The picturesque Hudson River corridor starts in the Catskills and travels south past the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Historic and scenic sites visible from the air include the Statue of Liberty (The Lady), the Empire State Building and the FDR Library and Museum. It’s an extremely challenging airspace so have that iPad up-to-date with the New York Sectional, VFR Terminal Area Chart and Helicopter Route Chart. Before taking off, checkout Scott Germaise's great primer on flying the corridor. Basically, a little preplanning and a whole lot of common sense will go a long way.
If time permits, detour to Sky Acres Airport (44N), a non-towered airstrip nestled on a 145-acre hilltop 10 miles east of Poughkeepsie. Tail Winds Café is located at the end of an uphill taxiway in a converted dairy barn and silo that function as the main terminal building. It’s an All-American breakfast and lunch joint that includes a cozy fireplace, comfortable reading area and large picture windows facing the runway.
For a genuine culinary adventure that goes beyond the average $100 hamburger experience, land 8 miles northwest of 44N at Dutchess County Airport (KPOU). Give Dutchess Aviation a call prior to arriving to make sure their courtesy van is available. The quick 20-minute drive via U.S. Route 9 will take you through the town of Poughkeepsie and under the historic Walkway Over the Hudson. In 2009, the old abandoned Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge was transformed into a 1.28-mile long pedestrian accessible deck and park that spans the Hudson River. Just a few miles north is the 170-acre sprawling Culinary Institute of America campus in Hyde Park.
Referred to as the CIA in gastronomy circles, the 68-year old independent, not-for-profit college offers associate and bachelor's degrees with majors in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and culinary science. Over 2,700 students are enrolled and mentored by 170 faculty members from over 15 different countries. The college employs the largest number of American Culinary Federation Certified Master Chefs. Students lead tours of the impressive and expanding facilities when classes are in session. Not sure why they charge $6 per person, but it will be informative.
When your appetite gets the best of you, options abound. The Apple Pie Bakery Café, located just inside the main entrance of Roth Hall, showcases the skills of the pastry arts students. It offers a fairly extensive selection of café cuisine and a rotating menu of baked goods, breakfast pastries and desserts. This is the most casual and the busiest of all the institute’s eateries. The salads, soups and sandwiches tend to reflect the season and instructor’s whim. A pint of truffle French fries, tossed with black truffle salt & Parmesan cheese are a must have. Do not fill up on the savory. The dessert menu is extensive, decadent and worth the overindulgence. Be aware that no reservations are accepted. They always have a wait and will regularly run out of many items.
The American Bounty Restaurant is a relatively casual environment that focuses on regional American cuisine with emphasis on the products of the Hudson Valley. The bill of fare is somewhat predictable and exudes “this is what customer’s expect to be on the menu” more than “this is what belongs on the menu.” Ceasar salad, the overly trendy kale salad with bacon and a roasted beet salad doesn’t exactly scream the Hudson Valley in the middle of June even if local purveours are knocking on the back door. Steamed mussels or clams and mac n’cheese are predictable and seems to continue and perpetuate the any restaurant anywhere feeling. The wild mushroom soup tasted artificial and synthetic thanks to the over use of white truffle oil. (1)
Entrèes venture more into the tasty and intriguing. Pan-seared bass with summer accompaniments of fava bean, summer squash and tomatoes along with the roasted chicken with garlic, white beans, asparagus, pearl onions and morel mushrooms were the best of the recent season. Interestingly and entertainingly, the American wine and drink list resides on an iPad complete with general information, tasting notes and recommendations.
Ristorante Caterina de' Medici & Al Forno Trattoria is a stand-alone Italian experience. The unattached building emulates a Tuscan Villa complete with a stunning herb and rose garden. You’ll notice the interior design feels a bit outdated and tired rather than rustic. The regional Italian cuisine follows true Italian technique even though the menu has been slightly Americanized. As expected, the hand-made pastas are the winners. The cavatelli with sausage and fresh peas tastes of Puglia, the ravioli filled with greens and ricotta in a walnut sauce is reminisent of Liguria and a risotto with asparagus and truffle butter would be at home in Piemonte.
