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Just sharing an experience [Secret Garden, Utica]

In addition to Valentine's day, yesterday was my wife and mine's wedding anniversary; we decided to try a new restaurant named The Secret Garden. Because I'm a trained chef, I tend to avoid eating out because rarely do I ever experience an exceptional meal. As I perused the menu, I came upon Steak Au Poivre. I've been to many restaurants in my location, and this was the first time I'd ever seen it served in one. Immediately I knew what I was getting. I was asked if I would like a Burgundy or Marsala sauce; I opted for Marsala.

After salads and appetizers, it was time for our entrees. As the plate was set in front of me, I immediately noticed that something wasn't right. what should have been a cream sauce was more like an Au jus. And it was served in a separate bowl alongside. The cut was a rib eye. Nevertheless, I accepted this because I love rib eyes. However, the most egregious thing was the extremely light coating of pepper corns, so light as to be non existent.

I inquired of the waitress if perhaps I received the incorrect order and she confirmed that I did not, that that was just how the chef made it. "Well, no offense, but he obviously does not know what he is doing.", I opined. I also suggested that he learn how to make it properly, or not to make it at all.

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  1. Where is this restaurant located?

    1 Reply
    1. Right on! It's about time we hear about a "situation" where someone had the balls to say something instead of coming here and whining "oh dear, what should have I done?" I told the waitress the almost exact same thing at a Disney restaurant in Wabasso FL when she served me a Creme Brulee that had shredded coconut scattered through it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: grampart

        Sounds like Flan/CremeBrulee/coconutgalatiboriko!!!
        Something like that I could not let go.

        1. re: Motosport

          No mention of the coconut on the menu. When I mentioned it to the waitress,she told me that chef likes to add his special touch to the dishes. His Steak Au Poivre probably didn't have the pepper.

      2. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I would have never known how many peppercorns should have been on the steak. Hope it didn't ruin you and your wife's time together.
        Happy Anniversary.

        1. Steak au poivre normally doesn't come with a choice of sauces, it comes with the traditional sauce for au poivre which is made from cognac and cream. Marsala sauce does not, traditionally, have cream in it, rather it is a reduction of Marsala and broth. It seems this restaurant really served you a peppered steak with a choice of sauces.

          1. I have to disagree with many of the posters here, and with the OP as well. The classic recipe for steak au poivre is as follows:

            Coat the steak with ground pepper, preferably white pepper. Sear it and cook to desired doneness. in butter and oil. Remove from pan and add a bit of butter and chopped shallots, brown the shallots and add beef broth, reduce and then add Cognac, reduce further and then, off heat, stir in pats of butter until thickened. Pour the resulting sauce over the steak. I often add brined green peppercons along with the shallots, but this is not part of the original recipe. Cream is NOT an ingredient in steak au poivre.

            7 Replies
            1. re: rrems

              Ok, seriously? Some have cream and some have a reduction. Julia Child's version does not have cream. I will say most restaurants I've been to do serve the cream version.



              1. re: wincountrygirl

                Sure you can find recipes that include cream and call it steak au poivre, but I've never seen it in a traditional French restaurant. Julia Child is the ultimate authority; so I believe her version is the definitive one.

                1. re: rrems

                  JC's version has mushrooms in in....so I would disagree it is definitive. There's also the question of veal or beef stock.

                  I'd also bet you some of those traditional French restaurant are using brandy instead of Cognac, or a dry white wine. Citing your recipe above, there's also the question of whether the Cognac goes in the pan before or after the stock reduction.....so again, I would disagree anything is definitive.

                  This thread is starting to into the Carbonara thread on what is authentic or not.....

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Here is a link to a blog with Julia's recipe, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:


                    There are no mushrooms in the recipe. I think "stock" can logically be interpreted to mean beef stock.

                    1. re: rrems

                      It's interesting that you post a recipe as *classic*...then make argument and dissent with those who have a different opinion...followed by a post linking to a recipe that you proclaim and support as definitive....only to find that it contradicts with the one you have posted as classic....and includes mushrooms in the picture of the dish prepared.

                      that's the problem with debating the issue of origin, classic, traditional or authentic when it comes to food.

                      The only thing I will agree with you on is that the dish was conceived using one of the four/five Mother Sauces defined by Careme and Escoffier.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        I won't debate any further except to say that mushrooms as a side dish on the plate with the steak have nothing to do with the steak recipe.

                        1. re: rrems

                          I'll further add the discrepancies...

                          * mixed peppercorns vs white pepper

                          * crushed/cracked pepper vs. ground

                          * green onions

                          the point is, Julia child collaborated with Jacques Pepin to write another cooking book....they recommend using mixed peppercorns....even suggesting bourbon or red wine.

                          Given that the origins of the dish are often debated and who has laid claim to inventing it makes it a controversial topic ....it's evident the history has been recorded that it was available between the years of 1910-1930 in Paris or Monte Carlo and made with a small amount cream in one prominent restaurant........I'd say that was before JC had ever shown interest, studied or made any French Cookery. She may make a great Steak Au Poivre...but she is no more definitive on the recipe than any other French Chef...or anyone who has studied French Cookery, and or, Food history...The mere fact she did not lay claim to inventing or creating the dish dismisses her as being the definitive authority.

                          Finally, while cream may or may not be one of the original ingredients....there's no denying cream, creme fraiche or dijon mustard are optional/included ingredients offered here in the States and in European restaurants.



            2. Folks, we've removed a lot of posts from this thread, and we just want to remind everyone of one of the mantras of Chowhound -- rate chow, not chowhounds. If you've been to this restaurant and would like to relate your own experiences, that's great, but your opinions about the personality of your fellow hounds are off-topic and unwelcome.

              1. From looking at the picture on the menu, it seems like you got exactly what was described and pictured.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wyogal

                  I agree....and the description is accurate as well, although it was served on the side.

                  1. re: wyogal

                    You would have no way of being aware of this, but the menu that is online is much more detailed than the one that a diner sees at the restaurant.

                    1. re: bradcook315

                      Then, I guess in the future, ask how it is prepared and served.