by Tom Isler | February 01, 2008

Meal on a trayA first-class ticket on Amtrak’s Acela service between Boston and Washington, D.C., now entitles passengers to a first-rate meal, too. This past fall, the passenger rail company unveiled a new, expanded menu developed by a culinary team led by Michel Richard, who runs two celebrated restaurants in Washington, D.C., and who earned the prestigious 2007 Outstanding Chef award from the James Beard Foundation.

Instead of choosing dishes off a catering menu, the chefs devised their own recipes, prepared using the “sous vide” method, a process of cooking food in vacuum-sealed plastic bags, a technique Amtrak -- as well as noted chefs in some respected restaurants -- has used for more than a decade. Lunch and dinner options include braised short rib with cheesy grits, polenta cakes with mushroom ragout, chicken galantine, vegetable paella, and duck terrine with Yukon Gold potato canapes. Each meal comes with Ghirardelli chocolate.

Is this just another case of the rich getting richer? An Amtrak spokesperson claims the designated culinary team is now working to improve the regular cafe car service, too.