Going Local in the Hudson Valley

Beautiful weather all weekend here.

Beautiful weather all weekend here.

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Little tomatillos in the CIA garden

Sunset on Anton Plaza

Sunset on Anton Plaza

Only at the CIA will you find students waking up early to drive into a nearby town for their infamous farmer’s market or students fighting to try the last few lemon cucumbers in our school’s garden.

This past Friday afternoon I took my first product knowledge class. I didn’t even realize until I was sitting in the lecture hall (complete with a full size kitchen!) that I had been waiting years to take this class. It was the exact class I saw in session when I toured this school that affirmed my decision to come here.

I couldn’t have lucked out with a better chef either, he is incredibly passionate about the subject, knowledgable and hilarious. The goal of product knowledge is to teach students the nutrition, growing practices and characteristics of fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and dairy products.  We will learn about the differences between organic, heirloom, sustainability, local, foraged and seasonality.

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Collard greens in the CIA garden

Lemon cucumber!

Lemon cucumber!

Smelly cheese walk-in

Smelly cheese walk-in

Local heirloom tomatoes

Local heirloom tomatoes

Another important emphasis in product knowledge is learning how to properly describe tastes: Is it grassyHerbaceous? Floral? Every class we will sample different varietals of products. One day will be devoted to learning and trying different apples and pears while another day will be spent comparing different types of cheeses. Our chef will also show us some classic preparations for these fruits and vegetable since many of them are better cooked, like mushrooms.

On the first day of product knowledge we learned about how the CIA sources their food.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that even though they feed 1000-2000 mouths on any given day, they still strive to by local products whenever possible.  This school goes through about 22,000 # of Granny Smith apples, 30,000 # of bananas, 16,000 # of celery, 21,000 bunches of basil, 20,000 lemons, 115,000 # of potatoes, and 92,000 # of butter every year!

CIA herb garden for use in their restaurants

CIA herb garden – these herbs are used in the campus restaurants

More herbs

More herbs

There are so many benefits to buying locally but i’ll get into that another time! Our chef took us through the guts of our school’s store room.  We walked through the enormous walk-in cooler stocked with fresh vegetables and herbs, a whole room devoted to just cheese and another whole walk-in just for perishable fruits and mushrooms.  There were also shelves lined with seasonal apples, pears and beautiful heirloom tomatoes.

We also spent time outside learning about the different vegetables and herb gardens around campus.  Since it is the end of the season there was not too many plants for us to look at, however, there were still some hearty greens like kale, collards, and swiss chard along with baby tomatillos, peppers, baby beets and a few lemon cucumbers.  Until Friday, I had never heard of a lemon cucumber, so my chef gave me one of the remaining fruits to try when we got back to class. If you imagine a cucumber drizzled with fresh lemon juice that is exactly what it taste like. The flesh is much sweeter than a typical bitter cucumber so you can enjoy all of it.

Broccoli that has already gone by and flowered

Broccoli that has already gone by and flowered

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

This caprese sandwich that I had on Friday used the local heirloom tomatoes.

This caprese sandwich that I had on Friday used the local heirloom tomatoes.

You might think it’s crazy to get so excited over fruits and vegetable but to me it really is such an interesting class!

Since, our campus seemed to be deserted this weekend because of the Monday holiday, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to check out the area a little more and go to the local farmer’s market that everyone talks about here at school.

Bread Alone Bakery

Bread Alone Bakery

They offer breakfast all day and lunch after 11:00 am

They offer breakfast all day and lunch after 11:00 am

On Saturday I had lunch with friends at a quaint bakery called Bread Alone in Rhinebeck.  I had a yummy camembert cheese and roasted pear sandwich with a cappuccino.  Afterwards we went to a gelato shop owned by a faculty member here at the CIA.  All of the gelato flavors are seasonal and made with fresh, wholesome ingredients. I sampled both the hazelnut and blueberry – both were absolutely delicious.  I will definitely be back!

There is a counter and cafe seating in the front with a restaurant in back.

There is a counter and cafe seating in the front with a restaurant in back.

Perfect cappuccino

Perfect cappuccino

Pear and camembert with fennel on their house ciabatta rolls - it was good but too sweet for me with all the honey!

Pear and camembert with fennel honey on their house ciabatta rolls – it was good but a little too sweet for me with all the honey!

Gelato shop in Rhinebeck

Gelato shop in Rhinebeck

You can never go wrong with hazelnut gelato and the blueberry was tart and delicious!

You can never go wrong with hazelnut and the blueberry was tart and delicious! They tasted surprising well together too.

