Culinary Institute Of America in Hyde Park

Judi Travel Caricature Earlier, I told you about my 3-day fall road trip to lower Hudson Valley in New York State which included time at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and FDR’s home in Hyde Park, exploring downtown Beacon, and a lovely stay at The Roundhouse Beacon Falls. Now I’m back to share Part II of my journey featuring my visit to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Storm King Art Center.

Culinary Institute Of America in Hyde Park

It was my first time visiting the Culinary Institute of America

Getting a resy at the Culinary Institute of America is not easy

Being a foodie, I had always wanted to visit the CIA. “I’m so excited to finally visit the CIA,” I told my boyfriend E. when we started planning our road trip this past summer. “Let’s take a cooking class while we’re there and have dinner at one of the student-run restaurants.”

Little did I know that hundreds of other retired baby boomers wanted to do the same. In fact, every half-or-full-day class was not only booked through 2023, most were booked into 2024.

Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park

The Culinary Institute of America is located in Hyde Park, New York and has branches in California and Texas

Restaurant reservations can be booked two months ahead and were equally challenging to secure. I forgot to mark my calendar and when the date passed and I went into Open Table — every dinner was already taken. Thankfully we were able to secure lunch at Ristorante Caterina de Medici followed by a CIA Public Tour.

So dear readers, if you decide you want to go to the CIA in 2024, I suggest you start planning now.

Students run the show at CIA restaurants

There are three award-winning restaurants at the CIA New York campus which are part of the students’ educational experience — American Bounty Restaurant; The Bocuse Restaurant and Ristorante Caterina de’Medici — and the Apple Pie Bakery Café, named one of America’s Best Bakeries by Food and Wine.

CIA Apple Pie Bakery

Student chefs make all the breads and pastries at Apple Pie Bakery

It was fun to see how students and faculty work together to run the restaurants. The student waiters were so attentive during our luncheon.

We dined at Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici where authentic regional Italian cuisine takes center stage. It’s like eating in a grand Tuscan-style villa. There is a price-fixed three course lunch menu. The students are totally engaged in the wine list and seasonal menus and personally serving their guests.

Pumpkin tortellini at CIA restaurant

My luncheon entree was pumpkin tortellini garnished with sage

E and I started with Beef Carpaccio tenderloin with avocado and fried capers. For entrees. I selected Tortelloni di Zucca filled with pumpkin Amaretto in a brown butter sauce garnished with pumpkin seeds. E chose Lamb Scottadito made with parsnip, delicata squash, chanterelles and pomegranate. My dessert was a Crostata di Mele with Heirloom apples, cinnamon and vanilla gelato. E opted for Al Cioccolato chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. Everything was so good, so good, so good especially the desserts.

Desserts from CIA restaurant

Delectable apple and chocolate desserts from the CIA student pastry chefs

A school where “Food is Life”

“You know you’re going to class today?” said Sharon, the CIA manager at our afternoon tour. The auditorium was full as we sat to learn how to taste like a chef.

“There are 150 faculty and 2000 students here at the CIA NY Hyde Park campus. There are 50,000 alumni worldwide,” said Sharon while introducing the two students who would be our  guides – Meghan from Austin, Texas and Harrison from San Diego, California. “Students are the stars. They get scholarships based on how many hours they work.”

Culinary Institute history

It was interesting learning about the CIA history

Sharon explained the different degree options for this premier culinary school in America after we watched a video about its history. The CIA in Hyde Park opened in the 70s and over time has expanded to CIA Greystone in St. Helena and CIA at Copia in Napa, California; CIA Texas in San Antonio; and also formed a partnership with Singapore Institute of Technology, where it offers a food business management bachelor’s degree program in Asia.

Culinary Institute of America bookstore

I enjoyed perusing cookbooks at the CIA bookstore

Ooh, ooh, ooh, maybe in retirement I should enroll and get an associates degree in baking and pastry,” I said to E. “I do love to make pies! Or maybe I’ll take one of the boot-camps or single-day classes for foodies. They all sound so wonderful.”

Learning to taste like a chef

Next Chef Kamen took the stage to give us a tutorial on taste and flavor.

“You taste on your tongue – sweet, sour, bitter, and salty,” said Chef Kamen. “When you add in other senses like seeing, smelling and other aspects then we have flavor.”

He directed us to close our eyes and breathe in the flavor. We tasted a jelly bean with our eyes shut. When we opened our eyes it tasted different with the aroma.

Classroom at CIA

Our class was led by chefs and students

We tasted a grape. It was unlike any grape I had ever eaten. That’s because Chef Kamen reminded us to taste the sweetness, the little sour meat and feel its chewiness, dryness and astringent skin.

We sprinkled salt on a grape and tasted it. “The salt turns up the volume on flavors already there,” he added.

We squeezed lime on a grape. “The lime gives us acid which is an important part of flavor development. Acid brightens the dish. It counterbalances the sweet and gives the impression of juiciness.”

Judy at CIA

I was so enthralled with CIA I wanted to sign up

We dipped a grape in sriracha. No balance. We dipped a grape in sugar. A little unbalanced.

We added a dab of sugar and salt and we had a sweet and salty and juicy grape. “It’s all coming together in harmony,” said Chef Kamen. “Add salt, sugar and lime juice and it’s like a salad. Something refreshing because it’s more stimulating.” 

Tasting class at the CIA

We learned to taste like a chef

Finally Chef Kamen instructed us to add all the flavors to the grape. “It’s now salty and sweet like a Thai curry. As chefs we need to define how much salt, sugar, lime and sriracha should we put on something. It can be a life-long job.”

He encouraged us to think about the flavor of foods when we taste them. “Why is it good? Or if it doesn’t taste good ask, what it doesn’t have?”

It was an interesting culinary presentation and made me question the flavors in my meal that evening when E and I went out for Thai food at Sukhothai in Beacon. The Thai food was very well flavored.

Pad Thai

I analyzed the flavors of our Pad Thai dinner

A stop over at Storm King Art Center

On our drive home to New Jersey, we stopped at Storm King Art Center in West Windsor. The nice Communications Director had provided me with a complimentary pass. Storm King was founded in 1960 for visual art and music. Its 500 acres is home to more than 100 outdoor art sculptures.*

Orange sculpture at Storm King

Some sculptures are as tall as the trees

We walked part of the grounds and then took a tram ride around the perimeter. The sculptures were mammoth in size. Some we passed looked different depending on the angle viewed.

Steel sculpture at Storm King Park

This is a heavy-weight industrial steel sculpture

I especially liked the Walden lifecycle circles and the Wave Field with waves of grass sculptures. It was fascinating to see how the landscape architect created a mosaic of fields that change with every season.

Wave field at Storm King

A landscape architect created a Wave Field

If you want to visit, I suggest bringing a picnic lunch and making a day of it. You can hike the grounds and get some good exercise.

Our road trip to Hudson Valley was a perfect way to spend a few fall days. E and I agreed that we definitely want to go return next year to explore some of the other Hudson Valley towns and surrounding Dutchess County.

Happy travels.


*Disclosure of Material Connection: Storm King Art Center provided me with a complimentary press pass. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.