Peaks and Valleys
The Hudson Valley is not only the exquisite setting of this Garrison eatery, but the best part of its menu
The setting is lovely. From the candlelit dining room, softly decorated in various pale shades, the far-reaching views of the
It is only fitting that the menu you are handed takes its inspiration from the foods grown and raised in this breathtaking landscape. Chef Jeff Raider, who grew up and was trained in the region (he is a Culinary Institute of America graduate), has made it a point to favor ingredients from the local terrain.
One recent summer evening, sliced gold and red heirloom tomatoes were layered with shaved pecorino and baby basil leaves and served with a superb extra-virgin olive oil. Each variety of tomato had a distinct flavor so vibrant we wondered if they had just been plucked from the vine.
It is baffling to think this came from the same kitchen that produced, this past winter, an artichoke-and-tomato casserole that tasted like takeout pizza. However, on that same snowy night, we did enjoy a salad of greens, thinly sliced fennel, and roasted beets supporting sweet seared scallops lightly dressed with a mellow blood-orange vinaigrette.
On a recent visit, the flavor from a tender double-cut pork chop with a moist, pink-tinged center was uncommonly, and happily, big. In this day of over-bred, overly lean pork, it is a pleasure to be able to actually taste the meat, and to remember that pork can have an earthy, deep character all its own. Here, the pork was played to its fullest: a sweet, sharp glaze with Asian notes offered just the right touch of contrast to the meat. We especially enjoyed the occasional shock of sharp pickled pepper, which seemed to creep onto our forks when we weren’t looking and kept our palates enlivened until the last morsel was gone.
Although the seared arctic char was cooked to moist perfection—just as one would expect from a chef who spent several years manning the stoves at Rockefeller Plaza’s Sea Grill—the flavor was oddly subdued. A sparse scattering of NiÃ§oise olives didn’t add enough, and ultimately the bed of buttery, rich potatoes was the most savory contribution to the plate. On the other hand, every bit of flavor was eked out of inherently less flavorful skate, whose tender flesh was enveloped in a deep brown crumb crust. The fish even managed to stand up to the abundance of horseradish folded into our mashed potatoes.
Then again, we were disappointed by the restrained flavor of a shrimp-and-chorizo rigatoni dish. The shrimp was lightly flavored with chili, and the dish was pleasant enough, but we were left longing for the smoke and machismo normally associated with chorizo. The dish reminded us more of a homey, easy-to-eat baked Italian pasta casserole than spicy chili and chorizo would seem to imply.
Don’t miss desserts, which can offer a first-rate ending to an uneven journey. At the top of our list are the freshly baked hazelnut madeleines, served lightly dusted with powdered sugar and accompanied by three superb dipping sauces: perfect orange crÃ¨me anglaise (would anyone really have noticed if I’d swiped the last bit from the bowl with my finger?); sultry, silky bittersweet chocolate; and raspberry. After showing no restraint with the cookies and sauces, we tried not to eat all of our warm chocolate caramel walnut cake, with its slightly oozy center and melting scoop of bourbon vanilla ice cream, but it was a task best left to stronger folk.
VALLEY AT THE GARRISON
2015 Rte. 9, Garrison, NY
Lunch, Sat. and Sun. 11:30 am-2:30 pm
Dinner, Thurs. to Sat. 5:30-9:30 pm