Driving 70 miles each way to get lunch might seem a little bit crazy, but it definitely depends on where it is you’re going to eat. In this case, we went to the C.I.A. – which is The Culinary Institute of America, situated way up in Hyde Park, NY.
70 miles away. For lunch.
But – Oh, what a lunch! Very easily worth the drive.
Gabby got us a lunch reservation at the famous Culinary Institute of America and we set aside the day to go up there. Good weather, clear traffic, loooong drive, but no problem.
We got there and found our way into their free indoor parking area, where our humble Toyota was sharing space with a LOT of Porsches.
Seriously – almost half the cars in there were Porsches, no joke.
We come up from the parking (there are more parking areas – just not all with a roof!) and get our first views of the snow-covered campus and surrounding area of upstate NY, and we were impressed by both!
It’s a very dignified-looking campus, with appropriately grand looking buildings and lovely views.
There are a few different dining places, each with their own character and specialty menu.
We were to eat at the ‘American Bounty Restaurant’, which was in the main building.
We made our way into the restaurant and were promptly greeted, coat-checked, and seated.
The restaurant ‘staff’ is comprised almost 100% of students working towards their degrees. Probably, there were some teaching staff keeping an eye on things, but, overall, it was students doing everything. Apparently, they rotate through the various house staff positions, learning every aspect of the restaurant/hospitality trade. From where we were sat, we could see through glass panels into the busy, well-staffed kitchen, where meals are prepared.
The menu isn’t full of a thousand different things to choose from, which is something we greatly prefer, after watching many, many episodes of Gordon Ramsey’s ‘Kitchen Nightmare’ shows! It usually means, fresher ingredients, freshly prepared, and less pressure on the kitchen staff, which allows for greater efficiency, care, and pride in the preparation of each plate.
So, we placed our orders, got our drinks and prepared to be impressed.
And – truly impressed, we were!
Now – please bear in mind that we were there in November of 2018 (over a year ago!!), so what was eaten by whom for which course may be just a tiny bit mis-remembered, but it was (according to our poorly-written notes from the day) most likely somewhat along these lines:
Salad – BABY BEET SALAD w/Whipped Goat Cheese, Pumpernickel Dirt & Balsamic Reduction
Starter – BUTTERNUT-GINGER CHOWDER w/Spiced Squash Seeds & Shrimp Flauta
Main – POMEGRANATE GLAZED DUCK BREAST w/Smoked Basmati, Toasted Cashews, Baby Bok Choy & Pomegranate Gastrique
Dessert – WARM CARAMELIZED APPLE w/Cornmeal-Rosemary Sable & Dulce Ice Cream
Salad – ROASTED PEAR SALAD – w/Savory Granola, Ewe’s Blue & Maple-Bourbon Vinaigrette
Starter – CHICKEN FRIED QUAIL w/Smoked Guava BBQ, Green Mango-Chayote Slaw & Fried Quail Egg
Main – LAMB CHOPS w/Carolina Griddle Cake, Roasted Root Vegetables & Lamb Jus
Dessert – CHOCOLATE TART w/Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream & Dulce de Leche
We would have probably had a drink from the outset, although this was not noted anywhere. You can safely assume that Ken ordered an Old-Fashioned, which is his reference drink, if you will, to start judging any establishment by, ever since the transcendent one he had at Harry’s Bar in San Francisco that time (see here). It is also vaguely remembered (and clearly visible in one of the earlier photos!!) that Ken may have actually had a Brooklyn Brown Ale, which is one of his favourite beers in the world.
Gabby enjoyed the contrast in flavours between the perfectly crispy Shrimp Flautas and her Butternut-Ginger Chowder, which was perfect for the Fall season. She wanted another helping, actually – but maybe with a few more nuts/seeds in the mix. She enjoyed her duck, which was not greasy like we were afraid it might be.
Ken hoovered up both his quail and his lamb chops. Sublime textures, flavours and presentation on the plates. Even the salad, he found to be quite tasty.
Both dessert options were delicious, sumptuous, and delightful, complemented by Hot Tea (Gabby) and a Hot Scotch drink (Ken). The Hot Scotch consisted of Hot Chocolate, Kahlua, Dewar’s Whisky, and Whipped Cream.
All other notes we may have made have been…misplaced, so you’ll just have to trust us when we tell you that everything was superb. Very tasty, perfectly prepared, and in adequately-sized portions.
Service throughout the meal was excellent, with a very attentive waitress. The timing between courses was just right. We didn’t feel rushed to finish anything and there were a few minutes between courses so that the previous course could settle nicely in our stomachs.
A nice touch, that surprised Ken at least, was the cleaning of the table & complete resupply of cutlery appropriate to whatever was to be the next course. Fresh, clean utensils – and only the ones you’d need for the next course. No trying to guess which is the correct fork or whatever – just pick up and eat!
ALL of the food was wonderful and, hopefully, you’ll be enticed by our thoughts, words, and photos to trek on up to the C.I.A. in Hyde Park, NY, and enjoy a meal in any of their 4 distinctly-themed restaurants yourselves…you won’t regret it, we promise.
In actual fact – we’re talking now between ourselves about when we’ll next drive up for another meal at the C.I.A., we enjoyed it so much. It’ll definitely be very soon, that’s for sure!
We’ve included pictures of the menu, so that you can get an idea as to the cost of a meal at the CIA’s American Bounty Restaurant, but don’t go by just the cost. It’s the perceived value that matters. In this case, we found the final bill to be absolutely reasonable when we took into consideration the amazing and very enjoyable meal that we were served. Great value for money and a lasting memory, for real.
One last thing worth mentioning, is the Gift Shop. It’s well-stocked with branded apparel/cookwear, books, tools of the trade, spices, sauces, and general souvenirs. Definitely stop in here on your way back to your car.