Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lunch in Napa Valley - Culinary Institute of America

Culinary Institute of America in Napa ValleyOn our way back to the city after visiting Mijo's daughters in St. Helena, we had originally planned to dropby Charles Krug Vineyards since it is just on highway 29 right after the turn from Deer Park Rd. Before we got to the vineyard's entrance, we noticed this huge stone mansion across the street. I checked the map and it says it is the Culinary Institute of America. I began to wonder if they have a restaurant? Afterall, culinary schools in the city like the California Culinary Academy, the Arts Institute, and the City College all have a restaurant or test kitchen where visitors can dine and our experience so far has been good. After quickly checking my handy Napa/Sonoma guide book (I always bring it everytime we go to the area) and Yelp, we decided we'll skip the wine tasting and head to the school's restaurant instead.

Culinary Institute of America in Napa ValleyThe restaurant's interior is cozy and welcoming. It has high ceilings, leather dining chairs, long dining tables. And while you're inside, you can hear the minute sound of silverwares and the people conversing over meals. Like in other culinary schools with restaurants, you could see the chefs working in one corner of the room.  Had we been here for dinner, I would have preferred to dine inside the restaurant.

Culinary Institute of America in Napa ValleyBut how can you not sit outside with this perfect weather and this amazing view of the Charles Krug Vineyards across the street? So we decided to wait for an available table outside which was not bad at all. While their menu is decipherable, their wine list is not. Choosing wines here is like looking through an Ikea catalog. Lots of wine to choose from!

Here's what we sampled for lunch.

Sardines with a glass of sauv blanc
For starters, we ordered Monterey Bay Sardines. We were told by our lovely and friendly server Jan Ciotto that these sardines are caught from the Monterey Bay. The fish tastes fresh and not too fishy. It is served with artichokes, Yukon Gold potatoes, frisée, and salsa verde. For the wine, we decided to get a decanter of Greystone Sauvignon Blanc which was refreshing.

Cod wrapped in prosciuttoMijo ordered the Prosciutto Wrapped Cod. The prosciutto was so crunchy it seemed like it is the cod's skin. The cod was cooked to perfection - juicy and flaky! It is served with broccolini, white bean relish, and Catalan vinaigrette.

Summer Vegetable RissottoThis is probably the best tasting risotto I've had in years considering it is vegetarian. They must have used more than three mushrooms, or maybe truffle mushroom or truffle oil,  because the first teaspoon was an explotion of flavors. This is served with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, squash, romano beans, house‐made ricotta cheese.

Sweet FinaleFor the dessert, we followed our friendly server's advice and got the Sweet Finale consisting of small sweets prepared by their pastry chef. The serving was small but very satisfying.

I'd recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Napa Valley. Maybe we'll try their dinner menu next time? I noticed that they also have wine and olive oil tasting sets in their menu.  

The school and the restaurant are on Highway 29 in St. Helena in Napa Valley.


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