Panza’s restaurant on beautiful Saratoga Lake was recently transformed for an evening of elegant Gallic cuisine, albeit updated and with a few twists. Confères and consoeurs were put in a Parisian frame of mind as they were greeted by staff wearing berets and striped boating shirts. The decor of miniature Eiffel Towers, tulips and scenes of Montmartre made us forget that we were in upstate New York. Very festive indeed! Chef Rôtisseur Anand Jayapal’s goal was an American/French circus with food to “make the taste buds dance.” He and his team delivered on that promise all evening long.
From the start we were treated to interesting interpretations of classic French fare. The champagne reception (featuring no less than Taittinger) included lemon capellini with crispy frogs legs, a selection of saucisson and velvety pâtés. The bite of the night had to be the escargot with bacon crème brûlée. Extraordinaire!
A remarkable melody of flavors awaited us with the first course of veal vol au vent complemented by a unique pickled spring radish. The 2004 Joseph Drouhin, Côte de Beaune-Villages, Burgundy matched the depth, character and spice of the peppery aioli. The next four courses were themed: mer, jardin, ciel and champs.
The mer, or sea, was represented by a seafood sausage and white bean stew. The chef’s deft hand created textures that were light, crunchy and as airy as the Eiffel Tower. An aromatic consommé, redolent of fennel, was poured into our individual bowls by the chefs and complimented the sausage wonderfully. The absence of oak in the paired Alpha Omega Chardonnay 2009 allowed the flavors of this dish to shine through perfectly.A full-bodied Schumann Nagler Riesling Kabinett 2007 transcended the entire garden course of crispy Maytag blue fondue, walnut brittle and drunken pears. It cut the richness of the blue cheese while its spiciness worked well with the cabbage and pears. Très magnifique!
We looked skyward for the next course of poached duck breast, confit hash, and haricot vert almondine accompanied with a chardonnay mustard sauce. Dubbed “the vintage of the millennium” by Robert Parker, the year 2000 provided a Château Clerc Milon, Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac – a rare treat that paired well with the richness of the duck. Then it was back down to earth for the champs (fields) course. Not the traditional pot au feu, but a tasty version with short ribs and pickled fennel. Superb with the fattiness of the ribs was the rich 2008 Les Pallieres, Gigondas from the Rhone Valley.
A tasting of chocolate brought the evening to a memorable close. Peach marshmallow brûlée and ginger gelato provided light notes to the warm chocolate muffin and the wicked dark ganache. Desserts are notoriously difficult to pair with wines, but this time we struck gold with the 2006 Les Clos des Paulilles, Banyuls. Truly a marriage made in heaven and what a way to end a meal. This course was decadence defined!
Merci beaucoup to the Panza family (Tony who is the owner and Michael who decorated the rooms), Amanda Berrigan, who skillfully supervised the service staff, and to our three talented chefs, Anand Jayapal, Jose Arteche and Timothy Neal, for a truly stunning dinner!