Culinary Institute of America

Apple Pie Bakery Café

by Anne Maxfield on March 12, 2018

Apple Pie Bakery CaféThe Apple Pie Bakery Café was always one my favorites at the Culinary Institute of America, or CIA as it’s affectionately known in these parts. I wasn’t the only one and recently they decided to close for a few months to renovate the space. Luckily, during that time croissants, bread and pastries were still available to take out, so life could go on.

The café reopened recently, and we were anxious to see how it turned out.

Now, there’s a whole separate area for take-out, with grab-and-go sandwiches, perfect pastries, breads and more. It’s probably too soon to know how well this will work, but I did manage to snag the last couple of croissants before we went to the main room to have lunch.

The main room has been opened up and is now all sit-down dining. It’s pleasant—light and bright and bustling, even for an early lunch. The tables are small and for some reason, the day we were there, no one wanted to sit where they were originally sent.

They’ve cleaned up the menu, too, with an emphasis (they say) on Americana cuisine, represented by a poke bowl and a fried chicken sandwich.

Apple Pie Bakery Café Soup We split an order of that day’s soup– a loaded potato soup. It came at the same time as the rest of our meal, along with an additional bowl so we could split it. That made the table, which had already looked a little wee, completely overwhelmed with plates, bowls, serving plates, bread plates, cutlery, a water carafe, glasses and full-sized salt and pepper grinders.

The soup was fine, garnished with pieces of bacon, scallions, cheese and sour cream, all to mimic a baked potato.

I went for the quiche of the day, or according to our server, the quiche of the week, which was Boursin cheese and mushrooms. If you’re expecting that classic wedge, you’ve forgotten you’re at the CIA. This was a perfect 4” circle of good crust with a bright yellow filling. Chopped mushrooms and the Boursin were topped with a perfect custard.

Apple Pie Bakery Café QuicheAfter some serious contemplation, Janet ordered the chickpea pita with Marcona almond, red onion, avocado, lemon and cucumber in a whole wheat pita. It came with an “adorable” little brown paper bag full of house-made potato chips.

It’s funny, because for all the times I’ve eaten at the Apple Pie Bakery Café, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered dessert there. Which is probably really stupid, because all the desserts I’ve ever seen in the cases or on other people’s tables are just amazing looking!

Our neighbors had the Signature Apple Dessert, a large green “apple” made from salted caramel mousse, apple cake, apple butter and sprayed Granny Smith Apple green. It looked spectacular and for a brief minute, we wished we’d had one too.

Know that the Apple Pie Bakery Café is only open on weekdays (don’t get me started) when school is in session. One of the improvements they’ve made is that the schedule is on their website, so just check before you head out.

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Intimidation (or Tabouli for Chefs)

by Anne Maxfield on August 14, 2017

Accidental Locavore Tabouli for ChefsIt’s surprising when people say they’re intimidated to cook for me.

I guess it’s because I’m around food all the time.

What they don’t understand is that a night of not having to think about “what’s for dinner” is generally a good night.

I never much worry about cooking for other people. If they’re friends and something turns out less-than-stellar, there’s always take-out and they’ll forgive me.

This all came to me in the middle of making some tabouli. Chopping the first tomatoes from the farm, it hit me. This batch of tabbouleh was for a meeting of Slow Food Hudson Valley.

There would be chefs there.

Chef-instructors from the Culinary Institute of America.

Accidental Locavore Chef KowalskiFunnily, I wasn’t particularly worried about what they would think of my tabbouleh. It’s not authentic, nor does it want to be. It’s just the way I make it. If you want to join the social media, food-shaming route that says Nigella Lawson’s carbonara isn’t authentic because there is (gasp) cream in it, be my guest.

My tabouli has lots of mint, little, often no parsley. There’s a lot more bulgur than herbs and a big toss of allspice. It’s the way I like it.

Funnily, what I was worried about was the potential scrutiny of my cuts. My knife skills.

Were my tomatoes and onions properly diced? Parsley and mint evenly chopped? No pits from the lemons (my husband’s pet peeve)?

In the midst of thinking about intimidation, what I forgot was the key ingredient.

Confidence.

Confidence that it would taste great and no one would care about anything else.

And then I tasted it.

Ugh!

Accidental Locavore Parsley for TabouliRemembered why I seldom put parsley in it.  Whether you believe it or not, parsley has a distinctive taste. This parsley was straight from the farm where I had picked it an hour earlier. Boy, did it have a taste and it wasn’t good.

Because you can overlook improperly chiffonaded mint, but a bad flavor profile is a whole other thing.

Fast fix…more lemon, more tomato, a little more olive oil and some salt seemed to get it to a better level.

The verdict from the chefs?

“What we really care about is the flavor profile,” and that was fine (if not my best).

So the next time you might be intimidated cooking for someone, remember it’s all about the flavor.

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Pangea, Popping Up at the CIA

by Anne Maxfield on March 16, 2015

Accidental Locavore Pangea FlatbreadA strong case could be made for letting the inmates run the asylum. Especially if said asylum is the new pop-up restaurant, Pangea, at the Culinary Institute. It’s been a long time since the Accidental Locavore has eaten well there, but a recent lunch more than made up for past disappointments.

