Fabulous Fairway Fare
At the Valley Restaurant, amid the sand traps of the Garrison Country Club, local bounty is served with American melting-pot flair
By Jorge S. Arango
From the moment I sliced a chunk of turf from the ground with my nine iron and sent it flying into the blue sky, I knew golf was not the game for me. I was eight, just beginning my first-ever golf game with my father, and already I had hacked up the club’s primly kept green. To my dismay and frustration, Dad made me complete the game, ensuring nine long holes’ worth of further humiliation and guaranteeing I would never again set foot on a golf course. However, had the Valley Restaurant at the Garrison (Putnam) been my reward at the end of that tedious day, I might have become another Tiger Woods.
For my money, the best course at the Garrison is indoors. The night I dined there with three friends, that course happened to be a yellowfin tuna carpaccio ($12). It was marinated in soy and yuzu (a lime that tastes something like a cross between a lemon and a tangerine), and topped with shaved scallions and Japanese shiso leaves. The balance of salt, citrus, piquancy, and herbal sensation was pitch-perfect, and it brought the rosy tuna to such life that I thought it might swim off the plate. It was also gorgeous to behold; as one dining companion observed, “It looks like stained glass.”
Though the menu changes daily, the carpaccio was as good a signature as any for executive chef Jeff Raider. His “American seasonal” cuisine blends the harvests of the Garrison’s own gardens with ingredients from local orchards and farms, then spins it all with more exotic specialty items and preparations that pay tribute to the American melting pot. All of this is served up in a modern country dining room (awash in soothing sage-green tones) by one of the most professional staffs I have encountered north of the city.
We started with Kumamoto oysters ($2.75 each) and a bottle of California 1998 QupÃ© Chardonnay (at $45, a mid-priced wine on an extensive list that seemed to specialize in California whites and French reds). I was delighted to see my favorite Pacific oysters on a Northeast raw bar menu. They were cold, clean, and simple, accompanied by a rice wine mignonette that didn’t overpower their delicate character. (Not wishing to smother their gentleness, we all ignored the cocktail sauce on the plate.) We also sampled a dish of lump crabmeat ($14), which was served with saffron rouille and cocktail sauce, the latter once again ignored. Raider knows that when your seafood is fresh, no fancy embellishment is required.
Aside from the carpaccio that followed, we swooned over a heady bisque of roasted pumpkin garnished with Muscovy duck confit and white truffle oil ($8). A salad of marinated red and yellow beets, frisÃ©e, pistachios, and Coach Farm goat cheese ($8) was filled with crunchy textures and tart-sweet accents, though it was sprinkled lightly with salt before coming to the table — a touch that was not unpleasant, just unnecessary. The final appetizer was an artichoke-and-tomato casserole with olives and Asiago cheese served in its own tiny saucepan with grilled French bread ($10). The consensus here was that, while delicious, its rustic, stick-to-your-ribs Italian flavors would be better enjoyed at half the portion.
All the entrÃ©es were interestingly prepared. Spice-crusted rack of Colorado lamb with plum tomatoes, asparagus, and whipped butter beans ($28) was hearty and perfectly pink at its center. We requested that the grilled dry-aged sirloin steak be cooked “black and blue,” a simple concept that nevertheless seems impossible for most kitchens to get right. Here, however, the meat arrived with an exquisitely charred shell concealing a blood-red interior. The buttermilk onion rings that came with it were terrific too, and we almost came to blows over forkfuls of fresh spinach sautÃ©ed with garlic and chili peppers.
Still, I maintain that Raider’s particular affinity is for fish. Grilled Pacific king salmon with lentils, watercress salad, and horseradish emulsion ($24) was simply outstanding, a very French preparation given new life with an airy horseradish foam that went straight to the nostrils. And the tuna wrapped in prosciutto and served with Japanese eggplant, Spanish piquillo peppers, and parsley sauce ($27) made the table rounds with much oohing and aahing. Like the carpaccio, it struck a balance of salt and sweet, spicy bite, and herbal aromatics that popped with surprises. An Hubert Lignier 1998 Gevrey-Chambertin ($60) was fruity, with just enough body to complement both fish and meat dishes.
We really couldn’t leave without giving the talents of executive pastry chef JÃ©rÃ´me Druart a whirl. Of the sorbets we ordered, which are all homemade($7 for three scoops), the fresh mint had the purest essence. The Hudson Valley tarte tatin with cinnamon ice cream and peppermint sugar candy ($7) was excellent. But the considerable charms of the chestnut cream napoleon (with crispy phyllo dough and blood orange reduction) were dangerous enough to persuade me to follow dinner with 18 holes on the fairway. Mercifully, no one suggested it.
Valley at the Garrison, 2015 Route 9, Garrison. Through March, lunch is served 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun., dinner 5:30-9 p.m. Fri.-Sun. During warmer months, dinner is also served on Thursdays. Raw bar items are priced seasonally by the piece or as mixed platters ranging from $24-$72. Appetizers and salads are $8-$12; entrÃ©es $24-$28; desserts average $7, except for an artisanal cheese selection served with white truffle-scented honeycomb and almond fig cake for $15. 845-424-2339.