Monday, April 21, 2014

The Elephant in the Room

Excerpted from La Papillote. By Gareth Alonso

Being utterly surrounded by food and food culture here at The Culinary Institute of America, I always try to retain every scrap of knowledge I can just walking through these halls. I often overhear the names of many restaurants that are located here in the Hudson Valley. I also take the recommendations of chefs in high regard. I have heard the name ‘Elephant’ mentioned on more than one occasion. I knew that I had to go. The last mention of this restaurant was in Cuisines of the Mediterranean. It was in regards to the topic of finding good tapas close by. Even more reason for the trek.

            Elephant is located near the end of Wall Street in the once happening but still relevant city of Kingston. Walking in we were welcomed with a warmly lit dining room. Looking around it looked like an after theater type of crowd enjoying a few drinks and a few small plates. It had sort of a dive bar for foodies feel to it and the staff and customers were both friendly.

            When ordering food at Elephant there are many options. There is a chalkboard menu that has selections of charcuterie and cheeses. There is a typical menu that has options under the headings of “para picar,” “toastas” and “raciones.” In addition to this, there is also a daily special menu handed out upon being seated. With all these possibilities we decided we would order some drinks and peruse the menus a little bit longer to really hammer out the details. We sipped on refreshing sangria, as well as  traditional cider that one might find in Spain. It was much different than a cider that one would enjoy here in the States. It has a scent similar to olive water but the taste was still fruity and it went down smoothly. After going over the menus a bit longer it had been decided. The list of tapas included chorizo, chocolate, jamon, and manchego from the tostas menu; tacos al pastor from the raciones section; grilled  asparagus with lamb bacon, anchovy bocata, and blood sausage with pureed potatoes from the daily special menu and lomo iberico and the pate de casa from the charcuterie menu. Phew! There were three of us dining that night, a perfect number from ordering and sharing all of these tapas.

            While we sat there and waited for our plates to begin arriving, it almost felt as if we were in the theater waiting for the show to begin and the curtain to rise. Once they started coming and being placed at the table, it was just as hard to decide where to start as it was to decide on our order. All the small plates that we dined on and shared that night were absolutely fantastic and packed with flavor.

            After our massive feast, I began thinking more about how the Elephant fits into the majority of eateries I have been to [in the Hudson Valley]. Elephant could definitely be a place to go when famished and will satiate the largest of appetites. However, that would be missing the point. Elephant fits more into the midafternoon snack, or after dinner drinks and nosh for those looking for a little bit more. All the plates are small, no matter what part of the menu you order from. Tapas means small plates. The prices of the small plates range from three to four dollars for a side of olives or Marcona Almonds, to between eight and thirteen dollars for the more elaborate and composed tapas.

            Elephant does a fantastic job of showcasing all the regions of Spain. From the manchego found in Mancha, the Euskadi influences found smattered throughout the menu, and the eastern Spanish regions (where there is a French influence to the Spanish cooking), it is all there. This is a restaurant that could easily thrive in a more cosmopolitan setting such as Manhattan, but luckily we are fortunate enough to have such a sophisticated eatery so close to campus. It is a perfect stopping point to recharge and relieve those hunger pangs that tend to arise on day trips out, or to just have a relaxing cocktail and some small plates at the end of a stress-filled week. 

You can read the complete article on page 6 of the newspaper’s April 11th online version.

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