Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Bocuse Experience

by student blogger Kristin

Although there are many perks to being a CIA student, having award winning restaurants on campus is definitely one of them!

A few weeks ago, my family came up to Hyde Park to visit. It was my mother’s birthday and in order to celebrate we planned activities in the area that my mom would enjoy. We started the day eating lunch at the Hyde Park brewery up the road and then traveled across the street to tour the great FDR estate. My family and I always enjoy exploring places around this area, but I wanted to make this day extra special.

Coming from a household where I am the only foodie, I know that my family does not get to experience fine dining as often or as intensely as I do. I really wanted a way to wow my family while being able to show them a glimpse of the world I have entered into. There was only one answer: dinner at the new Bocuse restaurant on campus. After all, my family has been up to Hyde Park many times to visit, but we still had not been to a CIA restaurant.

 
We walked into Bocuse and were seated in the middle of the dining room, with a perfect view of the whole restaurant. My family and I took some time to take it all in: the large landscape window into the beautifully shining kitchen, the grand modern chandeliers protruding from the ceiling, the sleek chairs and tables occupied by other guests, and the larger than life wine cellar doubling as a wall for the restaurant.  Even the lamps are decorative, which are shaped as toques with the restaurant’s name sake, Chef Paul Bocuse, standing on top. The restaurant focuses on classic French food made in the eyes of modern techniques which could not be more apparent with the d├ęcor of the dining room.



 As we took in the splendor, our waiter introduced himself. One great aspect about CIA restaurants on campus is that everyone working in the restaurant is a student, including those preparing the meal. Although I had previously explained this to my family, it was great to see them interact with this student and ask him about his college life.

After being introduced, our waiter offered us a wine menu. We accepted graciously since we were celebrating a great occasion. Instead of the traditional 50 pound wine menu that can be found at other restaurants, a tablet was brought to our table. The wine list for the new Bocuse restaurant is conveniently compiled onto a tablet, giving the guest more attainable information about the wine. Each wine selection was listed with its producer, vintage, country, and most importantly, tasting notes to help pair the different selections with the meal. My mom and I were thrilled! Finally an interactive wines menu that could help us chose what to get in order to complement our meal.


The beverages and food were all ordered and the meal had officially begun. I have to admit I was becoming a little nervous at this point. I did not know how my family would react to fancy French food made with modern techniques. We are a “pizza every Friday” kind of family. As my nerves peaked, our amuse-bouche arrived. A delicate spoon held a cream puff filled with cheese foam lying on a bed of dehydrated basil powder and a fresh tomato gelee. As my family cautiously approached the tiny package of deliciousness in front of them, I watched each expression go from curiosity to amazement. They were sold. Many exclamations of “how did they do this?” and “I’ve never tasted anything so delicious!” were shared by smiling faces. Even though the meal was not even close to over, I could not have been happier to officially welcome my family to the world of a foodie.


The meal went on, now with my family ready and willing to try the possibilities that fine dining was going to bring to them.  We shared Mussel-Saffron Cream Soup, Warm Butter Poached Lobster, Seared Foie Gras and the night’s special escargot as an appetizer. The food was delicious of course and the presentation breath taking. My younger brother, who ordered and consumed Foie Gras for the first time in his life, was speechless except to say “Wow!”.  The enjoyment only continued when the Chicken Fricasee, Roasted Rack of Lamb, Pan- Seared Scallops, and Pan-Roasted Tenderloin of Beef hit the table.  We all enjoyed a bit of each dish and prepared ourselves for what I would like to consider the main event, dessert.


Being a baking and pastry student and a studying scientist, I was really eager to show my family the options on the dessert menu. We looked over the menu and of course decided to order the hand cranked, table-side, liquid nitrogen ice cream. We were served small desserts at the table including Cannele de Bordeaux, Green Tea Pound Cake with Blueberry Compote, Strawberry Soup, and fresh mint marshamallows while our waiter wheeled over the ice cream equipment. Using a hand cranked kitchen aid mixer, he mixed the anglaise ice cream base while pouring in steaming liquid nitrogen. In seconds what had just been a simple sweet sauce was instantly transformed into ice cream! It was the smoothest ice cream any of us had ever had, and it is something that we will never forget.

The monumental evening ended with a short tour of the kitchen in which all of the modern equipment was explained. I was even able to introduce my family to the chef teaching the class that had done such a great job preparing the meal. Although I could not say it to them then (they were cleaning), I want to say Thank you to the classes that helped make this night such a success!

 

My mom’s birthday dinner had turned out better than I could ever imagine. My whole family was extremely impressed and most important of all, my mom enjoyed herself. When I look back on this day, I will always remember that eating at Bocuse had helped me show my family the excitement and allure of the career and life I have chosen.

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