Sunday morning I went with some friends to a local farmer’s market in Rhinebeck.  We sampled fresh, seasonal food from beginning to end! A great way to start the day.

Catching the last of there summer farmer's market.  After thanksgiving they downsize and move to an indoor location.

Catching the last of their summer farmer’s market. After thanksgiving they downsize and move to an indoor location.

Very popular - lots of people, especially CIA

Very popular – lots of people, especially CIA!

There were hundreds of apple varieties to choose from between vendors

There were hundreds of apple varieties to choose from between all the vendors.

Asian and bosc pears

Asian and bosc pears

Plums and pears

Plums and pears

Fresh cut flowers

Fresh cut flowers – they smelled amazing

Lots of apples, cider, tomatoes and peppers at the market

Lots of apples, cider products, tomatoes and peppers at the market

There were lots of places to buy local meats and poultry as well as more exotic meats like ostrich and rabbit.  We didn't buy any, however.

There were lots of places to buy local meats and poultry as well as more exotic meats like ostrich and rabbit. We didn’t buy any, however…

Nothing says fall like pumpkins!

Nothing says fall like pumpkins!

Bring an appetite - there are lots of places to buy breakfast or lunch.  Everything to fresh baked pastries to tamales and tacos.

Bring an appetite – there are lots of places to buy breakfast or lunch. Everything from fresh baked pastries to tamales and tacos.

Bread, bread and more bread. It smelled so good!

Bread, bread and more bread. It smelled so good!

Fresh baguette

Fresh baguette samples

Everything from challah to sourdough

Everything from challah to sourdough

I got a small challah roll and a mini ciabatta for this weekend

I got a small challah roll and a mini ciabatta for the weekend

Tons of fresh produce

Tons of fresh produce

Heirloom tomatoes and currants

Heirloom tomatoes and grapes

Freshly squeezed currant juice sweetened with honey instead of sugar - I loved it.  It kind of reminds me of cranberry grape juice.

Freshly squeezed currant juice sweetened with honey instead of sugar – I loved it. It kind of reminded me of cranberry grape juice.

You can never have enough bread right?

You can never have enough bread right?

My freezer is now stocked with bread...

My freezer is now stocked with bread….

There were many venders there selling cheeses, wines, jams and chutneys

There were many venders there selling cheeses, sausages, wines, jams and chutneys.

I love all the signs at Farmer's markets

I love all the signs at Farmer’s markets!

I was so excited when I saw this because I love goat cheese! I sampled a few varieties including a goat feta and ended up buying a six pepper chevre.

I was so excited when I saw this because I love goat cheese! I sampled a few varieties including a goat feta and ended up buying a spicy six pepper chevre.

This one was also delicious - it was a rosemary and thyme spiced goat cheese

This one was also delicious – it was a rosemary and thyme spiced goat cheese

Honey

Honey

Salad greens and cooking greens

Beautiful variety of salad greens and cooking greens

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Tomatoes and tomatillos

Tomatoes and tomatillos

Butternut squash and apple cider soup - I ended up buying some to have for dinner!

Butternut squash and apple cider soup – I ended up buying some to have for dinner!

My roommate got this delicious looking chicken taco

My roommate got this delicious looking chicken taco.

Fresh salsas made with tomatoes and apples served with fresh homemade chips! This one was a spicy tomato and pepper salsa.  I also sampled a salsa verde and a sweet corn and apple salsa.

Fresh salsas made with tomatoes and apples served with fresh homemade chips! This one was a spicy tomato and pepper salsa. I also sampled a salsa verde and a sweet corn and apple salsa – unique is all I have to say.

Lots of cheese to try!

Lots of cheese to try!

Local sharp cheddar

Local sharp cheddar

Camembert - i'm noticing it is a popular choice up here

Camembert – i’m noticing it is a popular choice up here.

Freshly made falafel and pita sandwich for lunch.  It was delicious.  The falafel was very flavorful and not over powered by garlic.  They made it fresh by order so it was not dry at all. Not to mention their house-made sauces were incredible.

Freshly made falafel and pita for lunch. It was delicious. The falafel was very flavorful and not over powered by garlic. They made it fresh to order so it was crispy on the outside and perfectly light and soft on the inside. Not to mention their house-made sauces were incredible!

My roommate and I had to get creative fitting all this into our dorm fridge.  Between the two of us we got apple cider, lentil soup, butternut squash and apple cider soup, goat cheese, bread, asian pears and apples.

My roommate and I had to get creative fitting all this into our dorm fridge. Between the two of us we got apple cider, lentil soup, butternut squash and apple cider soup, goat cheese, bread, asian pears and apples.