We're never too old to learn a few new tricks, and taking a class or series of classes in a particular area of cooking or cuisine can really expand your culinary knowledge, skills and confidence. And a hands-on experience has a way of solidifying your memory about the steps and techniques. But where to go?
Honestly, I hadn't done much of that since moving to California and, I confess, I was stumped. So, I turned to that all-knowing friend of mine: Google. After an online search and a few informational calls ... voila! a listing of some local venues to satisfy a reader's appetite for some new or improved culinary skills:
450 W. Spain St., Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 933-0450, ext. 3
Ramekins is a community-based institution in Sonoma Valley, which includes a Bed & Breakfast Inn with six guestrooms, dining for up to 150, and cooking classes in two teaching kitchens. It also offers private cooking classes and special events.
"Choose from classes on basic cooking skills to ethnic cuisines to famous chefs' seasonal menus," reads its Web site. "Every home cook, from the novice to the aficionado, will find classes to meet their skill level and unique culinary interests."
A sampling of June classes taught by professional chefs and caterers include:
Thursday, June 7, 6:30 p.m.: "Almost Summer" Dinner Demo Class $55
Saturday, June 9, 11a.m.: Real Southern Barbeque Hands-on $85
Friday, June 15, 11 am: Antipasto e Insalate Demo Class $48
Friday, June 22, 9:30 a.m.: Taste of Sonoma: Tour & Cooking at Benziger Winery $140
Sunday, June 24, 11 a.m.: Summer Sonoma Brunch Hands-on $85
Kitchen On Fire
1509 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-COOK (548-2665)
Founded by restaurateur/author Olivier Said of Cesar and chef instructor/caterer Mike C. of Party Lifestyle in 2005, Kitchen on Fire is located in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto in the Epicurious Garden. The foodie neighborhood is a testament to the gourmet cuisine legacy started by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse (up the street) more than 30 years ago. KOF offers a range of cooking classes "from learning how to throw a party on a budget to uncovering the mysteries of baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie," founders say.
"Through fun and educational hands-on cooking classes, culinary demonstrations and lectures taught by top chefs and food professionals, we demystify home cooking and entertaining. We work principally with organic food and support organic local small growers and winemakers. Our focus is on high quality seasonal ingredients, minimal preparation, maximum flavor, and zero stress."
Sounds like a winning formula.
Upcoming classes include:
Saturday, June 2, 11 a.m.: Oakland Chinatown Tour & Cooking Class $80
Tuesday, June 5, 6:30 p.m.: The Basics of Cooking 1: Knife Skills & Mise en Place $65
Tuesday, June 12, 6:30 p.m.: The Basics of Cooking 2: Stocks & Soups $65
Saturday, June 16, 6:30 p.m.: Tex-Mex from The Texas Coyote $65
Monday, June 18, 6:30 p.m.: Paella Class with Kevin from The Spanish Table $65
Local culinary stores
Other local culinary stores offer one-session classes on a particular topic or a series of classes. While that wasn't what the reader needed, the one-timers can teach you some basics or sharpen your skills on a cooking technique. Here are a few upcoming offerings:
Williams-Sonoma (free at your local W-S store; registration required)
Sunday, June 3: Grilling: Rubs, Marinades & More
Includes how to prep, how to fire up and using dry and wet rubs, marinades, blackening and flavor injecting.
Sunday, June 10: Grilling
Learn different ways to grill meats and vegetables to perfection, including using smoking chips and grilling planks to infuse flavor as well as classic and trendy ways to jazz up your grilling style.
Sunday, June 24: Ice Cream
With a few basic ingredients and an ice cream maker, you'll learn how to create delicious ice cream and variations at home.
Sur La Table (see summer schedule and register at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By the way, if any of you attends one of these classes, I'd love to hear about your experience or a fantastic recipe you learned to make. Just e-mail me at email@example.com. Bon appetit!
Jacqui lives in Danville with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.