocktail combinations involving this liqueur, you can be happily sauced all day! 😛
One of the most famous dishes utilizing Grand Marnier in New York City isn’t the Crepe Suzette (which isn’t typically made with Grand Marnier this side of the Atlantic): it’s a Chinese-American seafood dish. Bet you didn’t see that coming! But for over twenty-five years, Grand Marnier Shrimp has been the crowning dish on Chin-Chin’s innovative Chinese-American menu. Plump jumbo shrimp are fried and served in a mayonnaise sauce flavored with cooked-out Grand Marnier. Shrimp? Mayonnaise? Booze? It’s a combination you’d think ended up in the wacky baskets on the TV show Chopped, not the star dish in Chin-Chin’s arsenal. But the seemingly disharmonious ingredients work so well together, making a warm, creamy sauce with a sweet orange kick to complement the shrimp. While I’ve never eaten Chin-Chin’s in Midtown, the dish has become famously imitated by many lesser Chinese-American restaurants: I’ve had tons of different variations of “Fantasy Shrimp,” in a similarly sweet mayonnaise sauce with steamed broccoli and walnuts. My take on those dishes has been hit or miss, so I’m anxious to try the original. And before you even ask, no, Grand Marnier Shrimp is in no way authentic to any regional cuisine within the borders of China, now, then, or any time period in between: it’s a delightful fusion of East meets West, an Asian-inspired dish that only a restaurant in the heart of New York could make, and master.
216 E 49th St (between 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave)
“And if sweet and sour pork runs a little too purposefully toward sweet, there is always Grand Marnier shrimp, a fabulous concoction that tastes a little bit as if invented by George Plimpton for a stunt article about cooking Chinese food for money. It’s fried shrimp in spiked mayonnaise, essentially. It’s delicious beyond compare.”–The New York Times
“For more than 25 years, Chin Chin has been crafting its signature Grand Marnier shrimp with a special creamy citrus glaze that “everybody has copied, but no one has duplicated,” says owner Jimmy Chin. “You go to New York to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building; you go to Chin Chin for the Grand Marnier shrimp.””–Gotham Magazine
“I liked the Grand Marnier shrimp even more. It was a recommendation of his, and it was one of those dishes that doesn’t seem to belong in its exact form to any one cuisine, certainly not Chinese. It tasted like shrimp in a bewitchingly inflected mayonnaise. Scratch that: it tasted like fried shrimp in a bewitchingly inflected mayonnaise. Except I still haven’t conveyed its appeal or done it justice, because whatever the batter on the shrimp was, it had a crunch and lightness all its own, and the shrimp didn’t have that plodding battered-and-dunked quality of so much fried seafood. As for the dressing on the shrimp, its measure and its nuances similarly made it less of an assault than it could have been.”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Grand Marnier Shrimp. The best item of the evening – this is fantastic. You guys MUST order this and eat it. The shrimp were large, it was succulent, creamy, crispy but not fried crispy and just done perfectly. WOW. I had 3 of them and wanted 19 more. GREAT appetizer! I almost wanted this as my main entree…”–Gaurav P.
“Thankfully the one item on the menu I did get to sample of course after much prodding by cousins (Koreans never leave you alone until you eat!) was their infamous Grand Marnier Jumbo Prawns. Sweet Jesus! if heaven was shrimp flavored than this was it.”–Sara K. P.
However, if you’re a Franco-phile, you know that today is Bastille Day, the French’s (more violent, slightly cooler) version of Independence Day, when the people of France opened up the doors to the Bastille prison and sparked the French Revolution. I had the opportunity to experience Bastille Day celebrations in Paris when I was a teenager, and it’s very much like July 4th here: drinking, fireworks, shenanigans. They just don’t grill as much meat as we do on this side of the pond 😉 But considering today is also National Grand Marnier Day, eating a Chinese-American dish just isn’t going to do for the hardcore Frenchie fans.
So what says “French” more than a soufflé? How about a soufflé soaked in Grand Marnier liquor? Yum 🙂 La Grenouille serves just that. Just a few blocks away from Chin-Chin stands this French restaurant with an even older pedigree than Chin-Chin. Chef Charles Masson has made the Grand Marnier Soufflé famous here for over 40 years, the liqueur being cooked into an impossibly light and fluffy-tasting soufflé. They have quite a number of dessert soufflés on the menu, but none get as much press as Grand Marnier, the light citrusy flavor adding a great touch to the already light batter. And unlike Chin-Chin’s Chinese-American fusion dish, the Grand Marnier Soufflé is all French: it’s the same classic recipe that’s been in French culinary tradition for centuries. You can even have your Grand Marnier Soufflé with a Grand Marnier cocktail from La Grenouille’s full bar: a Dirty Harry or a B-52, or maybe just some Grand Marnier on the rocks. Hey, since this soufflé is considered a dessert, you can even go to Chin-Chin’s first for some Grand Marnier Shrimp for dinner, then hop on over to La Grenouille for a Grand Marnier nosh for dessert!
3 E 52nd St (between 5th Ave & Madison Ave)
““Oh, my goodness,” he said as a waiter broke the surface of the soufflé and spooned sabayon into its steam-releasing core. “This is what we came for. This requires craft that stretches back through the centuries. This, to me, is the perfect dessert. It’s a reminder of what French cooking is about, and what we stand to lose.””–The New York Times
“Light as air and rich as Rockefeller, the dessert soufflé is the ne plus ultra of culinary sophistication. So ethereal are La Grenouille’s signature confections, they float, practically of their own volition, down a flight of stairs and onto the crisp-linened tables of Manhattan’s high society.”–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“At the table 3 Grand Marnier Souffles were ordered, along with an apple tart and molten chocolate cake. The Souffles were amazing. Light, fluffy, and delicious. I always order dessert, but I very rarely get blown away by them. Souffles changed all that.”–Clifford R.
“I loved the sugar crunches you get every bite you spoon up on the side of the souffle. It was amazing. They give you a side of extra grand marnier, but that definitely was not needed as it was pretty alcohol infused already! ++ I got to try the chocolate souffle also, and not being a chocolate fanatic, I actually think I liked it more than the Grand Marnier! It wasn’t too rich to the point that you couldn’t take anymore!”–Kathy D.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!