Photo courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America
Lunch at the CIA
No, not that CIA. This lunch feels a lot more pleasant and delicious, I'm sure. Make a reservation at the Greystone Restaurant and taste local, seasonal menus while looking out over Napa Valley vineyards.
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With all of the great food that Napa Valley has to offer, it's hard to find favorite dishes that truly stand alone. Charcuterie is often overlooked by diners and sometimes an afterthought for chefs alike. However, at the CIA all eyes should be on this platter of cooked and cured meats. With pancetta, smoked duck rillette, pork pate, pork belly and a bevy of sweet and savory accouterments this is hands down my favorite charcuterie tasting in the valley. Visit during the afternoon and look for Bird behind the bar. If he is there just let him make you drink, he is a creature of his craft.
Many people travel to Napa for the taste of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. But if you get a chance, check out Brother Timothy's Corkscrew Museum (of the famous Christian Brothers Winery). Over 200 fine pieces are displayed in sparkling fashion in glass cases at the Culinary Institute of America, and they're not your standard variety either. Think cute sterling silver monkeys with curlicue tails, roosters, and gold elephant corkscrews. There are tusked creatures and wooden figures with corkscrews cleverly concealed underneath their hats. Uncorking that fine bottle of Taittinger will rarely seem like a dull task once you've seen these.
Besides being a one-stop for foodies where you can eat, drink, cook, and shop, there is a not-to-well-known secret. The Culinary Institute of America, of CIA has one of the largest collections of corkscrews/wine openers in the world! Most people walk right by the room (off the right of the lobby) in search of other activities, but this collection is worth some browsing time!
The Culinary Institute of America: not just for students
The second location of the country’s best cooking school is not just for students. The Greystone campus was originally built in the 1800’s as a gravity flow winery cooperative (as the restoration continues, they often find bottles of wine barrels in the collapsed caves) and the three-story stone building houses a full-service restaurant and a casual, lunch-only café that are both run by the students. Adjacent to the culinary school is the wine center, located in the former Christian Brothers brandy distillery. Spearheaded The Wine Bible author, Karen MacNeil, the wine center offers classes and courses throughout the year for both amateurs and professionals in a state-of-the-art laboratory-like setting.
Flavor! Festival Celebrates the Best of Napa Valley
Flavor! Napa Valley, a week-long festival that takes place each November, is aimed to educate — featuring chef demonstrations and wine-tasting classes. Suitably, its HQ is the Culinary Institute of America. It also showcases some of the best cuisine of Napa Valley, prepared by the region’s top chefs and paired with Napa Valley wine. The "Appellation Trail" tasting, which features over 50 chefs in the kitchen and barrel room of the CIA, is not to be missed.