The CIA Takes “Special Culinary Event” To The Next Level
Photos courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America.
By Lisa Green
Somewhere on our “reasons why we love the Rural Intelligence region” you’ll find this: the famed Culinary Institute of Institute of America is right in our own back yard in Hyde Park, New York. The CIA may set the standard for excellence in professional culinary education — and it supplies our region with some of the finest chefs anywhere — but it’s also home to several distinguished restaurants at which the public is invited to sample the institute in action. It provides training for the students and a dining adventure for the rest of us.
Throughout the year, three of the restaurants in the CIA Restaurant Group present special dining events. The CIA has been offering these events for 25 years, and continues to come up with new themes. We had our eye on “Grandmere’s Kitchen” at The Bocuse Restaurant. That event has been filled, but that’s not stopping us, because there are other themed evenings coming up. In March, for instance, truffles — not the chocolate kind — figure prominently in one of them, as does pork (prepared five ways) and the street foods of France. (Note: Those three are not listed on the website yet, but we have it on good authority that they will be offered, so check the website periodically.)
If you’ve dined at the CIA, then you know the meaning of dining well. The maître d’ and restaurant managers are right out of central casting, and the student servers, who have been coached within an inch of their lives, explain each course upon presentation with aplomb.
Unlike at a non-themed meal, however, guests should expect to share their table with other dining enthusiasts (although private seating can be requested). There may be live music complementing the cuisine, too.
“At our Beefsteak event, we had the accompaniment of a brass band,” says Wally Malouf, director of Restaurant Operations. “We had a French horn player and bassoonist play lovely background music at our 2015 French Champagne Christmas event in The Bocuse Restaurant. Each event has a very special theme, and although they do not all have live music, they all give the guest something special to take away from the experience.” It’s unknown whether that includes doggie bags.
And a bit of advice: plan to let the experience unfold in a leisurely manner. The meal might take two-and-a-half to three hours (or more, according to some reviews on the website). While the CIA doesn’t have any special lodging packages, this is the kind of thing you don’t want to have to rush home after, and there are many hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns throughout the Hudson Valley that can accommodate special event guests. (You can find that sort of information on the Rural Intelligence apps.)
Even if the remaining special events of the year have been filled, you can still go for a non-themed meal at The Bocuse, American Bounty or Caterina de’ Medici restaurants…or plan now to attend one in the new year.
Jan. 18, Chowders and Stews at American Bounty
The four-course lunch includes samplings of corn, New England and Manhattan clam chowders, braised beef stew and stewed chicken, and a dessert of braised fruit. $55, includes tax and tip.
Feb. 4, Fourth Annual Beefsteak in Farquharson Hall
A traditional “Beefsteak” banquet, which originated in the mid-1800s, to celebrate the pleasures and camaraderie of the communal table over food, beer and song. $150, includes tax and tip.
Feb. 8, Bold Blind Tasting, Danny Kaye Theatre and The Bocuse Restaurant
First, a blind wine tasting, then a meal of French classics created using modern techniques. $95, includes tax and tip.
Feb. 28, Cucina Regionale Piedmont at Caterina de’ Medici Restaurant
The five-course dinner includes tuna and anchovy crostini, bagna cauda, potato gnocci, zuppa di cipolla, mattonella al gianduia and biscotti, paired with three regional wines. $55, excludes tax and tip.