Once someone mentioned that I could dine at the Culinary Institute of America while in the Hudson Valley, I planned my whole trip around this dinner. The CIA offers a $45 prix fixe menu Tuesday-Thursday, so my indulgence wouldn’t even break the bank.
The evening started off on a sour note when the hostess couldn’t find my name, then did find it and exclaimed, “You canceled your reservation this afternoon.” I replied, “I promise you, I did not. In fact, I built my whole trip around this dinner, rented a car and am staying at a hotel nearby just so I can be here now.” (Luckily, the only other sour note of the night were the bitters in my cocktail, and those I asked for.)
Once I was seated, I saw that there were quite a few empty tables so there never was a risk that this whole venture would have been for naught.
Deciding what to order was extremely difficult. Because I was dining alone, there was no opportunity for sharing or tasting someone else’s choices, my favorite things to do when eating out with others. I went pescatarian, in part at the recommendation of my server, a student who had cooked the fish station for a few weeks.
My appetizer and dessert were spectacular. The tastes were interesting and rich. The lobster was tender and flavorful. Foam can be annoying and distracting when done badly. Here, it added accent and taste.
Every component of the dessert was delicious on its own. Together they were magical. It was so amazing, I’m writing about it before the entrée.
The menu description of the halibut entrée didn’t mention the croquette of olive tapenade, but once my server described it I was sold since love a good olive tapenade. Here, the saltiness and brininess overpowered and distracted from the fish. At the end of the day I took advantage of this since the fish was slightly overcooked and a little too tough.
A nice surprise was the game Amuse that is given to every table. The cards ask questions such as, “What culinary skill would you like to master?” (knife skills) and “What is your least favorite task in the kitchen?” (chopping onions). Between people watching and answering the questions myself, my two-hour dinner passed quickly.
The other nice surprise was that at the end of the meal, they gave me two of every extra treat even though I was a singleton. I ended up taking all but one of the white chocolate truffles in a to go box because I was so full. A truly sweet ending. The weekday prix fixe is a deal and I definitely would return.