tasting

Chef’s Tasting Table at Mohonk Mountain House

by Anne Maxfield on May 15, 2017

Accidental Locavore Mohonk Mountain House Fois GrasMohonk Mountain House is one of the Hudson Valley’s iconic hotels and has been a favorite place to stay for almost 150 years.

There’s plenty to do to build up an appetite and a massive dining room to enjoy a meal.

But everyone knows that.

Accidental Locavore Mohonk Mountain House OysterWhat you don’t know is that there’s a secret staircase in the back of the dining room leading to the massive kitchen that regularly puts out 500-600 meals every evening.

In the middle of that, is the space that only puts out 10 very special meals.

I was one of those lucky diners recently and was invited to experience the eleven-course Chef’s Tasting Table menu with wines, designed by Executive Chef Jim Palmeri.

It’s offered on Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30 with a six-person minimum. You can take your chances on an available spot (or two), or be a big spender and reserve the whole table for a very special occasion.  If you like wine, you might want to consider spending the night – the wines are lovely and well matched to the food, and the road home from Mohonk is not one you want to mess with.

Accidental Locavore Mohonk Mountain House RisottoThe menu changes depending on the season and what’s good locally. While Chef Palmeri and his team use local ingredients wherever possible, they do stretch the boundaries to include luxuries like black truffles and, for our dinner, mainly French wines.

If you think eleven courses sounds daunting, most of them are just a mouthful or two. The exceptions are the entrée (the only choice you have to make for the evening) and the dessert – so extraordinary it deserves and is getting its own post.

Mohonk Mountain House SashimiOne of the big treats for me as a diner has always been those meals where you just sit back and let the chefs do what they do best – cook. I love the combination of not having to make a choice and the surprise that each course and every mouthful brings!

To have something to refer to, I was given a menu at the beginning, but it got folded it up and hidden in my purse so as not to ruin the surprises to come.

Mohonk Mountain House DuckAnd, to not ruin your surprise, because you truly need to go there (I know you’ve got a birthday coming up), I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite bites and let you drool over the photos.

To book your own dining adventure (and don’t forget about a room) call: 845-883-3798.

My thanks to Chef Jim Palmeri, Executive Sous Chef Steve Anson, Robert Leduc and the amazing staff at the Mohonk Mountain House for a memorable dinner!

For more photos, check out HudsonValleyEats.com. Mohonk Mountain House Cheese Course

 

 

 

 

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Cheese and…Chocolate??

by Anne Maxfield on September 28, 2015

Accidental Locavore Cheese and Chocolate PresentationThe Accidental Locavore was invited to what on the surface seemed to be an unusual combination – a tasting of cheese and chocolate at the French Cheese Board. I thought it was going to be a casual thing, that there would be cheeses and chocolates to taste and I could fit it in before going off to a DeGustibus class at Macy’s. Of course, that wasn’t the case and it looked like a very informative program that I missed because of the time constraints.

However, Julien (merci beaucoup!) snuck me off to the kitchen and we did a speed-tasting so I could get a sense of the pairings (and possibilities). There were five pairings using chocolate from Raaka, a “virgin” chocolate maker in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It started off easily, with a coconut milk chocolate (take note, all you vegans out there) and a whipped cheese, le Fromage Fouetté from Brittany (to follow along with the photo, start in the top right corner). They were surprisingly compatible, with the chocolate bringing out the sweetness and freshness of the whipped cheese. There was also a nice contrast between the snap of the chocolate and the creaminess of the cheese.

Accidental Locavore Cheese and ChocolateThe second one was a Madagascar chocolate with a Mimolette. Julien cautioned me to break up the Mimolette, as the cheese-to-chocolate ratio was a little lopsided. I was glad that I did, because I was still eating two very distinct flavors. This was my least favorite pairing; the strong chocolate (75% cacao) and the stronger Mimolette. And unlike the first pairing there wasn’t much difference in the textures. Essentially, one just cancelled out the other.

After that, there was what I thought might be the weirdest, most difficult pairing – chocolate with sea salt meeting Epoisses (one of the great runny, stinky cheeses) – but they were surprisingly good together. The Epoisses was perfect, smooth and runny and the little bit of saltiness in the cheese and chocolate brought out the sweetness of both.

My favorite pairing was the next one, bourbon barrel-aged cocoa bean chocolate and a Bleu d’Auvergne. This blue cheese is milder and creamier than its Roquefort cousin. Both cheese and chocolate brought out the best in each other – you got all the undernotes of the chocolate along with all the subtleties of the blue – wonderful!

The last one was designed to be the closer, a dessert combo. It was a chocolate with vanilla roobios (a sort of tea) and a new-to-me cheese, Ossau-Iraty, a fairly firm sheep’s milk cheese from the Western Pyrénées. Flaky and mild, the cheese and chocolate brought out the sweetness in both and a taste of toasted marshmallow (in this case, not a bad thing) from the chocolate.

