Students at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park have exercised their pop-up muscles in the creation of a bright new eatery on campus. Pangea is their answer to an expanding global population in need of sound nutrition that does not strain the earth’s capacity to yield foodstuffs. It’s a temporary lunch and dinner restaurant that offers “plant-forward” menus—foods from all over the world, produced and harvested in sustainable ways, with an emphasis on diverse flavors and authentic ethnic influences. Pertinent to the concerns of a world-class cooking school that spends over a million dollars a year on local food products, the Pangea project gives students the opportunity to learn how to honor ingredients in ways that bring forth the tastes from cultures found all over the planet. They’ve also gotten a taste of how a viable restaurant can be created out of materials at hand—used furnishings found in campus attics and basements, edible plants and repurposed equipment, and a minimal budget for paint and flash (probably not unlike some students’ first apartments).
The real draw of the project is the food. Though “plant-forward,” Pangea is not a vegetarian restaurant. Customers can choose from two exciting prefix menus, one with meats or fish and one without, each featuring ten dishes (five courses with two dishes in each course). Meats and fish are used sparingly to add flavor and texture. Current items on the menu feature winter vegetables and greens, homemade tofu and seitan, rice, lentils, couscous, mussels, market fish, shrimp, and grass-fed beef and pork, all done up with exotic and traditional sauces and spice combinations. Some selections are individually plated, while others are served to the whole table.
For an experience in conscientious eating, book a reservation for lunch or dinner, and give yourself enough time to watch culinary students at work in one of the many kitchen classrooms you’ll pass in the hallway on your way in. But don’t procrastinate—Pangea is open from now until June, when this pop-up pops-down at the end of the semester. Also closed holidays and when classes are not in session. Bring your appetite and check it out!
Pangea at The Culinary Institute of America, Lunches and Dinners served Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m., 1946 Campus Drive (Route 9), Hyde Park; Call 845-451-1683, or visit their website for information and reservations.