Bounty hunter: On the hunt for a meal to remember

Author: Mary Ann Ebner
Posted: Monday, December 29, 2008
My husband doesn’t keep a pulse on hunting season, but he has mastered the art of hunting. When Greg planned to pamper me over a lunch date, hunting skills appeared as second nature to him. He went hunting... for a restaurant that could produce a great meal.

He tracked a worthy location, one where the importance of food shares a balance with presentation and setting. On a blustery day, as we drove to the American Bounty restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, snow began to fall.

We parked our car only a short walk from the restaurant, but still managed to arrive inside covered with wet snowflakes. Greg handed our dripping garments to the smiling attendant at coat check, soaking her hands.

We approached the dining room entrance where a young, tousled-haired maitre d’-in-training greeted us. He asked if we had a reservation. We acknowledged that we did and he replied with “Okay.” His trainer, a distinguished looking father figure, tapped him on the back and embellished the response: “Wonderful,” he said, “and welcome! Please show this lovely couple to their table. Where’s the finesse and schmoozing?”

Draped in a crisp, white cloth, a scenic table for two waited by the window and another staff member showed us to it. A large wall of glass towered over an intimate courtyard filled with snow falling on evergreens. If the meal to follow could match the view, my husband was depositing enormous spouse credits (not that I was counting) into the reserves.

We were seated in a narrow wing of the restaurant. Although guests were dining at every table, our waiters kept an attentive watch over us. One opened a bottle of sparkling water and left us alone to browse the menu. Greg ordered a glass of the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir and I tried the flight of red wines: two-ounce samplers of the MacMurray Ranch, Bedell Merlot and a Novelty Hill Syrah. Snow kept falling, and the thought of being hurried never entered our minds. 

Bread makes a meal but this restaurant doesn’t allow its guests to make a meal of their deluxe assortment. With dairy fresh butter on our table, we each selected a slice of baguette and a just-baked wheat roll, prepared only on weekends.

For starters, Greg selected seared sea scallops served over a bed of spaghetti squash. Dripping with garlic butter, the scallops were generously smothered with toasted almonds. I most graciously accepted a taste. (I enjoyed my Hawaiian coconut crab soup, but it was no match for the scallops.) The baby beets on my arugula and frisèe salad were perfectly roasted and served with toasted hazelnuts and drunken goat cheese. I would definitely offer it to friends as well as heads of state.

But once again, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Greg’s preference: the pan roasted marinated mushroom salad. The cleverly molded mushrooms with microgreens, walnuts, truffle oil and Gorgonzola cheese disappeared from his plate. My husband passed on the pasta but relented when I offered to share my order of homemade pumpkin ravioli. I could have easily finished this spice combination, prepared with sage cream and amaretti crumbs, without help.

Our main courses were more closely matched, though Greg’s braised short ribs, served with spaetzle and red cabbage, were the top pick for tenderness. The dish was embellished with just the right dusting of fresh horseradish. I realized that I wasn’t the only one my husband intended to indulge that afternoon. He savored his serving of beef short ribs.

The grilled lamb chops that I ordered medium-rare to medium were closer to medium and slightly warmer than I prefer, but lamb is a luxury any time in our family meal rotation, and I appreciated this variation with glazed Porcini mustard, fingerling potato salad and red wine sauce.

We both ordered coffee, poured to our liking: hot, rich and black. And the desserts were delivered in one format: dressed to impress. I wouldn’t order the volcano chocolate cake or the chocolate crême broulèe again. Why tamper with traditional crême brulèe? But the meticulously-rounded scoops of vanilla ice cream, rolled in graham cracker crumbs and drizzled with caramel, formed perfect petite snowballs as a fitting finish to the afternoon’s snow and our near-perfect experience at the American Bounty Restaurant.
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Reader Feedback
January 05, 2009 | 8:14 AM
 
This is why we love living in the Hudson Valley! This article mirrored many visits my family and I have had to the CIA...what a treasure. Thanks for the personal style, humor and overall delight of this recording of your experience!
 
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