Saturday, April 26, 2008

May I speak to the cheese-boy, please?

I have decided that I shouldn’t waste money on going out to eat unless the establishment has a cheese-boy (or -man, or -woman, or -girl – that doesn’t matter much, only that there is a person dedicated to explaining and providing the cheese course).

Our trip to the CIA for SB’s birthday was great fun! The campus, located along the Hudson River, is a beautiful little oasis of stately brick buildings (not including the dorms which are just ugly, but I assume, functional brick buildings), and includes a reproduction Italianate villa with a formal herb garden, and an interesting little pavilion with a dancing waters fountain. It is about 2-3 miles from Marist College and from FDR’s library in the other direction on Route 9 in Hyde Park, NY. There are also several wineries in the area.

Before our dinner, I just needed to see the Danny Kaye Theatre that I had read about. It turns out that Danny Kaye became quite a chef in his later years and the Institute dedicated one of its “theatres” (an amphitheatre focusing on a demonstration kitchen rather than a lectern) to him. In addition to the beautiful trompe l’oeil paintings of a French, Italian, or perhaps American countryside manor, the theatre had two large and compelling black and white photos of Danny Kaye cooking (taken by Roddy McDowell) and a few sayings by and about him and his love of cooking. It was nice.

We ate at the
American Bounty restaurant (reservations three weeks in advance) and enjoyed the atmosphere, the nervous, inexperienced, and seemingly dyslexic wait staff, and mostly, the food. Sadly, I was actually kind of full, so I didn’t really devour my meal as I am known to do, but we did manage to savor everything we ate and drank. Since getting there took us a while, we decided to soak it all in and make the most of it. I sampled four kinds of soups (sample size!) including Alligator-Andouille sausage soup (yes – the alligator tasted like chicken), and beer-cheddar soup (which oddly, tasted like beer and cheddar), while SB enjoyed the fattened goose liver (ew) also known as foie gras. After much pleading and begging from SB, I tried the foie gras. All right - it was pretty good. I found a new favorite in spinach spatzle (the side dish to my 3” thick grilled Berkshire pork chop), and tried to politely ignore the moaning from my table-mate whilst he was consuming the smoked Long Island duck with curried onions, ginger, almonds, and pickled mango.

The very best part of the evening was the wine pairing that we both had with our dinners. Not that the wine was the best part, but that experimenting with the combination of flavors imparted by the wine to the food and by the food to the wine was just fascinating! I had a red flight (three kinds of red) and loved the first very smooth pinot noir, and not the second, merlot, nor the third, syrah. After eating some of the meal, I again tasted the pinot and it tasted like Robitussin. That’s fascinating to me! The syrah then became my favorite. Somehow, I managed to drink all three 2-oz. glasses anyway. Then came the cheese course.

While I don’t belong to any cheese eating secret societies, I do love cheese. And I have now discovered that I love cheese with dried fruit – not in the cheese, but as an accompaniment to the cheese. Mild apricots go well with mildness of Camembert, and the sweetness of dates make a nice foil to the sharp intensity of the Bleu. Goat cheese – well…nothing I’ve found can make goat cheese taste like anything but goat. I decided to go against the advice of the cheese boy and had a glass of late harvest vignoles (roughly translated, sickeningly sweet white wine). I didn’t think it provided anything but sweetness and alcohol. Then I tasted what SB got with his dessert – an even sweeter wine, Muscat (it tasted just like honey), but his dessert, panna cotta, interacted with the wine to make it takes less sweet! It’s a really cool thing. We pretty near closed down the place. Three hours after beginning, we took the shuttle back to our hotel (shuttle - good deal after two full glasses of wine combined with a jubilant attitude).

Next time, we’d like to try out the
Ristorante Caterina de Medici!


Jenn Casey said...

That sounds like so much fun! What a cool way to celebrate a birthday or special occasion.

And I had no idea Danny Kaye was such a chef. How neat!

Kim said...

Sounds like you'll be enjoying a little Winsleydale with Wallace.

Lynne said...

Rational Jenn - yeah, I thought you might be interested in that bit about DK.

Kim - Apparently, I have a lot of research to do in the cheese-appreciation and claymation department.

The cheese card did say this at the top which I found quite amusing: "Cheese...milk's leap toward immortality" and attributed it to Clifton Fadiman. Now that's two things I'll need to look up.

Kim said...

I am not a cheese aficianado--I don't recommend winsleydale. Hubby, however, is willing to try anything. When the kids and I go shopping, for fun we'll just try to pick the stinkiest cheese. That has actually led to me leaving the room with a particularly pungent sample (even more than limberger--bad spelling, I'm sure).