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Out and About: Culinary Institute of America – Escoffier

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The Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538
# 845-471-6608

The other night I decided to take my wonderful boyfriend out for a delicious dinner.  His birthday was on August 5th and the whole day was spend driving in the car so now that we were home I decided it was time to finally go out and celebrate.  The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has a total of five on campus restaurants, St. Anderews Cafe, Apple Pie Bakery, Escoffier, American Bounty and Caterina de’ Medici, but only the latter three are open for dinner.  Since I booked our reservation on the same day we dined, which I will point out can not usually be done, there was only one option for dining, Escoffier.  A delicious French restaurant with a little contemporary twist.  We have eaten at this restaurant twice before but it has recently been renovated and this was our first visit since the renovations. The restaurant is located in the main building of the culinary school which houses classrooms, the college cafeteria and two other restaurants.  As you enter the building you may think to yourself “did I go in the wrong door?” but don’t worry you just make a little left and there waiting for you is a beautiful glass door with the restaurant logo. The door will usually swing open before you can even think about opening it and a smiling face will great you and welcome you to the restaurant. (I apologize for the picture quality. I was attempting to be discrete so I only brought my small point and shoot and used no flash.)

Shortly after we sat down a little amuse-bouche was brought to our table. It was a buttery crispy slice of bread with a little salmon and dill mixture. I found the dill to be a bit overpowering but since I do not care for salmon I didn’t really mind 🙂

Next up was a rich lobster bisque with seafood sausage. Lobster meat was served in a bowl at the table and then a tureen of soup is brought over and hot soup is ladled into the bowl. Mr. NN said the soup was delicious with a deep seafood flavor and hint of beef stock. He liked the large chunks of lobster but as always “it could have used more.” 🙂

Now it was time for salad.  I picked this salad because once I saw goat cheese I knew I had to try it. The salad contained mesclun greens, marinated goat cheese, pressed watermelon and watercress juice.  The greens were dressed lightly and small squares of goat cheese and watermelon dressed the side of the plate. I loved all the flavors and my favorite bite was a combo of the watermelon, goat cheese and greens. Talk about a party in the mouth!

Appetizer time! I picked the seared scallop and shrimp with heirloom tomato and mango with a cilantro-lime sauce. I loved this dish! It was served slightly warm and I found the mix of acidic tomatoes with sweet mango to be a perfect combination. It paired nicely with the perfectly cooked shrimp and scallop. There was also a nice butter flavor to the sauce.

Finally it was time for the main course 🙂 Mr. Nutmeg Nanny and I opted to go with the lamb dish which was served table side and for two. It’s a full rack of lamb that has been seared, herb crusted and cooked till perfection. It was served along side ratatouille and chickpea fries.  The ratatouille was perfectly cooked and I loved all the fresh summertime ingredients. Now can I just say that while I loved everything the chickpea fries were my favorite! Our waiter, Vlad (who was awesome by the way),  informed me that the preparation is similar to polenta but instead of cornmeal you use chickpea flour. They then shape it and gently pan fry until it’s crispy and golden brown. Amazing! I swear. I’m totally making this sometime soon. To drink, my lamb was paired with a Château Larose-Trintaudon, Haut-Médoc, 2005. (I enjoy wine but by no way consider myself a wine snob. All I know is that I thought this wine tasted delicious with the lamb.)

Now at this point we were totally stuffed but we had to have coffee and dessert. We opted for press pot coffee and I had the lemon verbena crème brûlée with a strawberry-almond biscuit and Mr. NN had the glazed citrus mousse with raspberries.  I loved my dessert. It was nice and creamy and the lemon flavor was not overpowering and perfect for keeping the dish a little lighter than traditional creme brulee. Mr. NN’s dessert had a nice citrus flavor although I found it to be a bit strong. Although with “glazed citrus” in the name I guess I should have expected the strong citrus flavor.  The raspberries were a nice accompaniment and paired nicely with the smooth mousse texture and taste.

As if we weren’t stuffed enough they brought the check and a small plate of cookies. My favorite cookie was the small round cookie with had a nice buttery crunch and lots of cinnamon and nuts. It was perfect in my opinion. I just wish they gave me a small box to take home 🙂

All in all I would say our experience was delightful and delicious 🙂 I always look forward to our dinners at the CIA and since their menus change seasonally so there is always something new to try. If you find yourself coming to the area I would definitely make reservations for any of the three dinner restaurants. It will be worth it!

I also walked around the main building a took a few photographs. I thought I would share them with you 🙂


Apple Pie Bakery Kitchen

Eggplant growing in the outdoor planters

The outside of the main building at night. It started raining so you can see the raindrops in the picture.


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Tuesday 7th of September 2010

What a fun post. My best friends son works at that CIA and it's fun to see the pictures of the place and the food! Thank you!

Heavenly Housewife

Wednesday 1st of September 2010

What a special place to have dinner, it sounds like a wonderful experience. *kisses* HH


Tuesday 31st of August 2010

Thank you so much for the idea to visit the CIA! How fun and delicious!


Tuesday 31st of August 2010

How fun to eat at the Culinary Institute of America! Delicious!

5 Star Foodie

Tuesday 31st of August 2010

A fun dinner and experience! We need to go back to CIA - we had two lunches there but no dinners as our daughter was only 1 at that time. During our tour, the pastry students gave her some cookies - so those CIA cookies were the first cookies she ever had :)