Going Local in the Hudson Valley
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.
Another important emphasis in product knowledge is learning how to properly describe tastes: Is it grassy? Herbaceous? 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.