Friday, April 13, 2012

Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY

Slowly, I am eating my way through the CIA.  In February, I had lunch at St. Andrew's Cafe.  This time, lunch was at Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici.  It was late March, and I was pleased to see that they had a three-course price-fixed lunch for only $23.95, plus tax and service. (Since I had budgeted $75.00 for the meal, I was trying to figure out how I could eat two lunches at that price! - Neither my stomach nor my bathroom scale would take that, so I would just have to make up the balance in wine....)

 It was a beautiful early Spring day and the first day of rotation for the student crew at the restaurant  New and exciting for all of us, here is how it went:

A cute, fresh faced waiter would be my co-conspirator for the meal. (we bonded pretty quickly, and as soon as he brought my gnocchi, I wanted to adopt him!) He brought me a fresh bread basket and pointed out the olive oil (we were at the Colavita Center after all...)

The taste sensations started with an amuse bouche (sorry, I can't remember the Italian word - antipasto just does not suffice) of a delicious riff on arancini.  It was filled with beetroot.  It was like an awesome fried, cheesy, beet popper and I loved it.

I always have a lot of fun when I read the CIA wine lists.  It is satisfying/validating (to say the least) that they list some of our house favorites.  I passed on my Falanghina, our Rosa Regale, JPH's Vernaccia di San Gimignano (why have I not reviewed this wine???) and a few more from the list.

Michele Chiarlo DOCG Gavi ` 10  $7.50 from Piemonte was my crisp white wine to start.  It was a smooth wine with a hint of grapefruit, and it went really well with the Onion Tart with balsamic drizzled arugula & tomatoes.  mmm, Piemonte. It was filling, and I had set myself up for a nap inducing meal.  (which would be rough, because I had a vineyard visit next... it is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!)

Let's move on to the Gorgonzola gnocchi with walnuts.  Now, hands down the best gnocchi I have ever had was at a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant in Paris. This I will rate as second best. Rich & creamy and it paired oh so well with my Rosé from the Veneto: DOC Bardolino Chiaretto, Cavalchina `09 $6.50 (55% Corvina, 35% Rondinella, 10% Molinara) a slightly dry, wine that was the perfect foil for the creamy gnocchi with a slight finish of Gorgonzola ripeness.  The Rose was fragrant, but savory, not fruity at all.  I loved it.

This was a prix-fixe meal, and I was going to squeeze all three courses in, so I lingered, checked out the pass into the kitchen, watched the servers be instructed by their Professor/maître d',  the other diners that were filling the restaurant -  I caught snippets of conversations - there were alumni showing their school off to their dining companions and then, my buddy/waiter mused about what their first day of service was like, and then he brought me the dessert menu.

We discussed my options at length.  After all, he was already a better trained chef than I will ever be, and then we decided on the Tirami Su Classico  - after all, how could I NOT try this classic dessert at America's premier culinary school's Italian Restaurant?  And, since the meal was so inexpensive, how could I have dessert without Caffé Italiano (Coffee, Brandy, and Brown Sugar, topped with Fresh Whipped Cream) $8.00 to finish the meal?

The truth is, I couldn't finish the coffee.  But it was delicious, and the Tirami Su, well, if I could have licked the plate without having the bartender, waitstaff and other diners stare at me, I would have.  So I simply said "addio" to my lovely waiter, wished him well in school, then took a long walk around campus taking pictures of the beautiful Spring afternoon.  Maybe I took a little nap in the car, and then promptly got lost finding my way to my next stop, Mill Brook Vineyard and Winery.  It is always an extremely well fed adventure when I go to visit the CIA.


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