Accidental Locavore French Cheese and ChocolateWhile I lost my initial skepticism about pairing cheese with chocolate (they actually work nicely together), I don’t know that I would ever serve them. Personally, I’d much rather have a cheese course (my favorite dessert in France) and then if there was room, some chocolate dessert. It’s like pain au chocolat – again, I much prefer the components separately (hot chocolate and a croissant) than together. Would you serve the two together?

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The Accidental Locavore: Cheese Please, Or Not

by Anne Maxfield on November 12, 2012

Accidental Locavore Cheese Tasting

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but the Accidental Locavore finally found some cheese she didn’t love—and it was French! OK, to be fair, it wasn’t the cheese I didn’t like, it was a French cheese and wine class put on by Artisanal and it was terribly disappointing. If you don’t know Artisanal, it’s a cheese-centric restaurant with a wonderful collection of cheese that you can also buy (or order) to have at home, so it was doubly disappointing that the class fell so short.

We sat down to six cheeses arranged in the order you were supposed to eat them. Strangely, unlike most cheese “clocks”, where you start at noon or one o’clock, this one started at six. But that wasn’t the real issue. The idea behind a clock is that you start with the mildest cheese and work your way around to the strongest. It’s a little like wine tasting (which was also a component of the class)-start with whites and work your way to reds.

Accidental Locavore Cheese ClockThe tasting started with a Pierre Robert, usually a wonderful triple-cream, similar to a St. Andre or a Brillat-Savarin. For some reason this, and the last cheese, a Roquefort, tasted a little like ammonia and was much stronger in an unpleasant way, then I remember it being. Being so pungent, it struck me as an odd choice to start with.

Continuing on, the second cheese was an Abbaye de Belloc, a gentle sheep’s milk cheese. Why this wasn’t the lead cheese is a mystery, as it was much milder than the Pierre Robert. It was followed by a Munster, one of many washed-rind cheeses that definitely fall into the “stinky cheese” category. Again, a strange placement and it seemed like that was the pattern for the evening—alternating between strong and mild.

My favorite was the Cantalet which was compared to a British farmhouse cheddar. I don’t know if I liked it because it was the only one that was new to me, or if it was just a really nice cheese (and I love a good cheddar).  The biggest disappointment? Probably the Roquefort. Unfortunately it was almost inedible. A nasty ammonia-tainted taste and a plastic texture–supermarket blue cheese would have given it a run for the money.

Unlike classes I’ve taken at Murray’s, where the cheese is always interesting and impeccable and the instructors informative, this just seemed like an opportunity for the students to get drunk and eat cheese. Have you taken cheese classes? Where have you been happiest?

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Accidental Locavore 2 Chick With Chocolate Tasting

Admit it, you’ve always fantasized about being locked up overnight in a chocolate factory, right? One night last week, the Accidental Locavore had the closest thing, a private tour and tasting at an amazing chocolate company; 2 Chicks With Chocolate. We were given the fantasy treatment by the “Chick in Charge”, Elyissia Wassung. She had arranged a total tasting of all their products, from bean to finished bonbons and everything in between. Nothing like skipping dinner and going straight to dessert in a big way.

Did you know that cacao can only be grown within 20 degrees of the equator? Elyissia showed us the big pod that contains the seeds (about the size of very large Lima beans). The growers ship the seeds in big bags to the roaster, who like a coffee roaster, is primarily responsible for how the chocolate tastes. Too much roasting at too high a heat, burnt tasting chocolate (think Starbucks). Then, much like a wine tasting,  she had us smell and taste different chocolates from 100% (really bitter) down in stages to milk chocolate. You’re supposed to let them melt on your tongue, almost impossible with the 100% and generally difficult when you’re just wanting that big chocolate hit!  My favorite was the 64%. It’s really flavorful, dark, and creamy, but not too dry and bitter.

Accidental Locavore 2 Chicks With ChocolateAfter that,  Elyissia showed us how they make their filled chocolates.  First, they airbrush edible color into the molds, then make the shells with the tempered chocolate (think a much bigger and cooler chocolate fountain), add the fillings, let them set, and top them. All through the process, temperature is critical, and the molds are constantly vibrated so no air bubbles ruin your eating experience. There’s an awful lot of work for a quick bite, so the next time you treat yourself, relax and enjoy!

Did I mention that at every step, we had to stop and taste? Tough work but we managed to pull through. From there we went on to the bark and toffee collections. The pumpkin spice bark was great, with a base of pumpkin seed brittle, and I even really like the coffee bark, and I’m not generally one to mix my chocolate with coffee. After that a quick taste of the newest addition to the line, the spicy tiles, and a very rich jolt of the fire and ice hot chocolate.

The grande finale? We got to make our own chocolate bars. Using the milk chocolate in the tempering machine, we poured it into a couple of bar molds, and then got creative. I added coco nibs, and some round crunchy things. My friend Laura added some fleur de sel to hers. Once they were set, and we had goodie bags filled with samples (believe it or not there were a couple of things we hadn’t tasted…the popcorn, wow!), we piled into the car and headed home, our fantasies fulfilled.

To fulfill your fantasies, 2 Chicks is offering a 30% discount until the end of the year. Use code LOCA30. Enjoy and don’t forget the popcorn!

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