Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Casola Dining Room

I have been dying to visit the Casola Dining Room, Schenectady County Community College's educational dining room, for ages; since they only serve dinner Monday-Wednesday (and lunch Tuesday-Friday) and I work downstate, I've never been able to make their 7:00 or 7:30pm seatings. Things finally came together on Monday, partially because of my day off for Columbus Day and partially because they have finally opened up a few tables on Open Table.

Here's how it works: For $22/person ($16 for lunch), you get a three course meal with soft drinks, tea, and coffee included ($3 corkage fee if you bring your own wine, which most of the other diners did). Students are not permitted to accept gratuities and I was told that they "prefer" you not leave a gratuity for that exact reason (though, if you do, the money is put into a general fund to support the culinary program). Each week they have a themed menu and you are offered three choices for each course.

The campus is very small; once you find the main parking lot (which you can't miss), there is a section of visitor parking available and the dining room is located in Elston Hall, which you also can't miss if you park in that lot. The stark hospital-like corridors of Elston Hall disappear once you enter the dining room, where you'd never guess you were sitting inside the same building.

Our menu's theme was "autumn harvest," with a focus on New York state foods.

I chose the potato leek soup with roasted red peppers and fennel and found it to be absolutely delicious. Mr. D promised to share and went for the Hudson Valley Duck Trio - foie gras and sweetbread terrine, homemade duck prosciutto, and duck rillettes. He took this opportunity to relish in the wonder of foie gras and complain a little about how much he didn't like it the last time we ordered it (at Les Halles in NYC). So, another hit all around.

I played it safe with my entree, going for an herb roasted chicken breast paired with braised bitter greens and potatoes. Mr. D. was, once again, the more adventurous one and decided to order the rabbit ragout (local rabbit with vegetables and pasta). Again, hits all around. I sucked up my "how can you eat a fluffy bunny" phobia and tried a small piece, but still wouldn't have been able to order the entree myself. I fail at my foodie aspirations. Everything was delicious, though the pasta was a bit more al dente than Mr. D. likes (but he likes it disgustingly mushy).

I opted for the local artisan cheese selection (served with pears poached in red wine and flat bread), which was good, but I really wish that our server had taken a second to tell me what the three different cheeses were. I've recently come to the conclusion that I need to learn more about cheese (and don't get the opportunity too often because Mr. D. will only eat mild, boring cheeses), so it would have been helpful to identify those that I liked better. One of these days, I'll convince someone to have a wine and cheese party with me; just you wait and see. Mr. D. chose a rhubarb infused cheesecake, which was also very good.

I'd highly, highly recommend visiting the Casola Dining Room if you ever get the chance (and the reservation). The price is perfect, the staff is awesome, and the only thing to keep in mind is that your servers are students and probably will not be perfect - they're learning. I hope that they will move more and more tables to OpenTable and can't wait for the next time that school is in session and I've got a day off.

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