“Pangea explores the world’s interconnected foodways while uniting and transforming them.” Yeah, whatever. What that translates to is a series of interconnected dishes that highlight the proteins with fruit, vegetables and grains. Each course has one dish served family style and one plated. If you’re there with a big group that difference might be more apparent, but as we were only two and one was a vegetarian, for us everything was essentially plated.

Accidental Locavore Pangea VeggiesIt’s a fixed menu, which the lazy Locavore prefers… so nice to have someone else figuring out “what’s for dinner” (or in this case lunch). It started out with a couple of bowls brought to the table, each topped with a plate adorned with a stripe of sauce and an array of the tiniest vegetables you’ve ever seen! Pity the poor commis who has to prep carrots and beets measured in millimeters! These were quickly swept into the bowl of vegetable broth (trendy broth moment noted). It was delicious and, miraculously, the also-minuscule croutons managed to stay crunchy throughout the bowl. That’s a technique I’d like to learn!

With the soup, flatbread with a trio of colorful dips. Beet hummus, garlic dal and an edamame salsa looked great and tasted as good as they looked! The edamame salsa was particularly good, a wonderful use for what can be a healthy but generally dull snack. This was mixed with garlic, jalapeño and cilantro—must try duplicating it at home!

Accidental Locavore Pangea Seafood BrothNext up, broth number two, this one also hitting another trend – adding pine needles to flavor things. My second broth had a mix of seafood—mussels, lobster and fish along with fregola in a retsina broth. Jack’s vegetarian version swapped the fish for an earthy mix of mushrooms. Accidental Locavore Pangea FriesVery skinny (and excellent) fries in a miniature fry basket showed no real sign of the pine needle flavoring except for the bough garnish.

Accidental Locavore Pangea Tomato SushiAlong with this were three pieces of sushi in a roll. While mine with fluke was first-rate, the vegetarian version was simply amazing! It looked like beautiful tuna-rich and red, but turned out to be tomato. I’m not sure how they did it (especially this time of year) but it tasted as good as it looked!

Accidental Locavore Pangea TagineThe third course was a tagine of house-smoked duck along with a roasted celery root. What made this interesting was that it was the winning dish that the student chefs had proposed. It was tasty and the pickled papaya with it was a nice contrast to the richness of the tagine. I liked the idea of “smoking” it with the charcoal, cinnamon stick and star anise. Accidental Locavore Pangea Roasted Celery RootOur server presented the celery root in its entirety, before it was removed to be carved. Roasted with thyme and honey, it was another dish that will definitely get tried at home.

Accidental Locavore Pangea Cheese PlateThere was a nice cheese plate with a pair of local cheeses, honey and a fruit paste and a mango-carrot sorbet and meringue that might actually have changed my mind about root vegetables not being dessert worthy. It was sitting on a bed of brown sugar crumble which added a nice crunch to everything.

Accidental Locavore Pangea DessertPangea will be open for lunch through May 5th and dinner through June 11th. It’s only open Monday through Friday (don’t get me started on why the CIA thinks it’s too tough for the students to work weekends) and because the student chefs could be overwhelmed at dinner, I think lunch is the better option.

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Chef, the Movie

by Anne Maxfield on May 12, 2014

Accidental Locavore ChefJust for fun, the other night the Accidental Locavore cruised over to the Culinary Institute of America for a screening of Chef, Jon Favreau’s new movie. In these parts the Culinary Institute is known as the CIA, so if you’re ever in the Hudson Valley and hear people talking about the CIA, they’re not paranoid, probably just hungry. But I digress…

It was the first time I’ve been in the Marriott Pavilion, a huge new space with an equally big auditorium. Surprisingly, since it was the CIA, no food or drink was allowed in the space. Jon Favreau was beamed up via Skype to answer questions. He worked closely with Roy Choi (a CIA grad who famously started the Korean Taco truck in LA) and talked at length about their relationship. Since the story of Chef mirrors Roy’s story, he was a natural to be both technical advisor and culinary muse.

Essentially, the story is about a well-known chef working in a fancy LA restaurant who gets panned by one of the leading critics. He quits and is urged (then backed) to start a food truck. He does and with the help of social media ends up with a huge hit on his hands. Part food porn, part buddy movie, it’s enjoyable, if a little predictable. Like a classic Mickey Rooney movie, where he and Judy Garland decide to put on a show, Chef does the same thing but with this generation’s icon – a food truck.

Accidental Locavore Molten CakeThe funniest part of sitting in an audience of budding chefs was a scene at a BBQ joint in Austin, Texas. The owner pulls a gorgeous hunk of brisket out and when Jon Favreau cuts a chunk of it, the entire audience collectively gasped. This is not a movie to be seen on an empty stomach (take my word for it!); there’s nothing in the film, including the much-maligned chocolate lava cake, that you wouldn’t want to devour, and I’m sure the sale of Cubanos will be on the rise beginning this week (I’m going to say “I told you so” when the Internet is full of recipes). Enjoy!

 

The top image is from filmschoolrejects.com

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