SacFoodies Visit the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone


It was a sunny but brisk day back in December when the SacFoodies took a field trip to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in St. Helena.  Our excuse for the excursion was professional development (the campus offers many opportunities for our clients) and some holiday fun. 

We began with a tour by the delightful Marnie Cunningham.  Marnie’s historical knowledge and personal anecdotes made the tour both enlightening and entertaining.  Not only did we get a sneak peek of the amazing test kitchens and classrooms, but we learned about the Christian Brothers’ rich roots and how the Loma Prieta earthquake was instrumental to the transformation from winery to cooking school.  Thirty-minute tours are offered daily at 11:45 a.m., 2:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. for just $10 per person.  The tour and the meet-and-greet by Marnie were well worth the cost of admission!

In between our tour and lunch we had time to peruse the glorious Spice Islands Marketplace.  Many of us stocked up on clever kitchen gadgets (from colorful Le Creusets in all shapes and sizes to training chopsticks for kids!) and autographed cookbooks, while others enjoyed a few tastes from the chocolate bar.  I think several of us could have spent hours in this kitchen wonderland but it was time to eat.

Our day culminated with a fantastic lunch at the on-campus Wine Spectator Restaurant.  The custom menu included several seasonal favorites including local fall greens, a butternut squash soup (which you’ll see was very popular with our group!), a garden vegetable risotto, a spiced rub chicken breast and a 5 Dot Ranch grass fed burger.  Susan DuQuette, the lovely and amazing group sales manager who helped orchestrate the memorable event, selected the Aromatic Artistry Wine Flight, a wonderful selection of whites from Monterey and Napa Valley, to accompany our meal.  Of course, we ended on a sweet note with a selection of chocolate lava cake, white chocolate chai mousse or apple cobbler. 

Here are a few additional highlights from the team:

“Our tour guide was so knowledgeable and made the tour a lot of fun! When it came to the food, the butternut squash soup was delicious—I have craved it several times since our visit. Lastly, the white chocolate chai mousse was the perfect ending to a fabulous day!” – Jake Ferguson

“I think the tour was fabulous and such a great way for anyone visiting Napa to get a fun history lesson, but that butternut squash soup we had in the restaurant was definitely my highlight! So rich and creamy, and the pomegranate seeds were the perfect holiday addition.” – Jenna Buhagiar

“The burger was very good, but the risotto stole the show for me. The history of the building was also very impressive – you don’t see a gravity fed winery every day. Definitely worth a stop for anyone in the St. Helena area.” – Christine Schunk 

“I love it that while this was a chance for us to share a meal, several of us really SHARED our meals. Pairing off and splitting entrees meant more chances to try more food and, for me anyway, halving my plate doubled my pleasure.” – John Armato

“There is so much to love about a trip to the CIA. While shopping in their store, I made a custom box of chocolates and they let me sample each and every variety. Yum!” – Kim Bedwell

“The Garden Vegetable Risotto was by far my favorite menu item. Risotto is typically my go-to whenever offered, but the flavor of this dish went way beyond my expectations. It was a perfect balance of fresh seasonal vegetables, zesty and creamy, lemon-buttery rice, topped with a bit of minty ricotta.  I’m drooling just thinking about it again!” – Vanessa Smith

All in all, an amazing time with amazing friends and colleagues.  Cheers!

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  • Susan | Jan 11, 2013 at 9:37 am

    We really appreciate that Kris and the group took out the time to let us know of their Greystone Experience.
    Chef Almir de Fonsecca and his team work towards this kind of customer satisfaction making every dish we serve delicious. Peter and our front of the House’ goal is to extend the kind of hospitality that offers comfort as well as professionalism. We will continue to work daily to offer this sentiment to each and every one of our guests