Martini Max, MoMM (Mother of Martini Max), and I all took off work on Friday to venture up to Hyde Park in the Maxmobile for lunch at the CIA.
No, not the cloak and dagger government agency immortalized by the Coen Brothers in Burn After Reading, but the toque and chef’s knife hospitality school, the Culinary Institute of America, where I imagine the food is much better than whatever is served in the Spy vs. Spy cafeteria. It was a lovely warm spring day which helped offset the hangovers Max and I were suffering following dining with Max’s long-time friend, The Impresario, Thursday night.
If I recall correctly, the three of us were on Max’s terrace staring at the wonderful view of the George Washington Bridge, quaffing supertankers of cabernet and shakers full of icy martinis with side dishes of grilled steak. Around 1 AM we were back inside Max’s apartment, where Max was snoring like a congested marine mammal as The Impresario and I were watching possibly the worst grindhouse film ever made, Spider Baby. The Impresario declared, “Max, this movie is crap!” I added in a slurred voice, “Yeah, that’s the word for it!” Those reviews jarred Max out of his sound sleep. When The Impresario left, Max and I had to figure out how to inflate the Aero guest bed. As Max stared blankly at the Spanish language portion of the instructions, our 2 AM conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey Max! What do the instructions say?
Max: Don’t do this drunk.
The hands that have held many martinis.
Aero bed success with no assistance from fork on floor.
The next day, with Max sipping a mega sized coffee, and I, an equally huge black tea, we took the scenic 90-minute drive to the Hudson Valley.
Idyllic ride the dashboard hula girl watching Max wished she could see.
The CIA campus is so lovely I almost forgot my headache.
Roth Hall where the student-staffed restaurants are housed.
MoMM with Max walking in the background.
We were dining in Escoffier, the student-staffed French restaurant, where the patrons can view the chef-instructor, Dominick Cerrone, oversee the student-staff through a large window. We were seated on the opposite side of that window so we had a view worthy of Cinerama.
Escoffier Restuarant student-staff hard at work.
For appetizers, MoMM had the French Onion soup, Max had the Sautéed Shrimp with Baked Tomato, Goat Cheese and Niçoise Olives, and I had the salad since it did not contain tomatoes; they are the equivalent of a death sentence for me.
MoMM's soup with cheese-encrusted croutons.
My picture-perfect salad.
For lunch, MoMM had her favorite, the Roast Leg of Lamb with Spring-Vegetable Medley and Potato-Prune Gratin while Max and I had the Duo of Duck with Rhubarb and Herbed Gnocchi that is prepared table-side. Unlike the server at the table next to us, who bragged loudly to his customers that he was heading to a restaurant in Beverly Hills following graduation this week, Max suspected that our server, an earnest but jittery young man, was probably going to be flipping burgers at a McDonald’s in Keokuk, Iowa for the summer.
Overall, the food was excellent, and the service was attentive. The only item that was dropped on the floor by our wait-staff was a roll. The duck prepared table-side, was a feat that our server, with assistance, accomplished while I channeled my inner Diane Arbus with the Canon Powershot camera that has become welded to my hand since I started writing this blog.
Table-side prepared duck.
By time for dessert, we were all feeling pretty sated, but when Max last visited Escoffier in November, they were out of cheese. Apparently, this displeased him immensely. I have known Max for the better part of twenty years, and I have never known that he was such a cheese enthusiast. To compensate for being cheese-deprived last fall, when our server presented us with the cheese cart, Max announced:
Max: We’ll have them all!
MoMM: Max, I don’t want any cheese.
Max: Get whatever you want, Ma.
MoMM: I’ll have the three-berry sorbet
Me: Max, I’m lactose intolerant.
Max: Take a pill, you’re gonna eat cheese.
Me: But I already took a pill.
Max: Take another!
Me: It’s gonna be like Valley of the Dolls of the lactose intolerance pills for me.
Max: I don’t care; you’re eating cheese.
Server (to me): What would you like, ma’am?
Me: I’ll have a Madeira.
Max: With cheese!
Server: The Madeira goes very well with cheese.
Me (after our server had left): And does it compliment lactose intolerance?
Max: Take another pill!
Our platter of cheese that could have easily served all arrived.
I nibbled on the non-cows milk varieties and also kept my distance from the stinky ones as Max scarfed the triple crème Brie that would have killed me as effectively as a bullet in the head. As heartily as Max ate the lion’s share of the cheese, MoMM was right when she said:
MoMM: That’s a lot of cheese, Max. You’re never gonna finish it all.
Me: Maybe they’ll give him a doggie bag.
Max (hopeful): You think they do doggie bags for cheese?
MoMM (in the you are two idiots tone): They don’t do doggie bags for cheese!
Me: Good point. It would probably stink up the car.
Max: If they do, I’m gonna grill it!
Our server did not ask if we wanted a doggie bag for our remaining cheese, nor did we ask.
To be continued …