This past weekend my husband watched the kids while I met up with some girlfriends from college in the Hudson River Valley. We ate, we drank, we laughed. It was a wonderful weekend.
We arrived Saturday and after a tour of FDR's house, we had dinner at the Culinary Institute of America. The large and beautiful campus boasts six award winning restaurants open to the public, and we chose The American Bounty. It is completely run by the students, and tip is included in your bill. My girlfriends were nervous about eating there -- like a haircut from a beauty school, you could end up with something pretty terrible -- but I was excited.
To start, I ordered the seared foie gras. No matter where I am, if foie gras is on the menu, I order it. Mostly because it is one of my absolute favorites, but I also like to support and applaud the chef and establishment for not folding under the PETA protest pressure. The CIA served it atop a gingerbread cake with candied kumquats and berry preserves. Delicious. The gals were squeamish and wouldn't taste it, but although I offered, I would prefer to have all of it to myself anyway.
For dinner, I ordered the duck leg. It was cooked perfectly and served atop soft onions and spinach in a divine curry sauce garnished with whole almonds. They also put a bit of mango salsa on the duck, which I imagine was an attempt to cut the greasy attributes of the duck, but it seemed unnecessary and could have been left off.
One of my friends ordered the chicken, which came with carrot puree and braised red cabbage. I adore sweet and sour red cabbage, so I begged a taste off of her plate. It was disappointing, as was the carrot puree, which tasted more like orange colored bland mashed potatoes. My other friend ordered the scallops with chanterelles, wide noodles, and meyer lemon broth. It looked wonderful, and she liked it very much but I didn't taste it as I have a mushroom allergy.
We took a picture, but it was at the end of the main course, so all you can see (moving clockwise from 9:00) is the fairly untouched chicken and sides, duck bone and delicious curry sauce remnants, and the empty scallop bowl hiding behind the water glass.
For dessert, we ordered the warm apple tart to share. The pastry crust was a little mushy, but the apples and ice cream were nice. The whiskey sauce really knocked your socks off! It felt like taking a straight shot of the stuff. With wine and the included service charge, it cost us each about $55. I thought it was worth it, and enjoyed my meal very much. The student servers were attentive and it was truly a fine dining experience.
On Sunday we found two wineries that were open and went in for tastings. Benmarl, our first stop, was originally founded by someone with connections to Chadds Ford Winery here in the Philadelphia area. It has since sold, but they still use local NY grapes as well as California grapes to make their wines. Their tasting cost $8 for six wines, but the nice older gentleman doing the pouring said that six wasn't really a hard and fast rule. I enjoyed their Traminette, a local white that is reminiscent of a dry Riesling, and took home a bottle for $15.
After Benmarl, we went to Stoutridge, the only unprocessed winery in the country. The $5 tasting included a take-home glass, five wine pours and a bonus pour when my friend showed interest in the blush. The owner spent about 45 minutes with us, telling us all about his mission, his method, and how the winery was built to be sustainable with a low carbon footprint. He buys his grapes locally, doesn't process out the pectins and proteins, and doesn't add sulfites. His production method does make the wine taste incredible, light, and fresh, and gives it a long shelf life (about 10 years for the average white) but it doesn't allow him to ship it or sell it in stores. The heat on the truck ride would damage the pectins and proteins and ruin the wine, which means that if you want Stoutridge wine, you must go to the tasting room. I picked up a bottle of Heritage Red (a blend of local red grapes) and Seyval Blanc (a local white grape) for about $20 each bottle.
After all our wine tasting, it was time for football playoffs. My Eagles were out last week, but my friend from Boston still had hopes that the favored Patriots and their Ugg endorsing quarterback would easily move on. So, deep in Jets territory, we ventured out for a TV and a bite to eat. We found seats at the bar of the Raccoon Saloon and watched the New Yorkers all around us cheer their team to victory. It was a good thing the burgers were awesome.
The petite burger, which at 8oz is the smaller portion of the "regular" 12oz burger on the menu. I added blue cheese and sauteed onions and it was amazing. The french fries came with housemade ketchup -- the first condiment of which I have ever ordered seconds.
All too soon, it was time to leave behind our oasis of girl talk and memories of the good old carefree college days. As I packed up in the dark early morning hours to drive home, I wished that the Buttermilk Falls Inn, our lovely bed and breakfast, had their spread out just a little earlier so that I could take one (or five) of their delicious cranberry scones with me for the road. Alas, it was just me and my pleasant new memories of a great weekend, driving south refreshed and eager to be back with my family.