I have lived in New York’s Hudson Valley Region for over 35 years. In all that time, I never visited the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park even though it is a mere 27 miles from my home. Instead I chose to go into New York City for fine dining. Let me tell you, what a huge mistake! Friends and I visited their Pangea pop-up restaurant yesterday for a fabulous, over-the-top, four course lunch yesterday that left us yearning for more … soon!
It was an absolutely beautiful day and after a nice leisurely drive and a quick look around the campus we headed over to Pangea. What an amazing transformation to a space turning it into a fabulous restaurant with a warm, inviting atmosphere with lots of character. The dining room was well staffed with eager culinary students ready to answer any question and serve every need. Our servers, and the entire staff really, were warm and friendly. Our only disappointment, (darn IRS regulations), was you can’t tip them even though their service warrants it. The school does include a ‘service charge’ on your bill though and those funds go to scholarships and other student activities.
The lunch menu consists of 8 dishes served in four courses. Each course came with one dish individually plated and the other for the table.
The first course included a Parsley Cream soup with horseradish and a flax seed cracker adorned with almond cream and spring herbs on the side. The table plate was their very own Pangea flatbread with three spreads. Edamame Salsa, Garlic Dal and Red Beet Hummus.
Every one was exceptional and at the end of the meal we voted on the best dish with the Parsley Soup the hands down winner overall.
The second course was a seafood course featuring a beautiful presentation of Arctic Char, two ways. This fish represents Pangea’s focus on renewable, bountiful resources. The individually plated dish was an array of the day’s available Seafood Steamed in Retsina Broth. Our dishes included Mussels, Calamari and Arctic Char. Retsina, a pungent, earthy flavored, Greek wine along with Fregola, Chard and a basket of ‘pine needle fries’ to sprinkle over the top completed the bowl. (Jen wanted to take the bowls home.) The table plate was a sushi inspired dish of Seared Arctic Char with a ginger glaze, parsnip-pine nut ‘rice’ over a seaweed salad. My favorite part of this dish was the unmistakable crunch the parsnip-pine nut ‘rice’ added to the dish!
The third course included another of my favorites as the table plate. The Roasted Celery Root was simply amazing. Roasted with thyme and a lemon-honey glaze, it was almost mistaken for a dessert! It was served table-side by another of our fabulous wait staff. I am going to be trying to duplicate this one in my kitchen in the very near future. The individually plated dish was the Tagine of House-Smoked Duck. I honestly must say that while the taste and flavors of this particular dish were excellent, the duck was just a bit overdone. I think this is probably because it was smoked first and then added to the tagine which included an almond curry sauce, spinach and pickled papaya. Mixing the papaya into the curry really helped bring all of the flavors together … Incredibly difficult to manage a perfect serving every time. The picture of it is above being served to our friend Jen by one of our friendly servers.
The fourth course, (not include in the voting for best dish because … well, it’s dessert!), was so delicious we all wanted more! The individual plate was a Poached Rhubarb and Strawberry Gratin with a smooth, creamy sabayon. There was also a wonderful Strawberry Sorbet over Lemon Shortbread Crumble that was equally delicious! The table plate was a selection of Hudson Valley Cheese with a morel infused honey, fruit paste and a nut bread. Accompanying all of that deliciousness was a beautiful smooth flavored Ethiopian coffee. Simply wonderful!
That’s the whole deal, folks and if you want some you better hurry. They are only serving lunch for a few more days, May 21, 2015 and dinner until June 1, 2015. After that the restaurant will be just a warm pleasant memory .. at least for us!