As the last days of HVRW drew near, my husband and I took the opportunity to take our friends, Barbara and Perry, on an interesting culinary adventure up to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park for lunch at their premier restaurant, The Bocuse Restaurant.
As you drive into the CIA’s sprawling campus overlooking the Hudson River, don’t be surprised to find yourself in the middle of chef-jacketed students hurrying to their classes. A simple lunch reservation can be expanded into a true view into the world of these students. Schedule a student led tour like we did or just take a few minutes to walk down the corridors of Roth Hall to gaze through the windows of the classroom kitchens with the students hard at work.
The highlight of our tour was the “Gastrotypographicalassemblage” created by
CBS Art Director and Designer Lou Dorfsman displayed in its new home
at the recently opened Marriott Pavilion and Conference Center
Upon entering The Bocuse Restaurant, we were greeted with an enthusiastic welcome from one of the many students working at the restaurant.
Like the other two campus restaurants, The American Bounty and Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici, it is run by students just weeks shy of graduation. The dining room is sleek and modern with just the right classic touches, like the chef toque (hat) sconces or the colorful ceramic roosters (all details which give a nod to Paul Bocuse, the iconic French chef who was the leader in the development of 20th Century modern French cuisine).
In my opinion, the best feature of the dining room is the view into the kitchen, giving guests a peek into the inner workings of a professional kitchen.
We started our lunch with a few creative drinks from the tableside cocktail cart. While us girls opted for cassis (blackberry) infused Champagne, the boys couldn’t resist the smoked Manhattan. Our server seemed very adept playing with fire and then capturing the smoke under the glass to create this cocktail.
For HVRW, the restaurant offered its regular menu with a just a few supplements on some items. Amuse bouches (small bites) from the kitchen gave us a delicious indication of what was in store for us.
For an appetizer, I had to have chef Bocuse’s signature Truffle Soup dish. A dome of buttery puff pastry gives way to a lush and earthy broth of floating truffles, vegetables, and beef which I can only describe as heavenly.
Perry couldn’t wait to share his dish of light as a feather Parisian Gnocchi with braised tender veal cheeks.
The Duck and Pistachio Pate was an equally good choice for the rest of our table.
The students and staff at Bocuse work hard to create a NYC fine dining experience. Our table was quite taken with the synchronized serving of our entrees. Four students, four shiny metal cloches (domes), all removed simultaneously to reveal our dishes.
Three of us, including myself, ordered the Lamb Duo (pictured above). A roasted rack and a breast of lamb confit served with curried rutabaga, Swiss chard and fermented mustard seeds. My lamb was pink throughout and amazingly tender, which led me to quiz one of our student servers about its preparation. Was it cooked sous vide? He confirmed with the kitchen that the modern technique of vacuum sealing proteins and heating in a circulating water bath to a precise temperature was how my lamb arrived so perfectly cooked. The texture and flavor was truly amazing.
My husband, John, opted for the Venison Loin with root veggies, pomegranate, and chestnut confit which was just as impressive.
Dessert was a real treat for the guys. Ice cream was made tableside in a manual cranked KitchenAid mixer with just enough pours of liquid nitrogen into the vanilla creme anglaise (custard) to turn it into a luxurious and velvety icy delight.
And just in case we needed to be tempted further, it was accompanied with Floating Island (meringue) in a Caramel Anglaise, Date Cake topped with a Walnut-Brown Sugar Sauce, Braised Pineapple with Salted Butter Crumble in a cute little cast iron pan and last, but not least, a delicate Coffee Macaron.
While Barbara opted for the tangy Goat Cheese Cake complete with a grand billowy presentation as an herbal infusion was poured around a dry iced moat in the dish,
the island flavors of my Lemon Curd Cake with coconut ice cream made me feel like summer was just around the corner (one could only hope!).
We all agreed that the do-it-yourself French press coffee, complete with minute timer, was not only fun, but honestly the best coffee we’ve had in a long time (I think I might be making another kitchen gadget purchase).
Although HVRW is over until the fall, you can still take advantage of fine dining at very reasonable prices at all of the restaurants at The Culinary Institute of America. And just think, it might be the next Iron Chef in the kitchen cooking your meal!
The 411 on The Bocuse Restaurant:
1946 Campus Drive (Route 9), Hyde Park
Located inside Roth Hall