Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hudson Valley Restaurant Weekend

iphone picture of Hudson Valley: March 19, 2011

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week
March 14 - 27 2011
Three courses, lunch $20 + dinner $28

Now that it's spring break, I can catch up on some blogging. A few weeks ago, Gary and I celebrated his birthday by spending a weekend in the Hudson Valley, and taking advantage of their restaurant week.

Day 1

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

The restaurant that Gary had his heart set on for his birthday dinner, Blue Hill, was unfortunately not participating in the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week - but the meal was so good that it was worth every outrageous penny.

The grounds are rustically beautiful, and the inside of the restaurant is designed to look like a modern, airy barn - complete with iron beams and white linens.

Blue Hill only has two dinner options: either a five-course tasting menu for $108, or an eight-course tasting menu for $148 (both menus provide the same amount of food - the eight courses are just smaller portions).

What perhaps is the most unique thing about the menu is that other than the number of courses, diners have no choices at all. The chef constructs the menu every night depending on what is fresh from the farm that day; and with each course, the servers explain the "local" ingredients. For example, before an amazing poached egg in pesto course, our server showed us this "nest" of eggs and explained how many egg-laying hens were on the grounds, and how the eggs were gathered that morning for our meal. Now that is fresh!

Gary and I both chose the eight course tasting menu, and with each delicacy, we ascended higher and higher into culinary heaven. One of our favorite small bites were these "beet burgers" - mini burgers made with beets and goat cheese on a micro-bun (pictured below).

After we left Blue Hill, with goofy smiles on our faces - trying to recall every epicurean detail of our wonderful meal, we headed over to our B&B: the Kittle House Inn.

Kittle House Inn

11 Kittle Road, Chappaqua, NY 10514

After getting our room keys from the "hotel reception" area (which doubles as the restaurant hostess station) we climbed a set of wooden stairs to a clean, comfortable room -- above the restaurant's kitchen. Surprisingly, it wasn't too noisy, and we were able to get a good night's sleep for the second day of our adventure.

Day 2

Luckily for our bank accounts - our culinary adventures on day 2 revolved around restaurants actually participating in Restaurant Week.

We started the day with lunch at Union Restaurant and Bar Latino, which was not only festively decorated, but featured beautifully prepared traditional Latin dishes with a modern flare. Another wonderful layer to our lunching experience at Union Restaurant was the "local" wine and beer offerings, meant to compliment the prix fixe menu.

Union Restaurant
Lunch Prix Fixe ($20)

Gary's Menu
Guacamole Tomatillo Salsa (chimol, hard egg, and smoked paprika tortilla chips)
Pan Roasted Hake Habichuela (zucchini, white beans ragout, and kale sauteed in citrus)
Conklin-Farm Apple Fritters (vanilla ice cream and Phillip & John honey NYC)
Mother's Milk Keegan Ale, Kingston NY

My Menu
BBQ Pork Quesadilla (jack cheese, cucumber, and cabbage coleslaw)
Pan Roasted Hake Habichuela (zucchini, white beans ragout, and kale sauteed in citrus)
Coconut Arroz Brlee (coconut rice pudding and caramel crust)
Millbrook Chardonnay, Hudson Valley, NY 2008


After lunch, we drove over to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) to stroll their grounds and pick up a "class list" for Gary. The campus itself was lovely, and inspiring.

We even got to see the pastry class's "final projects" - themed cakes.... I really loved the detail on this one (especially the cute, muddy pig)

Valley at the Garrison - Dinner Prix Fixe ($28)

After we left the CIA, we were ready for our final meal of the weekend, dinner at Valley at the Garrison.

Gary's Menu
Garrison Farms Leek Veloute (speck, potato)
Wild Hive Grits (local egg, winter vegetables, black olive, caper berries)
Warm Brownie Pudding (coffee crunch ice cream, roasted almonds)

My Menu
Tuna Crudo (honey, chives, grapefruit)
Wild Hive Grits (local egg, winter vegetables, black olive, caper berries)
"Chunky Monkey" Bites (chocolate chip doughnuts, coconut cream glaze) - pictured below

The best part of the dinner at Valley was the creamy grits, which were served in a black iron skillet, with a perfectly poached farm egg nestled on top, and soft chunks of vegetable nestled underneath. The appetizers were clunky and had very single-note flavors; in particular, the thick chunks of tuna were just "ok", and lacked any real sweetness or acidity that the honey and grapefruit promised to provide. The deserts were also a bit disappointing. For example, although the doughnuts looked pretty, they were dry, despite sitting on top of a thin layer of cream. However, for the price and beautiful atmosphere - the grits alone were were worth it.

Trip Links:

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

Friday March 18, 2011

Gary's Birthday Dinner: Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Bed and Breakfast: Crabtree's Kittle House Inn

Saturday March 19, 2011
Lunch: Union Restaurant and Bar Latino (participating restaurant)
Day Trip: American Culinary Institute of America (CIA)
Dinner: Valley at the Garrison (participating restaurant)

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