lamb shank

Making the Most of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

by Anne Maxfield on November 6, 2017

Accidental Locavore Burrata for Hudson Valley Restaurant WeekHudson 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.

Accidental Locavore Pork Chop Hudson Valley Restaurant WeekTo 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!

Accidental Locavore Lobster Bisque for Hudson Valley Restaurant WeekI 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?

Accidental Locavore Tuna for Hudson Valley Restaurant WeekThe 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!

Accidental Locavore Cavatelli for Hudson Valley Restaurant WeekDesserts 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!




The Accidental Locavore Dines at Tavern on the Green

by Anne Maxfield on January 26, 2015

Accidental Locavore Tavern InteriorWhen the Accidental Locavore’s friend Laura mentioned that her besties were getting together at Tavern on the Green, the thought that went through our heads was what a waste of a meal. However, a week later I was begging her to let me cash in my honorary membership and join them.

What changed? The opportunity to see, early on, if the legendary Jeremiah Towers could make this a destination restaurant for the food as well as the scenery. I don’t know how much influence  he has had on the menu yet, but all of the food we had was well-prepared, with enough good dishes to make one not dread going back and a couple of real surprises (in a very good way).

The biggest negative this time was not with the food but with the patrons. It has never crossed my mind before in a restaurant that there should be some screening for parties with children. However, after sitting next to a rambunctious toddler, I would happily pay extra to be seated in an over-21 room! Kicking and thrashing neighbors aside, the meal that we had on a busy (Santa-com, mass protests) holiday weekend was easily the best I’ve had there.

Accidental Locavore Tavern Caesar SaladFor appetizers: mussels, Caesar salads and scallops made their way around the table. Both the Caesar salad and the mussels were big bowls, probably too big for one with an entree, but easily shared. The mussels had what was advertised as breadcrumbs but were more like croutons, which were helpful in soaking up the flavorful sauce. My only complaint would be the size of the mussels–let’s just call them dainty…. Not so dainty was the Caesar salad, with big leaves of what was billed as little gem lettuce, but which from a distance could easily mistaken for kale. And, while I can only guess at the overhead, $15 for a bowl of lettuce with dressing and a crouton?

Accidental Locavore Tavern Lamb ShankThe main courses were where the surprises lay. Feeling adventurous, I ordered the lamb with a red curry sauce. It was a well-braised shank, with the meat removed from the bone, in a slightly spicy Thai red curry sauce with chick peas and green beans that some poor commis, had to macramé into a love knot. Since the light at the table was dim at best, sadly, his knot tying skills almost went unnoticed. The best dish I tasted was the one I would be least likely to order, especially at someplace like Tavern – the (free-range) chicken. It was tender, juicy and tasting like it had been in the wood-burning oven. Totally delicious – definitely the best dish of the night! The pork chops looked good, and were fine, but not outstanding, and the strange combination of tuna with what was essentially pork and beans, remains questionable.

Accidental Locavore Tavern KitchenWe split a few desserts, all good, but no real standouts. Tavern could actually become a place to go for the food, but it’s walking a very fine line, and Jeremiah Tower has a tough job ahead of him. It’s possible that like my chef friend Pete surmises, that he could have been hired just to turn the place around, garner some good reviews and then disappear into the sunset leaving us with yet another Betony  overrated restaurant. We’ll see.