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Rural Intelligence Food Prairie Whale, in Great Barrington, for a new farm-to-table hangout. 

terrapin Terrapin, in Rhinebeck, offers astonishing variety and value in a glittering setting. Table Six, in Lenox, features a changing prix fixe meal in the refurbished Kemble Inn.

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Apple Pie Bakery Café - Hyde Park, New York

Rural Intelligence FoodFor most of us, there is life, then there is lunch. At The Culinary Institute of America, life and food are one. Some of the classrooms look like sets for tv cooking shows. Others look like—in fact are—restaurant kitchens. The campus has five restaurants that are open to the public. All are staffed by students of varying degrees of expertise under the tutelage of accomplished industry professionals. The busiest of these is Apple Pie Bakery Café, where pastry chef Francisco Migoya reigns supreme.

Migoya, who polished his craft at the French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery, and Bouchon Bistro, is having quite a year. His recently published book, The Modern Café, has been nominated for a James Beard Award for the year’s best new book aimed at professional restaurateurs and chefs. And just one week after that honor was announced, Dessert Professional magazine declared Migoya one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in the United States.

Monday - Friday, from 7:30 a.m. when its doors open, until 11 a.m., Migoya’s domain is perhaps more high-end bakery than café—as fine a place as exists on this earth for a breakfast of baked goods—muffins ($2.50), croissants ($2.95), brioche ($3.50), Danish ($1.95 - $2.95)—and excellent coffee of all kinds, including French press. Each morning there also is a featured latte; i.e., Nutella-flavored with a scattering of finish salt. After 11, lunch service begins and continues throughout the afternoon to 5 p.m. Salads, sandwiches, soups—typical cafe categories, if not fare: The Spring Pea Salad ($9.95), a green-on-green melange of English, snow, and sugar snap peas with arugula in a champagne vinaigrette with toasted almonds and grated dry-aged goat cheese is so complex and engaging, it hardly needs the crispy prosciutto it is offered with for just $1 more. A truffled grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough with crispy speck is delicious; but it is the side of kale chips and lemon aioli that won our hearts ($12.95). We’re already plotting what we will order the next time: steamed Chinese pork buns with a cucumber and chili salad ($10.95) or perhaps the short rips braised in beer served with coddled eggs, shoestring fries, and a side of mache ($11.95). These may be accompanied by wines by the glass ($5.75 - $7) or a range of mostly micro-brewery beers ($3.75 - $4.50).

But it is Migoya’s show-stopping confections that steal the spotlight here. In The Modern Café, he devotes just 100 pages out of a total of 550 to savories. Nearly every one of those remaining pages is filled with glorious baking and pudding-making recipes and techniques. Desserts—a big MACaron (mango jelly, pistachio buttercream, raspberry gel, and chocolate ganache @$5.95) or a slice of chocolate XS cake, a rich, flourless cake of 61% dark chocolate mousse ($5.95); or perhaps just a big carrot-cake cookie filled with vanilla cream cheese ($2.95)—are delightful. The whole pies and cakes, which are meant to be taken out, are nothing short of astonishing. For $29.95, one can treat a dinner host or a loved one celebrating a birthday to an exquisitely moist chocolate-buttermilk cake layered with chocolate chantilly and iced in fondant. Or a Red Velvet Pillow Cake, above ($24.95).       

The term café is thrown around loosely to describe any restaurant, from a greasy spoon to a bistro, that is inexpensive. CIA’s Apple Pie Bakery Café delivers on the not-too-expensive, but apart from that, it is a café in a class by itself. —Marilyn Bethany

U.S. Rte. 9, Hyde Park, NY
Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday 12 - 9:30 p.m.
Closed on school holidays.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 04/13/11 at 09:50 AM • Permalink