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Exploring the Hudson Valley: Culinary Institute of America | St. Andrew's Café

Culinary Institute of America | St. Andrew's Café


The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) restaurants are renowned for their gourmet meals, decadent décor and luxurious service. St. Andrews Café is by no means a departure from these expectations, but unlike most of the other CIA restaurants, you can leave your pearls and kid gloves at home.

Though St. Andrews is more casual and less expensive than its CIA peers, it is probably best to reserve a visit for a special occasion. For one thing, you’ll need a car or a taxi to reach the Hyde Park café. And although its Web site describes it as “casual” and “family-friendly,” your visit there will be nothing short of lavish.

St. Andrews is open for lunch as well as dinner, but I gave it a try on a lovely evening several months ago with a very good friend. Our adventure started right away: My friend accidentally ordered the Soup Sampler, which, as we soon learned, is three two-ounze “samplings” of various soups of the chef’s choice. Though unexpected, the soups were tasty and innovative.

Throughout the entire dinner, our waitress could not have been more attentive. Before we ordered, she took time to slowly describe each special on the menu and answer all of our questions. It was during this stage of our meal that my ever-confused friend asked if we could have “some cookies, or at least a free hat.” And no, I have no idea what he was talking about. Neither did she, but she responded with utmost refinement, and we were even handed a small box of cookies as we left an hour later, to our great amusement.

Wanting to save room for the entrée, we skipped the appetizers, but not without being wholly tempted by the Wild Mushroom Risotto and the Steamed Shrimp and Brown Rice Wontons. The Pan-Seared Salmon that I ordered for my main course was beyond all expectations, as was my friend’s Grilled Buffalo Burger Platter. The café also offers wood-fired pizzas with freshly baked dough—the only vegetarian entrée on the menu is the Pizza Margherita with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Completely full from our meals but not wanting to forgo dessert, we ordered the White Chocolate Cheesecake and the Chocolate Brownie Sundae; both were to die for.

Despite the gourmet food, the prices are entirely reasonable. Appetizers are about $8, entrées fall under $20 and desserts are priced at around $6. The quality of service is exceptional, and it’s hard to beat a CIA restaurant when you’re looking for a little ritz-meets-romance. So what are you waiting for? Throw on some jeans and gourmet it up!

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