Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, like other restaurant weeks has been around for a while.
And like other restaurant weeks, there are always places that try to get away with as little as possible (in hopes that you’ll order off the regular menu) and places that strive to please.
We were lucky enough to hit two that went above and beyond.
The first, Caterina DeMedici at the Culinary Institute of America (aka the CIA), was a big surprise! We were invited by a friend of Frank’s to join him and his wife. The first surprise was that we were going to be seven for dinner. He had invited neighbors and other friends, so we had a nice big table with lots of talk back and forth.
The second surprise was that the food was interesting and delicious. You might be thinking, well, it’s the CIA, why wouldn’t it be good, but the last time we ate there, it was a slightly better prepared version of Olive Garden’s “all the pasta you can eat promotion”—lots of pasta, none of it memorable.
Other than the poorly named “Airline Chicken Breast” (which, no surprise, no one at our table ordered), there were a lot of interesting choices on the menu. I started off with the burrata, which came perched on top of arugula and prosciutto, with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Hard to go wrong with burrata, and the creaminess of it worked perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto.
To follow, I went with the pork over polenta, with Brussels sprouts and a mustard jus. It was interesting because all three pork chops that were brought to the table were different shapes and sizes– a reminder that school was only in week two. They were good, and the mustard jus was a great accompaniment.
A few nights later, we went down to meet a couple of friends at Crabtree’s Kittle House. Chef Jay Lippin had been on my radio show and to paraphrase, “had me at lamb shanks”. There’s a full review of the restaurant coming up in the December issue of Organic Hudson Valley Magazine.
How many places do you know that have lobster bisque on their restaurant week menus? Crabtree’s does, and Frank ordered it. A big bowl with pieces of lobster and vegetables came to the table and the waiter poured the bisque over it. Delicious!
I went for the gnocchi, which was browned (something I’ve never tried, but will!) and served with tiny oven-dried tomatoes and other local vegetables. It was gone in a flash!
Chef Lippin sent over a couple of his tuna sushi pizzettas–his take on tuna sushi for us to try between courses. All Frank could do was smile and groan happily. ‘Nuf said?
The lamb shank had been on my mind for a week or more, and it was great! Falling off the (very large) bone, and once again on a bed of polenta (this time, really tasting of corn) with broccolini and a red wine sauce. It was a huge portion and the leftovers will make a great lunch!
Frank was once again reduced to smiling with pleasure over the pasta with a Bolognaise sauce made with local venison, pork and beef. I was granted a small bite and could see why he wasn’t sharing!
Desserts were terrific, and we drove home muttering about eating too much, but loving every mouthful!
Hudson Valley Restaurant Week runs through Friday, November 12th so you still have time to make a reservation.
I’ve got one more dinner planned, Thursday night at The Amsterdam, then I’d better be fasting until Thanksgiving!