The most exciting culinary news in my life in this gap was, hands down, the first cooking class I attended. Oh my goodness, it was absolutely delicious.
First off, we arrived a little early, about half an hour, but didn't end up regretting that. To our surprise, the location was the home of the chef, with the class kitchen located in her beautifully outfitted kitchen. On first approach, when we started down a country dirt road, I wondered if we were lost. A culinary paradise on an unpaved road, across from a cemetary? What were the odds?
But there it was, on a dirt road off another dirt road. The driveway was uphill and unpaved and must be a nightmare to navigate in the winter. The front yard was huge and decorated with beautiful ivy-covered arches, benches, fruit trees, and a huge weeping willow. The house itself was a deep wood brown with sharp roofs and windowboxes bright with scarlet flowers. The scene looked like something from Harry Potter. Navigating our way past giant herb beds and a variety of tomatoes, we got to the back of the house, which made us feel like we had been transported to the south of France in April or somewhere thereabouts.
The back deck was paved with red tiles and the sides were ivy-leafed and high. There was a massive stainless steel grill which brought us back to the food.
We enjoyed exploring all the little details of the gardens from the little, yellow-orange pear tomatoes to the overflowing frog pond to the pear tree in front and the cottage sign by the front door. When we were finally allowed in, we were even more amazed at the sight in front of us. A giant six-burned viking range, complete with grill portion and dual convection ovens, and a massive, unbelievably well-stocked viking fridge, all stainless steel with no fingerprints. The walls had yards and yards of magnetic strips lined with thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars worth of Wusthof knives (which I absolutely fell in love with). There were shelves with stacks and stacks of all the stuff in short supply in our kitchen, from cutting boards to mixing bowls. There was a tableful of dry pantry goods, which I'm proud to say, ours is comparable with! (maybe even a bit better stocked on the asian side)
We chatted and chatted, but the best was when we began cooking. First we made a trip to the huge herb beds. I want to know how she fertilizes them, because I saw the most massive basil bush (it can only be described as a bush) that I have ever seen. It was maybe...2+ feet tall and the same wide and the leaves were picture-perfect, glossy and green and huge. We cut sprigs of thyme and chives and got handfuls of mint, all organic and all massive and delicious.
We began with the mint chocolate creme brulee (yes, mint chocolate, no, I can't imagine having "normal" creme brulee after that). We steeped the fresh mint leaves in heavy cream and separated the eggs. Aside from the guy and I, there was only one other student, so we got plenty of hands-on instruction and work time. From there, the chef led us expertly through the steps for smoked sweet corn souffle (honestly, I could leave the souffle and just have the corn, it was that good). There was the perfunctory sales pitches, such as the $60 stove-top smoker and a $12 silicone spoonula, but we passed those breezily.
We dipped and dodged and winded through the dessert and souffle and the passable mashed red potatoes (personally, I like them with a bit of texture left to them, as well as some garlic). Although the red potatoes did offer us an occasion to realize just how much better the Wusthof knives were compared to the ones we have in the kitchen. I'm still pining for them..
The finishing touch was a beautifully grilled filet mignon with a deliciously simple sour cream and green onion sauce. The chef put the finishing touches on the presentation and when we finally ate, it was with great relish and appetite, since it was halfway to 10 already, much later than our usual tuck-in time.
It was an absolutely amazing and delicious time and while I have other delicious bits to share from the farmer's market, which we finally got to this past weekend, and a slew of movie and book references, I think the cooking class occasion deserved to shine in its very own spotlight, the way it will in my memory. What an amazing birthday experience!