St. Andrew’s Café, Greener and Sharper Than Ever
By Kathryn Matthews
For all appearances, St. Andrew’s Café at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park is one of those restaurants where time-stood-still, with décor that features carpeted floors; a brown-and-ochre color scheme; floor-length floral curtains; and white-clothed tables. The student servers sport collared, long-sleeved white shirts, ties, black vests and pants. It all feels very 1980s.
But, as my husband and I discovered on a recent visit, there is nothing retro about the St. Andrew’s menu.
In 2009, St. Andrew’s became a certified green restaurant—the first in Dutchess County to do so in accordance with Green Restaurant Association standards. Their green practices include sourcing locally and regionally, reducing food and product waste, recycling, composting (leftover food), monitoring water efficiency, and eliminating all Styrofoam products and individually wrapped condiments.
Last December, Dwayne LiPuma, an assistant professor of Culinary Arts and formerly the teaching chef at Caterine and American Bounty, two other restaurants on the CIA campus, took over as St. Andrew’s executive chef. A CIA alumni, LiPuma had worked at several iconic New York City restaurants, including Park Avenue Café, The River Café and Aureole, before joining the faculty of his alma mater. Under his leadership, St. Andrew’s once predictable casual-fare menu (pizza, burgers and meatloaf) has been transformed. “My goal was to create a more sophisticated and upscale farm-to-table menu,” he says, “but one that would appeal to a broad range of visitors.” He now refreshes the menu seasonally—more frequently in spring and summer when produce is abundant. In summer, about 80% of the menu is locally sourced; in winter, about 50%.
As for our meal, the bread delivered to our table was baked fresh that day by CIA baking and pastry students. Other items made in-house? “We buy whole hogs from which we’ll make our own pates, terrines and sausages, too,” says LiPuma.
I started with a frisee, endive and watercress salad ($8). The frisee and watercress with a Cabot cheddar dressing were artfully stacked on endive, and garnished with a pretty splay of toasted hazelnuts and house-made bacon lardons. My husband had another beautifully composed spring salad ($8): local greens, flavored with a mustard-shallot vinaigrette, mounded on asparagus spears, encircled by roasted red baby beets and delicate chunks of nutty-flavored Toma Celena (from Cooperstown Cheese Company).
My husband had the sautéed sea bass ($14), warming and substantial, paired with house-made sausage, fava beans and artichokes in a pool of Chardonnay broth. I opted for the pan-roasted Stone Church Farm duck ($14, right), which, I later learned, is St. Andrew’s top-selling dish. I can understand why. Slices of duck breast, perfectly pink and tender, rest atop a curry-spiked grain salad, a toothsome mélange of barley, wild rice and couscous (all from Wild Hive Farm in Clinton), enriched by a warm drizzle of Lenz merlot sauce.
Satisfied and full, we heroically made room for dessert: pound cake with strawberry compote, strawberry ice cream, and a dollop of crème fraiche.
Judging from the nearly full dining room—and our own meal—LiPuma has achieved both of his goals, to reach out to the adventurous, while still satisfying the tame. You now can have a lovely, sophisticated meal here. And you can still get a burger—a barbecue burger ($10) is the current offering—but now the beef is grass-fed, the bacon is house-smoked, and the cheese is local. There’s a pizza margherita ($9) with house-made tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and ricotta. You can even have meatloaf ($12), the Meiller Farm meatloaf comes with an herb and Bulich Farm mushroom gravy and roasted garlic whipped RSK Farm potatoes.
Now that the menu has been successfully up-dated, CIA will be gradually moving toward a more eco-friendly, up-to-date décor, replacing carpets with wood floors, tablecloths with bare tabletops.
St. Andrew’s Café at The Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park
Monday - Friday, lunch only, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Reservations required: 845.471.6608
All CIA restaurants have been closed for summer recess; they reopen Wednesday, August 3.