An Educational Meal at the Culinary Institute of America
How frequently do you go to a restaurant and actually get to watch someone prepare the meal right before your eyes? More often than not the chefs and sous chefs are in the back hustling to get the meals out in a timely manner. The energy that goes into your food has a large impact on the way it is digested. We learned from our wine tasting at Joullian Vineyards this weekend that your mood while you eat and the people with whom you eat can largely impact the taste.
Our first night in Napa led us to the Culinary Institute of America where energetics of food are highly prevalent. This was our only meal in Napa due to the unfortunate Napa fires but this meal could have held me over for days! Watching the chefs prepare our food while they educated us on each dish was truly a performance. Two men, Osiris and Cameron and a woman, Tania delivered such a memorable meal I just had to write about it. If you read my other blogs, you know that my love for food is about more than just what is on the plate.
We walked up to the institute and there were multiple eating location options. You could eat outside in the garden, inside in the dining room, or right in front of the kitchen. I am so thankful we were able to have the opportunity to watch them cook our food. Osiris came from the Bronx and had the chance to attend culinary school in New York. His favorite dish at this time was the mussels. Cameron was born and raised in Napa. His favorite dish was also the mussels. After actually sharing a meal with these individuals, you really develop a connection. I pray they are safe from the Napa fires.
Osiris hopes to open a restaurant that will serve upscale Dominican food. Maybe the next time I go back, I’ll get to check out his dining experience! Our meal opened with a beautiful selection of appetizers. The Local Halibut Crudo was topped with peach, ponzu, cilantro, and coriander.
They grow most of the food in their garden and there is nothing better than a home grown heirloom tomato. Our next dish was the Heirloom Tomatoes and Burrata with extra-virgin olive oil and basil.
The Peel N’ Eat Head-on Prawn blew my mind. My sisters started to peel the prawn until Osiris told us we could actually eat the entire thing. The crunchy taste of the prawns had a delightful spicy taste and even was made with rice flour. This pleased my sister Beth, as she is gluten-free. The prawns were served with a side of cucumber noodles my sister Grace coined “Coodles.”
You could see the other meals being prepared and I saw them making the Grilled Eggplant Involtini. The eggplant was filled with goat cheese resting over a smoked tomato jus. It looked so good so I just had to take a picture. I then wondered how I would be able to write about it if I didn’t taste it. Within seconds, this dish was set down in front of us “compliments of Osiris.” This was honestly one of the best dishes and I was so grateful it was able to dance across my palate.
Because Osiris and Cameron both suggested the Spicy Mussels, those were a non-negotiable for our table. This was by far the best out of all the meals we had. They were served with the most flavorful broth and a side of grilled bread with calabrian chili, a delicious aioli. Broth soaked bread and a little mussel made for the perfect bite. Did you know you have to de-beard the mussels before you cook them? The beard is this little hairy thing that hangs out the side of the mussel. It takes a little effort to get these things out of the shell but it’s necessary unless you want to feel like you’re eating sand. I usually twist the beard a few times then yank it off.
My mom got the Vinegar Braised Chicken with cipollini onion and pancetta. What on earth do they do to get all this flavor in one dish? My dad ordered the Tandoori Spiced California Trout with cucumber, tzatziki and radish. My sister Beth and I got the Grilled Prime Hanger Steak. This could also be made gluten free! It had balsamic radicchio, pronounced ra-dick-e-o or ra-deesh-e-o. Previous to this meal, I thought it was pronounced radish-e-o. Too funny! This meal also had a gorgonzola fonduta, which is a Piedmontese version of fondue. My sister Grace loved the mussels so much that she ordered them for her meal. Along with a side of Coodles!
We had to finish the meal with a delicious chocolate mousse. It was made with a chocolate cake layer on the bottom, mousse on top covered with a chocolate hard shell. They freeze the bottom layer so the hard shell dries nicely on top of the dome. The dessert was served with a side of peanut brittle. This was definitely one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I would recommend the Culinary Institute of America to anyone traveling in the area. There is another location in St. Helena in California. The menu is constantly changing. Cameron told us sometimes nearly every day! I will definitely be back! Thank you to Osiris, Cameron, and Tania for preparing such a wonderful experience and educating us on a dining experience.
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