CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA’S GREYSTONE RESTAURANT
St. Helena, California
Even though we live within a two hour driving distance of the “real” CIA, we just have never had the opportunity to do a lunch or dinner at the New Hyde Park campus.* Since we were staying in St. Helena for a couple of days, lunch at the school’s West Coast branch seemed in order.
When you visit the CIA‘s website regarding dining options, they stress that all the cooking is done by “students” with faculty supervision. The wait staff, however, are “career professionals” so one should tip accordingly. The fact that they had to mention tipping annoyed me especially since we are always über-generous to our servers. I was also a bit skeptical about dining at Greystone; I was sure it would be packed with tourists or even worse — huge bus tour groups.
Housed in the former Christian Brothers winery, the restaurant is in a dauntingly large room. It was a Thursday and it was packed. I quickly scanned the room and didn’t see any “tour bus” looking people. There appeared to be a birthday party celebration going on but they were seated at the other end of the space.
The menu was clever. Student “chefs” prepared a daily tapas offering of whatever they wanted to make. We started with little shot glasses of gazpacho, accompanied by a spread of roasted peppers, house smoked salmon and grilled shrimp. They brought everything out on a fancy tiered plate which looked impressive but tasted less so. That proved to be the only uninspiring dish we had since from there we moved on to grilled scallops with crème frâiche followed by a halibut with veggies in a green curry sauce served with scooped-out baked potatoes that were then filled with shredded potatoes and baked until they formed a potato “crust.” We split ½ carafe of Sauvignon Blanc and finished with a pineapple tarte tatin with coconut ice cream. The future chefs did great!
*Editors note: Since 2007, we have visited the New Hyde Park campus.