Birthdays. The marker of time passed and what is to come. Sometimes this day comes swiftly and sometimes it can’t be over fast enough. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, it is a lesson in being in the moment, knowing you have exactly what you need at that specific point in time.

A week before my birthday, a gentleman friend asked what I was doing for my day. I began to freak out in my head because I really had not planned anything. It always falls on or around Memorial Day weekend so I know everyone is away. When I had no answer, he confidently said we would go out to dinner. Perfect!

Knowing who I am and my passion for food, he asked that I pick the place. No! In the spirit of staying in the moment, I wanted to be surprised. Wherever we were going, I was going to have faith that it was going to be just what I needed.

On the night of, I did all of the required primping in preparation for my special evening, including a big bandage on my leg to cover the birthday workout fall. We jumped into a cab to Midtown. A little early for our reservation, we stopped at the Warwick Hotel for a glass of champagne and conversation.

We began our short walk down the street to the art gallery-esque doors of the Modern (9 W. 53rd St., (212) 333-1220, I was so surprised and happy as we were guided through the bar room and into the formal dining room. Our table sat in the corner overlooking the MOMA’s sculpture garden and the entire dining room. I was in the moment and it brought me to tears.

Before I could get too overwhelmed with it all, the attentive, handsomely clad staff presented us with a plethora of canapes that included hamachi crudo and goat cheese crusted with beets and nuts. Also to pique the palate was popcorn seasoned with lemon verbena and spices and a broccoli rabe soup shooter served in a beaker. If those weren’t enough, the amuse-bouche of crab nestled under a clear piece of flavored gelee had me wanting to stop time and walk in the door again.

Normally, I would have one piece of bread from the pre-cursor breadbasket, but not at the Modern. Presented in an offset blown glass sphere, the petite hot and crusty baguettes were outdone only by the addition of goat’s milk butter perched on a piece of marble. Our two…three refills prompted a conversation about their new baker and the butter born from a need of a California dairy farmer.

And now our four-course meal at the Modern…

We started with the diver scallop, yellowfin tuna and Scottish salmon seasoned three ways and Alaskan king crab salad “cannelloni” with sea urchin coulis. I enjoyed the crunchy texture and taste of fried ginger on the tuna. Normally I’m not a fan of sea urchin, but the gritty brininess gave richness to a light dish.

For our second course, we had the sturgeon and sauerkraut tart with American caviar mousseline and applewood smoke, and veal sweetbread and mushroom ravioli. I don’t remember taking a bite of his tart because I was elbow deep in my dish. The strong umami flavor of mushrooms and delicate sweetbreads scratched that once-a-year itch.

If all of the service and attention was not enough until that point, our main course was plated from a cart topped with flame-fueled gold heating surfaces and a small army of staff holding clean copper pots containing each dish’s elements. He had a gorgeous rack of lamb with olives, fines herbs, fava bean-bacon fondue and crisp spring onion. It was a man meal for the ages. Cooked perfectly!

I had slow-roasted Maine lobster with spring vegetables and a wicked butter sauce. Ironically for me, the star of my dish was served on the side. It was the lobster claw served two ways. One claw was sliced lengthwise and topped with custard, which was topped with a thin sugar tuille cookie, like the crust of a creme brlee, and finished with the other claw served as a fritter on top. Salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, hot and cold–that could be a dish of its own.

While we waited for dessert to arrive, I was taken with the artisanal cheese cart floating by. If I could just stay for a couple more hours, I would have some room in my stomach for it, but my dessert of chocolate palette with salted butter-caramel ice cream called it first…plus a couple of chocolates from the handmade chocolates cart and a birthday gift from the pastry chef too.

I got exactly what I needed and being in the moment meant I could appreciate all that it was. I left simply with a good feeling, and sometimes that is all we really need.

Thank you to my food muse for a spectacular evening and birthday. Thank you to the Modern for what is now my best meal in New York City.

Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!

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Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email