Thursday, April 22, 2010

The CIA. Not that one. The other one.

Yesterday I went on a little field trip with my gourmet group. We went to the CIA...that would be The Culinary Institute of America. It's located in Hyde Park, NY, about a two hour drive from here and if it weren't so far away I might be tempted to enroll. Then I remembered our tour guide telling us that some courses require you to eat 20-30 cookies every night (you have to write a couple of paragraphs on each one) and I realized that while I could have done that at age 20 without gaining a single ounce that would not be the case now so, no. I guess I'll have to settle for a day trip.

We arrived at CIA (that's fun to say) just in time for our lunch reservation. The campus is beautiful and overlooks the Hudson River.

There are five award winning restaurants on campus which make up what they call Restaurant Row and you need to book ahead if you're going. The students cook, serve, and learn to manage the restaurant as part of their coursework and I definitely would like to go back and try all of them the French, Escoffier.

We dined in their Italian restaurant called Caterina de Medici which is housed in what looks like an Italian villa. The chandeliers came from Murano and a lot of beautiful pottery is used in the decor. We had a set menu since we were a group of 20 and the meal was fab-u-lous.

We started with a Tuscan white bean soup with escarole and tubettini, and for the main were served a braised beef with polenta, glazed cipollini and baby carrots.

The beef had been slow cooked and it was like perfectly tender it just fell apart when you touched it with your fork. Sorry. Forgot to take a picture before I took a bite.

Dessert was a warm chocolate lava cake with caramel sauce and gelato.

So rich but so so delicious.
Yes, I needed two pictures.
How else would you know there was 'lava'?

After lunch we were given a guided tour. These are available even if you are not with a group but call ahead to book if you're thinking of going. Our guide was a student and she was adorable. She said she had no desire to be on television but she so totally could be on television.

The main building which houses the classroom kitchens was originally St. Andrews on the Hudson, a Jesuit monastery. The student dining room was the original chapel and when they inquired about removing the stained glass they learned the windows were the creation of Tiffany's apprentice before Mr. Tiffany was Mr. 5th Avenue. They are extremely valuable so they stayed. The main hallway is lined with Tiffany is an absolutely beautiful building.

We weren't permitted to take photographs inside as the students were in class. The rooms are surrounded by windows into the hallway so you can observe without interrupting. The curriculum is designed so that each student takes one class for 7 or 8 hours each day for three weeks and then moves to another. Wouldn't you love to take a class called chocolates? We looked in on one classroom where the instructor was demonstrating cream fillings...he is a very well known German chef and is credited with bringing Creme Brulee to the Americas. I wanted to blow him a kiss thru the glass but I refrained.

We passed the cake decorating and the bread baking and the aroma...oh my. Nope. I could for sure not go to school here. Our guide did point out what she called one of the most important buildings on campus and that is the gym. I'm pretty sure however, that no amount of working out would offset eating 20-30 cookies a night at my age. Which, btw, is not 20.

We of course made a stop in the gift shop and some in the group made purchases in the bakery. The program is intense and the students are on their feet for long days. And if you are in the baking track you might have to report for class at midnight. Yes. That would be another reason I could not go to school at the CIA.

The campus is beautiful, the food is wonderful, and the program is impressive. A really enjoyable day out...lots of fun without any espionage whatsoever.


  1. You crack me up! Wanting to blow a kiss to the creme brulee king would be right up my alley. I love the stuff!

    What an impressive school, location, and program. Now let's talk about "restaurant row". I would love one of those in my town. Five wonderful places to eat with gourmet food? It sounds like a fabulous day out with a bunch of friends.

    Thanks for sharing your grand adventure invading the CIA. I couldn't attend that school either. My hips would be screaming at me or I would be screaming at them! Either way, a day visit sounds like just the ticket.

  2. I made that exact same soup last night for dinner, but I bet theirs was better.

    And I'm sure the customers didn't say "What's this?" and "Why did you put cabbage in it?"


  3. Your willpower is **amazing**!! What a great trip.

  4. What a great excursion! That would be so much fun. I´m always amazed at how many different things you have to do over there. I can just imagine the aroma´s that were drifting past your noses, during your tour. Good thing you ate first, right? :)

  5. I've been to the CIA too... not the culinary one, the other one ;-) Had to go take a lie detector test there when hubby was in the USAF and worked at NSA and CIA!!!
    Would much rather go to your CIA ;-) Looks lovely.

  6. How cool is that? You do the neatest stuff! Thanks for the tour.

  7. Joyce,

    Loved this post, especially about blowing a kiss to the man who was teaching about fillings and brought creme brulee here, marvelous and a blessed man indeed.

    Loved all these wonderful picture and now I must agree, I can not attend. I would be huge by graduation!

    If you get a chance, stop by and participate in some of my giveaways, most of them end this weekend! I'd love to have you join!

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  8. What an exciting and fantastic life you lead! :)

  9. You had me at chocolate. ;)

    20-30 cookies, really? I would have grown a third hip. hehe...

  10. MMMmmmmmm.... A diet is not pleasant when you are met with that awesome looking chocolate meltdown desert. :)

  11. What an excellent field trip. That must have been so interesting. Thank you for sharing your adventure with me. The food looks like it was delicious.