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The Bocuse Restaurant At The C.I.A.

Duck and Pistachio Paté at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee kleinCoq Au Vin at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee kleinPraliné Mystére at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee kleinKitchen Aid With Hand Crank, photo by lee kleinMaking Ice Cream: Kitchen Aid With Hand Crank, photo by lee kleinClass of '85 at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee kleinChâteau Cantemerle 200, photo by lee kleinDecanting Château Cantemerle 200, photo by lee klein

This wasn’t just any lunch, but the 30-year reunion of the Culinary Institute of America graduating class of March 1, 1985. My classmates and I flew in from California, Wisconsin, Florida and other exotic places for a weekend of remembrances -- plus some good meals.

The Bocuse Restaurant, according to its website, “re-imagines the execution of classic French cuisine through the lens of ultra-modern cooking techniques.” Bocuse, of course, is one of the originators of nouvelle cuisine (the term was first used to describe food prepared by Bocuse and other top chefs for the maiden flight of the Concorde airliner in 1969). He has owned the Michelin three-star restaurant l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon, for decades. This particular Bocuse Restaurant is situated on the beautiful C.I.A. campus in Hyde Park, New York. We had a pre-set three-course lunch.

Class of '85 at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee klein

Our meal started with an exquisite champagne toast compliments of the C.I.A. -- a generous donation in recognition of our having come back to the school at our own expense to celebrate a grand time spent there. Actually, I just made that up. There was no champagne…nor any other gesture. The hapless folks working at the C.I.A. Alumni Office really need to get their act together, but that’s another story.

As it turned out, we did better than exquisite champagne thanks to classmate Philip Landis, who brought along a jereboam of Château Cantemerle 2000, which he kept cellared at the precisely correct temperature (57 degrees F) for the past 15 years. It was soft, smooth, medium-bodied, plummy, a fig…

Château Cantemerle 200, photo by lee klein

Decanting Château Cantemerle 200, photo by lee klein

First course: Terrine de Canard aux Pistaches (Duck and Pistachio Paté) with Celery Remoulade and “Cumberland Sauce.” I place the last in quotes because, as is so often the case with this sort of cuisine, the “sauce” was really just a couple of inconsequential “dabs”. Still, the coarsely-textured paté was very tasty and beautifully plated.

Duck and Pistachio Paté at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee klein

Main course was a twist on Coq Au Vin. I like how on the menu, “Coq Au Vin” is printed as the English name of the dish, with “Poulet au Vin Rouge” the French translation listed below. I imagine a non-culinary diner who doesn’t speak French being extremely confused. Someone expecting a traditional coq au vin would be just as perplexed, as the red wine-braised chicken was turned into a roulade, with the two discs of meat plated with a toss of beautifully prepared local vegetables, bacon lardons, housemade fettuccine and the cooking jus – terrific flavors.

Coq Au Vin at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee klein

Dessert was referred to as a Praliné Mystére – or, if you prefer the menu’s French translation: Praliné Mystere. The mystery here is apparently why the English “Mystére” gets an accent but not the French. A tangerine droplet – er, “sauce” accompanies the praline, which is mysteriously topped with a mini-wafer, flower petal, and a couple of other unidentified objects. Make fun as I may, it was a light and pleasant finish.

Praliné Mystére at The Bocuse Restaurant, photo by lee klein

We were given a display of churning ice cream via a rare hand-cranked Kitchen Aid mixer and liquid nitrogen.

Kitchen Aid With Hand Crank, photo by lee klein

Making Ice Cream: Kitchen Aid With Hand Crank, photo by lee klein

The students preparing our meals and serving us were due to graduate in three weeks. They succeeded more in the back of the house than the front – the coffee was colder and the service shakier than it should have been. The Bocuse Restaurant is open to the public, and a three-course prix-fixe goes for $38 plus tip/tax. That’s a good deal for a well-prepared meal of high-quality ingredients in a very attractive dining room. And of course what made this particular occasion so special was the getting together with a great group of people and sharing memories. Seriously: Priceless. Which made up somewhat for the airfare.