The Al Forno Trattoria offers rustic, casual dishes, paninis and wood oven pizza. Be forwarned that the atmosphere is a cross between a student cafateria and country club clubhouse. Grab a seat at the bar in front of the wood-fire oven. Order an arugula salad with artichokes and pecorino-romana cheese tossed in a lemon dressing and whatever pizza topping gets your juices flowing. At either location, skip most of the desserts and end your experience with an assortment of Italian cheeses or a cookie plate and a double espresso.
The Bocuse Restaurant, named for France’s reknowned Chef Paul Bocuse, focuses on contemporary interpretations of classic French dishes. The previous Escoiffier Room now has a sleek, airy, modern decor thanks to famed restaurant designer Adam Tihany (Per Se, Daniel and The Beverly Hills Hotel). Like the food, the ambiance is a balance of old and new. A deck of cards with entertaining culinary questions awaits you at the tablecloth free oak tables. Whimsical touches like the toque shaped wall sconces and a lion’s head consommé cup chandelier are juxtaposed against the formal, synchronized wait service and plates delivered to the table under silver cloches.
The chef instructors interweave a number of nouvelle cuisine standards with modernist cuisine techniques. The Black Truffle Soup VGE, a beef broth with vegetables and French black truffles encased in puff pastry, is a respectable recreation of the master’s signature dish. Torchon de Foie Gras is rich and pure old school. The precise temperature control of sous vide cooking allows the Duo of Lamb to taste like lamb should taste. The classic Entrecôte de Bœuf Rôtí, roasted beef strip loin, is served with traditional bacon lardons and mushrooms but modernized with charred parsnip foam. Desserts such as liquid nitrogen ice cream made tableside and a cake made from goat cheese atop a dry ice herbal “vapor” are more show than go.
Be aware that these are student run restaurants. It’s a teaching environment. Service can be slow, dishes maybe delivered to the wrong person, water and wine may go without being refilled and you may have to ask for a soup spoon. You'll run into the occassional over or under cooked protein and ill-seasoned vegetable. Management, i.e. instructors, sometime seem to be on a permanent break. And sometimes students act if they slept through the lecture portion of service 101 class.
All that being said, by all means go and eat at one or more of the restaurants at the Hyde Park campus. We need to support our future culinarians.(2) If that involves being a guinea pig, by all means relish the experience. Foodies will enjoy show and those who are just hungry will be fulfilled.
(1) Most truffle oil isn't made from actual truffles. It's made from an organic compound called 2,4-Dithiapentane — derived either naturally or from a petroleum base — mixed together with olive oil. It resembles the aroma of real truffles, but quickly evolves into a chemical scent with notes of metal and gasoline. Use too much and the dish tastes soapy and insincere.
(2) Students at The Culinary Institute of America are not permitted to accept tips. A 17% service charge has been included on each check. All monies from the service charge are returned to the students through scholarships, support of student activities and the purchase of graduation jackets.
Sky Acres Airport (44N)
Elevation: 698 ft.
Sectional chart: New York
ARTCC: New York Center
FSS: New York Flight Service Station
Runways: 17/35 3,830 ft. x 60 ft.
WX ASOS at KPOU (8 nm SW): 126.75 (845) 462-0648
Tail Winds Café At Sky Acres Airport
30 Airway Drive
Lagrangeville, New York 12540
Phone: (845) 663-3190
Open: Wednesday through Sunday 7:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Dutchess County Airport, Poughkeepsie, New York (KPOU)
Elevation: 163.5 ft.
Sectional chart: New York
ARTCC: New York Center
FSS: New York Flight Service Station
Runway: 6/24 – 4,999 x 100 ft.
15/33 – 2,744 x 100 ft.
7/25 – 1,358 x 100 ft. turf/dirt
ATIS: 126. 75 (AWOS: 845-462-0648)
Dutchess County Ground: 121.8
Dutchess County Tower: 124.0
263 Newhackensack Drive
Wappingers Falls, New York 12590
Phone: (845) 463-6005
Open: Daily 7:00 am - 9:30 pm
Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499
Phone: (845) 452-9600
Chef Stuart Stein is a graduate of the University of Illinois Business School and the culinary arts program at Chicago’s Kendall College. He has worked in France and the all over the US as a cook, executive chef, culinary instructor and restaurateur. Chef Stein is the writer of the book, The Sustainable Kitchen: Passionate Cooking Inspired by Farms, Forests, and Oceans (New Society Publishers), and has written in countless culinary and aviation publications. Stuart is also a private pilot flying in southern California.