Monday, March 3, 2008

The Culinary Institutes of America: A Review

I've had the pleasure of visiting both the Napa Valley and Hyde Park campuses of the CIA this past month. The Napa Valley experience was much more pleasurable, perhaps because I didn't eat there. At Hyde Park's American Bounty, my meal was a series of service debacles and dishes on a scale of mediocre to fine.

I started with an appetizer called "Two Fat Tamales." There were two of them, and though bad they were tamales, but they certainly weren't fat. "Frail" would in fact be more accurate.

I much prefer any two dollar tamale I've had in Somerville than those served at this prestigious institution. They were in no way helped by a mango salsa and drizzling of sauce atop the husk. Unless you're Gerald Ford, these additions were useless.

My main dish, a pappardelle with chianti braised duck ragout, was fine. It was fun to eat such large noodles and the duck was extremely soft, though they'd let a few blobs of fat sneak in (which I was secretly very happy about).

The service was nothing short of bizarre. Our waitress said that one Washington state wine was from "D.C." When my companion noted the sooty ring his plate had left on the tablecloth, she hypothesized that "it must just be dirty." When I ordered a hard cider, she brought a warm, spiced one. She let me keep it, but I didn't want to. A mix of mostly water, an amount of cider so negligible that it could not be detected by taste, too much whiskey and too little cinnamon, it was terrible.

Since the restaurant was closed at the Napa campus, the only thing I ate was a leaf of French sorrel snapped from the herb garden. Soft and impressively packed with fresh, sour flavor, I preferred it to anything I ate at American Bounty, which despite it's name had an embarrassingly short list of local offerings.

Granted, it is a school. But let's hope the students learn a lot.

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seth said...

it was kind of hard to digest because the entire waitstaff was visibly nervous.

that said, my salad was pretty good.

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