Cooking classes are a great way to develop your culinary skills quickly and have fun. We took the cooking plunge and tried three cooking schools and one wine-tasting class. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are better cooks (and wine tasters) because of it.
CLASS ONE: SPANISH
Name of School: Dish it Up!, 2425 33rd Ave. W., Suite B, Seattle, 281-7800 (Magnolia) and 5320 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle (Ballard); http://dish-it-up.com/.
Name of Teacher: Chef Wayne Johnson, the executive chef at Andaluca in the Mayflower Hotel, taught our class. He was very easygoing and made cooking seem like a breeze (though we know otherwise). Oh, and his food was amazing! It is easy to understand why he was recently named one of the United States’ top African American chefs.
What I learned to cook: We learned how to cook a Spanish feast. This was a demonstration class, so we got to sit back, drink wine and watch the magic happen. No wonder it seemed like a breeze.
Chef Johnson made the best hummus we have ever tasted — ever, seriously. He also made a beet salad with green beans and goat cheese, quail, lemon-herb risotto, sautéed mushrooms with swiss chard, and flan with crumbled bacon on top. Bacon makes everything taste better.
What I liked most about this class/school: Dish it Up! does it right. We have taken several classes here, and have always left full and happy. The chefs also provide you with their recipes, so you can recreate the meals for your next dinner party.
Each class accommodates about 12 to 14 students. The chairs are arranged around a kitchen counter, so it feels like you are hanging out and watching your friend cook you an amazing meal.
Unexpected thing I learned: Adding just a little Greek honey yogurt to your hummus takes it over the top.
CLASS TWO: INDIAN
Name of School: Hipcooks!, 217 Yale Ave. N., Seattle, 467-1196; http://seattle.hipcooks.com/.
Name of teacher: Bonny taught our class, “Shortcut to Nirvana.” She made everything seem effortless and fun. We did not use a measuring cup or spoon throughout the entire class. It was just a dash of this and a handful of that. We would taste to see if it needed any more “love” (which collectively referred to any spices).
What I learned to cook: An entire Indian meal! We made veggie samosas, papadums with three sauces — mango chutney (my favorite), raita and green sauce — sang paneer (cheese and spinach), “spicy and sassy fish curry,” and chicken tikka masala.
What I liked most about this class/school: The class is very interactive. The participants do almost everything (except the prep work), so the three-hour class flies by. But, what I really liked most about the class was that I learned I could easily cook Indian food at home.
I am sure my friends are going to be impressed with this new skill. And I particularly enjoyed our matching aprons.
Unexpected thing I learned: I was surprised by the amount of onions you use to cook Indian food. I still smell like onions a day later. [Note from editor: She did.]
CLASS THREE: BREAD
Name of School: Cook’s World, 2900 NE Blakeley St., Seattle, 528-8192; http://cooksworld.net.
Name of teacher: The class was led by pastry chef Clare Cecich, formerly with the Dahlia Bakery. She showed us the proper techniques to mix, knead and roll out a variety of delectable baked goods.
What I learned to cook: In our three-hour class, we made bagels, cinnamon rolls, rosemary focaccia bread and dinner rolls.
What I liked most about this class/school: Cook’s World is part kitchen store, part classroom. Class sizes are relatively small and are very interactive. After our three-hour class, we got to take advantage of the 20% day-of-class discount we received on all kitchen merchandise.
Unexpected thing I learned: You cannot use a traditional mixer to make breads. You have to use a hook (Kitchenaid mixers have the right attachment) or knead by hand.
CLASS FOUR: WINE
Name of School: Esquin, 2700 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle, 682-7374; http://www.esquin.com/events.htm.
Name of teacher: Our teacher was Arnie Millan. Arnie is a sommelier certified by the Guild of Sommeliers. Check out his website, www.ArnieMillan.com.
What we tasted: In addition to learning to improve our cooking skills, we sought to improve our appreciation of wine. The class we took was a single session on “ancient wines,” featuring grape varietals that are believed to have been the basis for wines thousands of years ago.
What we liked most about this class/school: The two-and-a-half-hour class was educational as well as entertaining. Even before we got into the history, we learned to improve our basic approach to tasting for wine appreciation, including how to appreciate a wine’s clarity, how to swirl to maximize the aroma, and how to move the wine around to appreciate the full flavor. We then tasted eight wines “with an ancient pedigree,” and one grog made from the recipe divined from the tomb of King Midas.
Unexpected thing we learned: The history of wine was fascinating and Arnie is a wealth of knowledge in this area. The most interesting or surprising historical facts we learned were that in ancient times almost all wines were made with resin (like retsina today) and it was considered uncouth to drink wine without mixing it with saltwater.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law frm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Jennifer Campbell at 206.689.3052 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or Allison Miller at 206-689-1216 or at email@example.com; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx.
Originally published in the May 2011 issue of the King County Bar Bulletin. Reprinted with permission of the King County Bar Association.