Visiting the Culinary Institute of America

Hyde Park, New York

On our ride up to Hyde Park the night before, we passed massive Hogwarts looking buildings that we identified as the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Immediately enamored, we searched online to see how we could visit the campus without aimlessly walking around. The CIA offers tours for the public every week day at 4PM with reservations and we were able to call this morning for a spot.

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Arriving to CIA around 3PM, we found the visitor parking deck and made our way up the stairs to the Roth Building which sits elevated to the rest of the campus regally surrounded by fountains, floral arrangements, gazebos, shrubbery, and a pineapple sculpture. What is the pineapple about?

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Walking through the doors, the hospitality office is on the right (for check in) and a massive gift shop is on the left, which we browsed first. With time to spare, the Apple Pie Bakery was the first food sighting on campus.

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We popped in for a snack and found is quite difficult to make a decision. The donut of the day? One of the many pastries? The artfully crafted gourmet options? Yes, that one worked.

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  • Milk and Cookies- brownie bits, sweetened condensed milk, Chantilly (fancy whipped cream), brown butter pastry cream housed inside an edible chocolate “glass” with macaroon cookies inside

No words- what a fantastic dessert. Our first spoon full grabbed a bit of the condensed milk and a macaroon cookie. The second spoonful grabbed the brown butter pastry cream. The third spoonful grabbed the brownie bits. The final spoonfuls had all three elements combined to make a wonderful dessert. The fun part was breaking the chocolate “glass” without making a mess – the chocolate was covered in thick blue edible powder. We managed to keep the bright blue to our fingertips which we quickly washed off before starting our tour.

A large group was gathered at the entrance while CIA students introduced themselves. To our delight, the large group separated into smaller segments with each student and rotated around the tour sights. It was a relief to be in a smaller, more manageable group of six than a group of forty!

Our CIA student led us around to one of many restaurants on property, Bocuse, where students perfect their technical skills with many table side presentations to guests. We then walked by several teaching kitchens, one dedicated to Apple Pie Bakery, before being shown the dining hall. I think this is as close to Hogwarts’ Great Hall as it gets! Students prepare the food in one of the classes and the prepared food gets served in one of several areas on the campus- a great way to limit food waste in these teaching kitchens but even better, a great meal for everyone. Quite a delicious perk! We learned about the other CIA restaurants, including American Bounty, Caterina de Medici, Post Road Brew House, and more. Our group had many questions about enrollment, curriculum, experiences, concentrations, post graduation opportunities, and our CIA student was generous about answering every one… including my question about the pineapple! Turns out it is a symbol for CIA because a pineapple represents hospitality.

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Our 8PM reservation was for American Bounty, the farm to table dining experience at CIA. Still arriving a smidge early, we walked around the campus and found a bench to watch the sun begin to set. I know these students work very hard, but there were certainly perks of attending this school.

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After checking in for our reservations, we were seated and given an iPad for the beverage options- a fun way to pick out our bottle of wine for the evening!

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With the menu focusing on New York producers, we chose a dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes, Dr Konstantin Frank (top left).

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  • Duck Fat Biscuits (top right) Fermented Apple Sauce, Pecan-Duck Butter, Country Ham, Strawberry Jam, Sorghum
    • I could have used ten more biscuits to sop up all the dipping options since I had to resort to my knife scooping it into my mouth
  • Smoked Pig’s Head (middle left) Succotash, Mustard Root Purée
    • Yep, roast a pigs head and press it to make a foie gras like dish
  • Steelhead “Wellington” (middle right)- Mushroom, Cabbage, Local Potatoes, Shellfish-Mushroom Reduction
    • A salmon like fish prepared like a traditional beef wellington wrapped up with cabbage
  • Sea Scallops (middle middle) Truffled Creamed Corn, Bok Choy, Chanterelle Mushrooms
    • Oh that creamed corn! Scallops were a large size and pan fried very well.
  • Chocolate Tart with Tea Ice Cream, Apricot, Dulce (bottom left)
    • Little truffle chocolate balls of amazing
  • Lemon-Blueberry Napoleon with Crispy Phyllo, Local Wildflower-Honey Ice Cream (bottom middle)
    • A balanced combination of super tart parts and super sweet parts

Stuffed and satisfied, we left CIA very happy with the time we spent exploring the campus, learning about the program, and experiencing immersive dining.

For more about Hudson Valley, check out  full trip details and itinerary!

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