I think I’ve become predictable. Every birthday, holiday or Sunday (for that matter) my gift will always relate to food. It could be a cook book from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse, NY or Olive Oil (freshly pressed in the heart of Tuscany) or even a Simply Carrot Cake for Brenda. No matter what though, I always give food. My most recent, and dare I say “innovative,” gift was a cooking class gift certificate for an upscale restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. And not only for my friend, but for myself as well.
And I lucked out. Because not only was it a cooking class in a classy restaurant, but that day the menu was Tapas. That may not sound so “lucky”, but these were not your ordinary get-these-ingredients-in-your-local-store type of Tapas, but more of the I’m-in-a-fancy-restaurant-spending-far-too-much-money Tapas. But it wasn’t too much money, since the price was fixed. I’d call that luck.
We ended up showing up a little late only to find our way to the back of the show floor. This may sound unfortunate, but really we just got a lot more pity attention. “Oh, hi. In the back, yes. Can you see? Would you like me to do that again?” – “Do you need more wine?” – “Did you get enough food – why not take the extras.” Immediately following, the waiters would flock around us, dashing hands and foods in front of us while bottles tips their bottom upwards to empty more wine into our glasses. By the time the waiters left, we didn’t have Tapas, but a full serving. And this happened six times. All for a fixed price.
After we got our attention served to us, the chef started his interactive lecture about scallops, salt roasted prawns, pineapple empanadas, lettuce puree and risotto. He stood behind a moveable kitchen equipped with more than your average kitchen: five separate burners, two refrigerators, a blender, two food processors, three ovens, two sinks and more fresh vegetables than three families should be able to afford. He also stood in the middle of twenty middle-aged Stepford Wives sipping hardily on their 11am Grey Goose Bloody Mary’s. They seemed more interested in the 30-something year old chef then his blend of spices in their salsa.
We three, in the back, paid close attention to the proportions, the smells and his wrist flips as he sautéed garlic and onions. He went course by course, explaining the intricacies of different flavor combinations, as the wine connoisseur yelled over the sizzle of garlic and oil about the newest Shiraz or Cabernet blend. Now and then, we tried to block out some of that food and wine education to catch up on each other’s lives. But we’d be interrupted only by more wine, more food and more input from Stepford Wife One, Two and Three.
The Wives spoke about their soccer mom lives, and how these cooking classes were their release. They had been to many cooking classes, and the price. Oh! The price was so reasonable. I mean, one of their favorites was the cook out cooking class that resembled a throw back to a college cook out, “They give you Sam Adams, you know? They grill out. It’s great. We’re gone for three years straight now!”
The Stepford Wives also threw in their side commentary as the chef was trying to suggest different methods of cooking the meals. “And I like to use duck fat for this dish, since it -” “NO!” “What? I was just suggesting a fat that could -” “No. Absolutely not” “Or you could use butter.” He bent to their will.
As he titled his next dish, I became supremely curious about the “Lettuce Emulsion” from the dish “Roasted Sea Scallops with Fennel Confit, Bresaola, Figs and butter with Luttuce Emulsion.” That’s high class if I’ve ever heard it.
But the Lettuce Emulsion really did seal the deal with the dish. It was light, and contained the flavors of the Lettuce but never got too grainy or slimy, which is what I was scared of.
The whole cooking class was something I would go back to. I don’t know, though, if I’ll ever have the same experience. I would want a hands-on cooking class. Although it was fun to watch things being prepared, I don’t know if I enjoyed it as much as the Stepford Wives.