Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Zena the Lab Rat: Pangea at CIA

Pangea, a self-described "pop-up" restaurant at CIA promising plant-forward plates and thoughtful use of meat and seafood, all student prepped and delivered, felt like a school science experiment.
Pangea is only supposed to be open until the middle of June. Then what???
And I was the lab rat.

Being the happy, docile type, as you well know, I was more than willing to run through the maze, hoping for a taste of something delicious if I found my way.

The dining area is bright, noisy and funky. Nice heavy furniture and tableware. 
The wine/beer menus were clipped but thoughtful. The Cleaver IPA, from The Brewery at the CIA ($5) was a delicious treat: a hoppy, amber ale, rich and classic. And the Syrah du Moracco "Syrocco", Thalvin, Morocco ($7), hit dry but with a tangy, fruity aftertaste. That one was an easy round. But we were still running around chasing something that smelled good.
This was a delicious, big beer
The mashup fusion menu was a real test, and was hard to choose - savories and/or sweets. The Mistress of the Hounds started with Goat Cheese, Wine Braised Carrot, Chestnut - a beautiful board that teased your tastebuds with quince under the crispy nut, a sweet carrot laced with maple syrup, fresh, fluffy cheese and a pairing of roasted squash on a squash puree. I had the Chipotle, Pecan, Sweet Potato Soup - presented soupless so I could see the add-ins - surprises of crunchy nuts, hits of fresh herbs (tarragon) and fennel seed, a mild smokey heat - what else was I tasting??? I think I did okay on this part of the study: this was a sultry soup that felt like a prize.
The soup was prettier before the soup was poured in 

This board does not get points for pretty but it was very tasty
In the second round of experiments Mistress had Roasted Vegetable Stew, Couscous, Almonds - the sauce was awesome but it was mostly a bowl of chickpeas, with root vegetables, almost no couscous, and yeah, I get it - upstate NY, April, the only thing green got eaten by the deer and bunnies last night while you were sleeping - but it needed something. I was served the Roasted Rutabaga, Thyme, Bacon - a great combination with a sweetened pan sauce, sauteed spinach, smokey bacon and a tender rutabaga - a delicious combination. I think the "test" was accepting this humble root as a main.
The vegetable stew was another big bowl of chickpeas in my life that I can do without

The roasted rutabaga was worth the race through the maze 
Round 3 of the science project and Mistress cut into a Poached Pear, flavored with cardamom and citrus, a scent of alcohol, a bit of creme fraiche - light and refreshing. I went for Oxtail Pie (another savory) - served fragrant and beefy with a hit of black truffles, super rich, salty, and piping hot, with a side of squash puree - beautiful and rich. I think I hit the bell on that one.
The oxtail pie was amazing - black truffles in the sauce

The poached pear was light and refreshing

There were a few specials, which we didn't try, and a few extras brought to the table - a display of bread and flatbread with a pea and spinach hummus that was very good, a bowl of fried chickpeas and candied crickets that I ate only to appease the scientists but the bugs tasted like dust so I don't really care if it has 2x the protein per oz as beef, and a final note of brownie "petit fours" and Nutella cookies that were both quite delectable.
The bread board was beautiful

Surprise chocolate finish!!!
Then the final written examination: questions like "Was the meal vegetable forward? and "How much do you care about how commercial meat is raised (paraphrasing)", "How often do you eat meat", and so forth. I had to keep changing my answer. I'm not sure how I did. But I think the food and the creativity and passion behind the experiment were wonderful.  I was bred for this.

Fried chickpeas with dusty candied crickets that I thought tasted like desiccated flies. Not that I would know. 

Pangea is a casual setting - bright, noisy, and friendly - all with a student smile. Lunch was $18/person plus a 17% fee that goes towards scholarships and student activities. Beverages extra.

Zena, Goddess of Fire
(squeak squeak)

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