Matter of Tasting
By B.A. Nilsson
614 Route 9W, Glenmont, 463-5130. Serving lunch
Mon-Fri 11:30-2, dinner Mon-Thu 4:30-9:30, Fri-Sat 4:30-10.
AE, D, DC, MC, V.
Cuisine: upscale steak and seafood
Entrée price range: $15 (Risotto) to $25 (NY strip)
Ambience: like home, if your home is kind of fancy
Clientele: country club
A snotty article in a recent Gourmet magazine blasts
the idea of tasting menus as antiquated and unchallenging,
with a parade of celebrity chefs adding their shrill voices
to the screed. However passé, such a menu may seem to the
oh-so hip thus profiled, it’s not a common Capital Region
feature. No need to further lambaste the article in question.
The tasting menu offered at the Patroon House justifies itself
nicely and proves that this style of dining is a worthy pursuit.
The brainchild of Andrew Carroll and chef Richard Toth, the
Patroon House occupies a fine old house in Glenmont that has
been home to other upscale eateries. A few miles south of
Exit 23 on Route 9W, it’s very accessible, yet just enough
out of town to have that feel of a destination.
Carroll and Toth met at the Schuyler Meadows Country Club,
where floor manager Carroll was inspired to dream of his own
place. “I knew how I wanted my service to be, and I knew what
kind of food quality I wanted to provide. There are a lot
of eclectic restaurants in the area, and a lot of family restaurants,
but I wanted to combine the best of those types.”
He had a steak-and-seafood menu in mind, but when he brought
Toth into the project, the menu expanded a little. “Andy wanted
to give me my creative freedom,” says Toth, “and that’s why
we came up with the tasting menu. Now about one-third of the
dinners we serve are from the tasting menu.”
The idea is to offer reduced portions of several courses,
either choosing from what’s menu-listed or leaving it to the
chef. And the best portrait of what Toth can do comes from
a look at two trips around the $59 six-course meal, both times
leaving the choices to the chef.
Unheralded was an amusée, a morsel of creamy crab salad
with a drizzle of basil-spiced oil, served in the broad bowl
of a Japanese soup spoon. This is what a tasting menu is about.
It’s a procession of courses in which the continuity is as
important as the succession of items. The sparkle of flavor
the crab salad provided was sudden and swift, and over in
a moment, but it was enough to get the taste buds glowing.
Here’s how one tasting progression went: First up was a portion
of salmon tartare Napoleon, a compote layered not with pastry
but with fried wonton chips, a tangy, salmon-filled mayonnaise
rounded out with apples and scallions. It was followed by
a poached-lobster cocktail in which the seafood is presented
on a bed of garlic-enhanced mashed potatoes. Then a few morsels
of roasted pheasant, the flavor of the bird brought to the
fore by a background of a white-onion purée.
Asparagus followed, the spears roasted and brushed with herbs,
served with a goat cheese that was pleasantly mild in flavor.
To top it off, grilled filet of beef, again a modest portion,
again a medley of complementary flavors with a balsamic vinegar
reduction and a medallion of foie gras to tie those flavors
Here’s another trip: Begin with tuna ceviche, presented in
a parfait glass, the fish cold-cooked in a blend of citrus
juices and presented with bits of avocado and papaya. Whipped
cream tops the mix, but the cream is flavored with wasabi
tobiko (wasabi- flavored flying-fish roe).
Breaded and fried oysters are served served over prosciuto
and drizzled with a lime-basil sauce. The easygoing spiciness
of the seared duck breast that followed was already set up
by the flavors of lime and basil, and the chili glaze served
the duck meat splendidly.
From there, a turn to earthiness, with the flavors of wild
mushrooms coming together in a stew, the sauce from which
filled out the accompanying risotto. Then cashew-encrusted
lamb, loin cut, with shiitake mushrooms and asparagus tips,
and a sauce featuring bacon and scallions.
We chose to end both tastings with cheese, individual plates
that included a contrasting variety as well as fruitstuffs
like dates and candied pears. Standard desserts also are available
(we found a crème brûlée to be classic).
As a steakhouse, the Patroon House serves a mean Porterhouse
($23). A pound of meat, grilled nicely, with your choice not
only of accompanying sauce (garlic butter, Béarnaise, Bordelaise
and even homemade ketchup are among the selections; we chose
port wine gorgonzola butter), accompanied by vegetables and
starch. Carrots, we discovered, are glazed with ale; au gratin
potatoes are outrageously creamy.
Chicken, pork and lamb are among other available meats; salmon,
sea bass and swordfish are the star seafood items. You’ll
find conventional preparations alongside some of Toth’s more
Carroll and Toth have deftly upped the fine-dining stakes
for the area. Food preparation and presentation is outstanding,
and service is equally accomplished. Although my Saturday
night visit found our server in more of a rush than seemed
comfortable for a while, Carroll is on the floor keeping an
eye on things, keeping the flow moving. He wanted to impart
the sensation of having an excellent dinner in his own house,
and he has certainly achieved that.
Woman’s Hospital’s Special Care Nursery will
be the beneficiary of proceeds from An Evening
of Jazz and Beaujolais on Nov. 21, 6:30-8:30
PM, at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga
Springs. The evening will include the premiere
of the Michel Picard Beaujolais Nouveau 2003,
courtesy of Brown-Forman Wines, USA. Guests will
be entertained by a live jazz trio while they
bid on dozens of silent-auction items, including
a box at the Saratoga flat track, a weekend stay
at the historic “Hedges” Adirondack camp on Blue
Mountain Lake, gift certificates to Capital-Saratoga
Region restaurants and retailers and more. Tickets
are $50 per person and may be reserved by calling
the Marketing/Corporate Development Office at
Bellevue Woman’s Hospital, 346-9438. . . . Join
area wine lovers at the Desmond Hotel in Albany
this Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 15 and 16) from
noon to 5 for the eighth annual Pride of New
York HarvestFest. This event showcases winemakers
and food producers found across the state, and
lets you sample the fare and attend a seminar
featuring topics on chocolate, wine and even how
to have your own fine-wine tasting at home. Tickets
are $30 for one day, $45 for both, and entitle
you to sample and buy the wares of over 100 participating
exhibitors. All ticketholders receive a complimentary
shopping bag containing a wine glass for tasting.
Also included is a ticket to one of the event
seminars. A deli-style lunch buffet will also
be available for a small additional fee, also
featuring New York State products. For reservations
or additional info, call Bob Provost at the Times
Union, 454-5678... Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (e-mail email@example.com).
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.