Our menus at Mohonk Mountain House come with a genuine passion for food. Chef Jim Palmeri’s vision for each dish comes alive through the careful preparation of each plate by a team that shares his passion. With several tables to tend to, Chef Palmeri takes on this challenge of providing the best experience for every guest that comes to the mountaintop. Not only is that accomplished daily, but the true achievement comes from using only the best, locally-sourced ingredients to create the finest dining experience for our guests.
I have never worked in a place like the Hudson Valley where you can drive in any direction from Mohonk and run into a dozen farms before you hit 20 miles.
We sat down with Chef Palmeri to ask him a few questions regarding Mohonk’s new kitchen renovation, the new Modern American Menu, and his thoughts of the future of our ambitious culinary team that is always looking for exciting, new ways to keep it interesting. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. What was your initial idea when creating the Modern American Menu? Were there any inspirations or themes that you had in mind?
A. Basically knowing what we are going to be doing downstairs with Surrey, even though at the time we didn’t know the name. But, conceptually what we wanted to do was to have something that would be a balance to that for families, groups, and parties that were more interested in a less refined experience as far as the other dining experiences. Our team was interested in providing a different kind of atmosphere, similar to a steakhouse ambiance, with shared appetizers and that kind of setting. That was the genesis of the Modern American Menu, and working with Steve Anson, our Executive Sous Chef, we were able to build on the concept and refine it to the point it is at now.
Q. What are you most excited about with the new kitchen renovation?
A. The process has been exciting. They say that the journey is the reward, and it’s true. As difficult as some parts have been, we’ll look back and say “it’s worth it” because at the end of the day, it’s all kitchen related. We have three state-of-the-art kitchens being unveiled a section at a time. Two are already in action, and soon enough, the third will be ready for our use.
Q. The traditional burger has been given many modern makeovers. Today’s chefs must offer more than just a beef patty to meet customer expectations. How do you incorporate fresh produce in your burger menu/Modern American Menu?
A. Because of our dry-aged program, we use Prime NY bone-in Strip Loin which we age for 30 days. When we go into fabricate those and butcher them for our steaks, there’s always some parts that are not suitable for center cut steaks. With the strip loin, 25% is trimmed off because it is not apt for the steaks we serve our guests. With the remaining meat left, we are able to use the additional meat and do a 100% dry-aged NY Strip Loin for our burgers; which is a pretty rare thing to do because of the cost. Since we do it all of ourselves, we are able to pass that savings onto our guests. Overall, that was kind of the idea for the burger itself. And as far as the other accompaniments, we do a red onion jam, which is a takeoff of a sweet and sour, Chesapeake kind of aspect, and then we do fried, crispy shoestring potatoes for texture. We then add Taleggio cheese to the burger, which is a rich and earthy flavored cheese. We have all these flavor combinations coming up all together, and it really makes it a remarkable burger experience.
Q. With more requests for vegan and gluten-free options, how do you decide what foods to be represented on the Modern American Menu for those dietary restrictions?
A. With gluten-free options, we address through various items on the menu; some that could be changed out easily. For example, the pasta section offers gluten-free options on those dishes. And there are vegetarian options that can be vegan as well. Our guests have numerous options to choose from that won’t restrict them from eating at any of our venues For example, we offer a spinach artichoke dip (not vegan, but vegetarian) that is a fresh take on a simple dish. Salads are offered through all our menus as well as a cream of mushroom soup that is vegan. We then have the ability each night to share with our guests a trio of vegetables that accompany the meal, highlighting Hudson Valley produce and things of that nature to supplement a family style and augment their meal experience.
Q. How will you keep your menu and future menus fresh and exciting moving forward?
A. Well, once we get through the summer, Steve [Anson] and myself will get together and evaluate things that need to change and things that we can incorporate seasonally. This would include using even more produce that is in-season and looking for any new, specialty products that we can source out. Steve will see something come across his screen and he’ll say, “Hey, why don’t we try to get this item in?” We are always looking to upgrade and change menus and we’re always trying to highlight new and cool ingredients. Because 1. It’s fun for us, and 2. Our guests get to experience some unique things. This is the starting point for both Surrey and our Modern American Menu. And we just want to keep elevating our dining experiences to higher and higher levels for our guests.
Q. With amazing local food partners in the area, how has the Hudson Valley become the place for “foodies”?
A. I think coming from my background which was a lot of West Coast properties, I have been on both sides of the country. I worked in San Diego, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, Scottsdale, AZ, and a number of other different places. Everyone talks about Napa Valley being this mecca for produce and so on. But really if you get right down to it, it’s mostly wine country with farms sprinkled in. It is nothing like the Hudson Valley as far as the depth of farming opportunities that you can explore here. From artisanal cheese producers, to a variety of produce, to meat products, there’s a huge assortment to choose from. Uniquely prepared items, like Maple Syrup from NY, or things of that nature, highlight our menus. I have never worked in a place like the Hudson Valley where you can drive in any direction from Mohonk and run into a dozen farms before you hit 20 miles. That in itself is a really exceptional thing for us.
To learn more about our farm-to-table tradition and Mohonk’s dining experiences, check out this article from The New York Times.