2007-11-02 / Community

Notes from the High C's

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

Well, our Fall Museum Trip went off without a hitch, if you don't complain about the weather. While it was warmer than usual, it was overcast and lightly raining most of the day, but someone was watching over us, probably Barbara, to see that it wasn't a deluge and that we could walk around whenever we had to be outdoors.

At exactly 8:30 a.m. last Wednesday morning our bus was ready to leave. I was very happy that everyone had gotten there a little early, as I had asked, so that we could leave on time. It was a good idea that we did because at that time, and with slightly wet weather, our driver had to get up the Van Wyck, which is backed up on a good day, and then he knew the way around to get past what could have been bad traffic jams.

Some juice and goodies were served as a light breakfast and we enjoyed the ride to The Culinary Institute of America, arriving exactly on time for lunch in the St. Andrews Café. The maitre'd was waiting for us and directed us to the dining room, where separate tables were set aside for our group, along with special menus that had been printed up welcoming us to the CIA.

Lunch was Caesar salad for an appetizer, with either chicken with fresh mozzarella and mushrooms and risotto, or grilled salmon with Israeli couscous. Dessert was warm apple crisp with Italian gelato. What could be bad?

After lunch we walked outside to the main building, where there is a gift shop with all sorts of cooking utensils, books on cooking and marinades, jams, teas, coffees and many other things to buy. Further along the hall is the Apple Pie Bakery & Café, where, if you are not eating in one of the dining rooms, you can stop for a snack, plus, the bakery with breads and the most wonderful desserts for sale. Cakes were sold in individual portions and you could have a feast or just take a picture of them because each one is a work of art. Needless to say, many of us couldn't help ourselves and we bought some goodies to take home. All of these products are made by the students at the school, as was lunch.

In addition to learning to prepare the foods, the students learn how to run restaurants and at the CIA that means they also wait tables; it's as though you were in one of the finest restaurants in the city.

They also bake the bread served with lunch, as well as discussing your choice of wine if you want a drink.

All in all, our CIA adventure went off without a hitch until I got back on our bus to take attendance to see that we had everyone present, before leaving for our next stop. At that time, I realized that the folder I was carrying with all my papers, including checks, was missing. Since my head is like a sieve sometimes, I retraced my steps and sure enough, I found if just where I left it in the gift shop when I was looking at some items. Thank goodness, otherwise I would have had a heart attack.

So, onward and upward, and further up Route 9 to the Frederick Vanderbilt Mansion. Small by comparison to the other family mansions, we could probably get our own homes into one wing. Three floors in height, with the kitchens in the basement, it is quite impressive. While the grand families of that era liked to copy European royalty, they were not always selective in what they bought...just as long as it was from Europe they found a place for it. Huge tapestries hung on the walls depicting some European event or other, fine furniture of the era, marble fireplaces, anything they thought would be impressive to their friends. The Vanderbilt bedrooms were on the second floor - Mrs. Vanderbilt's very French with a grand four-poster bed, and Mr. Vanderbilt's next door, very dark and wooden with deep red carpeting. Quite a contrast. I do hope they got along, though they had no children. Hmmm!

At the front of the house our guide mentioned that while the front was very grand, the best view was from the back and she was right. Once you left the kitchen area and returned outside, you were facing the Hudson River. What a view! Spectacular. The guide mentioned that each of the large mansions built by the Astors, Vanderbilts, and other wealthy families all had beautiful views of the river and were built that way on purpose. Acres and acres were owned by Frederick Vanderbilt and today's Visitor's Center was originally a guest house for gentlemen friends who, if they came with their wives, could stay in what is now the Mansion but, if alone or single gentlemen, had to stay in the Visitor Center building.

Now, well across Route 9 and away from the main house, on the other side of their property, was a separate house which was built for Mrs. Vanderbilt's parents. An underground tunnel was used by the servants to get to it and other things on that side of the road. Could you just see a wife standing for that today? I guess that's not quite so bad as living across country.

Once on the bus we started our trip home. Exhausted but happy, with a few nibbles on the way back, we arrived home at about 8:00 p.m. It was a wonderful day and I know my friend Barbara would have been proud of us.

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