Mouzon House in Saratoga Springs, NY

The longest Saratoga meet of 40 days (instead of the 36 days of the past few years) has come to an end, with only a modest dip in the overall on-track handle to $104,610,307 from last year’s $112,005,878, and overall attendance this summer reaching a respectable 878,284 in the small city of Saratoga Springs, NY, year-round population of just under 30,000. Although the fabled thoroughbred racetrack has gone dark, the dining scene in downtown Saratoga Springs remains lively- including a full house on Saturday night at Mouzon House Restaurant, which proudly displays on the top of its menu, which changes nearly daily, the inviting words, “A farm to table restaurant.”

The Mouzon House restaurant occupies a restored Victorian home, previously owned by the Mouzon family for nearly 100 years.  It sits conveniently next to the site of the Saratoga Springs Farmers Market, which provides an easy source for much of the food served.  We were led to a table on the second story of the fine old house, and comfortably seated in an outdoor, covered terrace which looked down on a busy bar scene and the gardens at the front of the restaurant, which are landscaped with a beautiful stone wall.  Nonetheless, the dining areas on the first floor are more appealing, with their cozier feel and more elegant setting in warmly decorated rooms of the old house.  Colorful murals of elegantly dressed  beauties, painted by the family of chef David Pedinotti, create an artistic atmosphere.  On our next visit, we’ll be sure to request a table downstairs.

Our friendly waitress showed evident pride in the way Mouzon House sources its food.   Unfortunately, the only “local” wine, a riesling from Dr. Konstantin Frank’s vineyard in the Finger Lakes, NY region was not available by the glass.  Nonetheless, our very fine meal in a unique setting was one to bring us back.

We shared a tasty bruschetta trio of an assortment of local produce served over toasted homemade bread.  A basket of warm homemade bread accompanied our house salads consisting of New Minglewood Farm greens gently tossed in a red wine vinaigrette with flavorful accents of Liza Porter’s blue cheese from Longview Farm in Argyle (Washington County, NY).  Mention must be made of the perfectly ripe tomatoes and the freshest cucumbers included in the salad.  I have often enjoyed ripe and freshly picked tomatoes from my home garden, and these were equal to those, but the cucumber was an eye-opener, and prompts me to plant a row next summer. Fresh, local sweet butter on a slice of warm homemade bread was simply a dining pleasure.

Some of the options for appetizers, including crayfish beignets, described as savory New Orleans pastries made with tender crayfish deep fried to a golden brown and served with garlic aioli and a shrimp cocktail, described as 4 jumbo shrimp with a spicy and sweet dipping sauce, gave a hint of what we were to enjoy as entrees. My homemade pasta,  served with a bolognese sauce made with local lamb and beef, was spiced with hot peppers and demonstrated the kitchen’s love of creole and cajun cooking.  One of my dining companion’s chicken jambalaya, made with local, free-range, hormone and chemical free chicken, also had some creole spiciness. After some consideration, my other dining companion decided on an entree of swordfish served over a caesar salad of fresh local greens.  A generous swordfish steak was nicely spiced and would make for a wonderful leftover meal the following day as well. Before deciding on the swordfish, our waitress explained  that fish and seafood was purchased thoughtfully by the restaurant and with great concern for the environment and that the swordfish was line-caught.  Later that evening I researched the fishing of swordfish and was reassured in discovering that the world’s pool of swordfish had improved [ca-seafood.ucdavis.edu/news/swftruth.htm].

We shared for dessert a raspberry, blackberry and strawberry shortcake, which was lightly iced with a sweet creamy cheese.  Knowing the berries were local and fresh gave us added pleasure and explained its deliciousness.  In addition to enjoying a wonderful meal with friends, I discovered that the mother of my close friend of thirty years, used to play the mandolin.  This memory was prompted by the tuneful Ashokan Farewell performed by Timmy and Larry, two strolling musicians, who played their respective mandolin and acoustic guitar with great skill and added to the festive, yet elegant ambiance.  Their music always accented the dining pleasures and never overwhelmed, with lively dinner conversation always easily enjoyed.  And I hope my friend locates his mom’s mandolin and starts up lessons before too long!  We dined for $55.00 per person, which included a glass of wine or cocktail plus gratuity (FWB  9/12/10). [Mouzon House, 1 York Street, Saratoga Springs, NY, 518.226.0014, Dinner: Weds-Thurs 5:00PM-10:00PM, Fri-Sat 5:00PM-11:00PM]

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