My very first experience dining at one of the CIA Restaurant Group’s restaurants, was at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant in Saint Helena, California, just outside of San Francisco. I’ll never forget the experience. A group of us took a weekend trip to Napa Valley to do some wine tasting one of my good friends from high school, who actually now runs a successful water damage service, suggested we go eat there. He was introduced to the restaurant a couple of years before by his girlfriend at the time. On Saturday, he was raving about the food all day during our wine tasting adventures at the Sterling Vineyard and he told me how much he thought we’d all enjoy eating there. So we all agreed to go eat there that night.
On our way there, he explained to us that the restaurant is part of the Culinary Institute of America and the staff is mostly comprised of the students that are attending the school. This sounded interesting. I’ve never really heard about culinary school doing this type of thing but later found out that other culinary schools also have restaurants where the students can get real world experience cooking in the restaurant setting. I thought this concept was brilliant.
We arrived at the CIA. The building was a stone covered beauty. Something out of movie. I guess the look and feel they say they go for is the modern farmhouse feel. What an a amazing experience it would be to go to school here, I thought to myself. We approached the entrance to the restaurant and entered through the red canopy covered door. The friendly staff greeted us and helped us find a table for our party. We opted to sit indoors, although they do have an outdoor dining area in the patio. They had an open kitchen and a fully stocked bar along with an extensive wine selection. So the drinks began to flow. We were after all celebrating a birthday that weekend.
Now another cool thing about the CIA, is that they have their own farms and garden there so you know the food is fresh as can be. Another thing to keep in mind is that even though these are students that are preparing your food, they are students who are in their final semester of study, so it’s not like you’re getting a guy who just enrolled in the school preparing your food. No, these guys and gals are ready to graduate and head to 5 star restaurants around the world. The next world renowned celebrity chef could be there preparing your food that day.
Between the lot of us we started with the Greystone artisinal bread basket and the super premium olive oil tasting. We walked away with a bottle of their olive oil. We also started with the marinated olives as well. We ordered the roasted five dot ranch beef meatballs, crispy skin king salmon, grimaud farms duck breast, mary’s game hen, the chilled cream of corn soup, and the local garden greens. All the food was delicious.
We all ordered different desserts. I’m not much of a dessert guy normally, but on occasion I’ll enjoy, and this happened to be one of those occasions. I ordered a simple vanilla and coffee ice cream. Although it was simple in choice, it was not simple in flavor at all. Delicious.
Dining at the Wine Spectator Greystone is obviously not the most inexpensive, however it was well worth it to everyone in our party. The service was top notch. The food was an inspiring experience. The drinks were delightful and aplenty. And although we did all have a few drinks that night, I vowed to return to Northern California again within that same year and experience the wonderful vineyards and food at the CIA. This particular trip to Napa Valley was definitely one for the books.
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