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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dinner at the Conservatory at Greystone

For those that do not know, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is one of the premier culinary arts schools in the world. 

The school was established in the mid 20th Century, and became significant with the start of it's Hyde Park, NY Campus in 1970. Associate and Bachelor's degrees are awarded from this institution, with tuition for a bachelor's degree approaching $130,000 for it's 4 year course.

Additional campuses are in San Antonio, Singapore and California. 

is located in a historic building in St. Helena, CA.

This building has a very interesting history. Greystone was originally constructed as a cooperative wine cellar in the latter part of the 19th Century. At the time it's moniker was Greystone Cellars.

The building changed hands many times, ending up being the sparkling wine production center for The Christian Brothers from 1945-1989. The business was sold to a very large alcoholic beverage Conglomerate in 1989. This was very bad timing due to The Loma Prieta earthquake, which rendered much of the building unusable. A mandated earthquake retrofit was financially unreasonable. The property was sold to the CIA for about 10 cents on the dollar, and brought up to code by the CIA. Greystone became the second CIA campus after Hyde Park, NY.

I had eaten at NAO, the restaurant on the San Antonio campus, which was fabuloso. I was anxious to sample the fare here.

There are a number of dining settings at Greystone, but my dining companions (DC's) and I decided to try the Conservatory at Greystone.

This is the campus's flagship restaurant, and is open Friday and Saturday for dinner from mid May to the end of July.

The restaurant is populated mostly by Hyde Park students taking the Farm to Table course at Greystone which is executed at Greystone,

The Charles Krug Winery and other locations. The program is run by chef Larry Forgione, a legend himself.

The Conservatory has a very pleasant dining area

for diners to enjoy the innovative food served here.

My Dining companions and I decided to sample the prix fixe menu

Keep in mind these dishes are very complex and I will touch on the highlights.

The Amuse was a wonderful in house cured charcuterie plate.

Guanciale (cured pork jowl), Lonza (cured pork loin), Coppa (cured pork shoulder), duck prosciutto, chicken pate, squab Soprasetta (squab salami), olives, peach chutney and homemade Chevre. Although my dining companions picked at this, I had the lion's share and as such, in some cases, I was in hog heaven.

Course two was an ale braised Wakefield Cabbage (heirloom cabbage) salad.

Seneca Blue Dancing Corn meal, an heirloom variety, was made into polenta and plopped atop a smoked Goldmine squash puree and topped with cabbage salad. Garnishes were radishes, fennel fronds, Cipollini onions and Purple Carrot Dust.

This was really good but the polenta was cold by the time it got to us. One dining companion, who was gluten free, received a rice flour cake that burned the palate when eaten. It's ok, they're learning.

Round three was a seafood dish.

Plated out were prawns, mussels, squid, octopus, Dungeness crab, Sea Beans, whipped lemon juice and Lovage crema. Dashi Broth, which simply is a broth made from dried kelp and dried bonito (fish) flakes, was added after serving. The problem was the dashi was cold. Well, they're learning. The flavors were very good here but would have been better if finished properly.

A pasta course was next and was a chicken raviolo, a singular ravioli dish.

My dining companions had fun with this, being unfamiliar with Italian grammar. It's ok, I am illiterate in this language also!

The raviolo, stuffed with chicken and in house made ricotta, was topped with garlic butter and Parmesan. Very, very good and the starch was an intelligent and well thought bridge between the previous soup dish and the upcoming main dish.

The main dish was brilliant.

A Five Dot Ranch seared strip loin was served with a bone marrow/merlot sauce, arugala, merlot/plum butter, potatoes, onions and chicharrone crumbles. Heaven!

The dessert was a knockout. Caramelized Semi Freddo, which is kind of a frozen mousse still spreadable.

This was served atop a strawberry and nectarine compote and garnished with rhubarb/strawberry dust and puffed Sorghum kernels. So we had this wonderful caramel "gelato" dessert with the citrus and tart (rhubarb) strawberry notes and popcorn. Brilliant and exceptional.

Greystone is a very interesting property. It has a robust history and now has the "cache" of the CIA. The food, with a couple of flaws, was very good. I am intrigued by the depth and complexity of the offerings at The Conservatory. So much so I would like to go back next year.

That's that for another post on Forks.

The CIA at Greystone
2555 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574

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