We Would Drop Everything To Enroll In This Fancy Culinary School In Napa Valley

culinary institute america wine food class napa

Photo: Alex Davies

Last week, Nissan flew me and other journalists out to California to test drive the new Pathfinder. As a treat, they took us for a special dinner at the Culinary Institute of America, aka the CIA, in Napa Valley.The night included an hour-long class on how to pair wine with different meals, a cooking demonstration, and an amazing dinner.

Of course, enrolled students actually have to work hard and study, but from my experience, it’s a pretty sweet place to go to school.

Disclosure: Nissan provided travel and lodging expenses for us to visit San Francisco and drive the 2013 Pathfinder.

The building, in St. Helena, California, is gorgeous.

Students live on campus.

It's got a great view of Napa Valley.

The doormat heralds the CIA's reputation.

And the lobby is grand.

There's a large store where visitors can buy kitchen supplies.

Some are remarkably ornate.

Others are enormous.

The lecture hall is unlike what you find in regular schools.

Instead of a lectern, there's a full kitchen.

There are overhead televisions to show students what's happening on the stove.

We were served oil poached halibut and an olive conserve.

Chef Sandy Dominguez went over how to make each.

The halibut is immersed in hot (not boiling) olive oil.

Ingredients for the conserve include brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, and lemon juice.

Wine expert John Buechsenstein explained how to taste a wine. First, tilt it 45 degrees and check its clarity.

For dimly lit restaurants, he carries a flashlight to see better.

Swirl the wine in the glass. Do it on the table if you're worried about spilling.

After 'class,' people gathered around Buechsenstein and Dominguez to ask questions.

Then everyone moved upstairs to the Vintners Hall of Fame for dinner.

We started with a salad of grilled prawns, tomato, avocado, and buffalo mozzarella.

The main course was herb crusted tournedos of beef and a half Maine lobster, with potato leek gratin.

We wrapped up with a dessert: an apple galette with blackberry-cassis coulis and creme fraiche.

Now for some other fancy schools.

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