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The Dirty Apron Cooking Class – Comfort Foods

7 Feb

After doing two classes in two days at The Dirty Apron cooking school, I feel as though I have gained about 20 pounds. Is this something I’m proud of? No, but I feel you should know that I will be the size of a small, over-priced Vancouver home very soon.

Last night, lured in by a tempting menu, I found myself seated right back at the same communal table that I had been at only 24 hours earlier, awaiting for my second class to begin. For those who haven’t read my post from earlier this week, I also completed another class on Tuesday night, which spurred me to return immediately. As we were finishing up the Primo Italiano class, the Chef casually mentioned that there were spots available in the Comfort Foods class before rattling off the menu; Lobster Mac & Cheese, Wild Mushroom and Truffle Chicken Pot Pie, and Coffee Bailey’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream. My ears pricked up when I heard what was on the agenda and that is how I found myself back at The Dirty Apron last night.

I won’t go into the whole process about the cooking class as I’ve already done that twice, here and here, so let me just launch into the menu and the dishes that we cooked.

Lobster Mac and CheeseWild Mushroom and Truffle Chicken Pot PieCoffee Bailey’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream

Obviously this menu is very heavy and dense and I could barely eat after the first course! A little tip from me to you; pace yourself. Yes, the lobster mac and cheese tastes incredible with its creamy, rich sauce that you made, but if you eat the whole thing (guilty!) you may not be able to eat the rest of the dishes. Who am I kidding? Of course I ate them but I did have to bring some left-overs home.

The Comfort Foods class was a slower pace than the Primo Italiano and it felt like there was less actual cooking to do. The recipes were also not very difficult (which could be good or bad, depending on why you are going to the class in the first place) but they all tasted like little bites of heaven, particularly on a dark, wet February night in Vancouver. Seriously, what is not to like about this menu? Bring your fat pants.

The Dirty Apron Cooking Class – Primo Italiano

6 Feb

Cooking is one of my favourite hobbies so it is fair to assume that I love cooking classes. Friends of mine are well aware of this and so when it comes to getting me gifts, my friends know that they can’t go wrong with buying me a cooking class. I recently received a gift voucher for The Dirty Apron and I was eager to use it immediately. Last night I spent a few hours at The Dirty Apron Cooking School getting my hands dirty and eating my fill (plus some) at the “Primo Italiano: Italy from Country to Coast” class. I was so inspired leaving this class that I have signed up for another class tonight (I’ll tell you more about that one when I’ve completed it).

The menu was ambitious and we went a little over our 4 hour time limit but it was absolutely, without-a-doubt, worth it. Firstly, I must say that I saw a lot of improvements from the last class that I did, which was about a year ago. I had a great time at the “Ooh La La” French class but I was a little doubtful about the value. Let me clear that up right now. I am no longer in doubt – with the changes that the school has made the class is absolutely worth the $150. Changes that I had noticed from a year ago were sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres on arrival, the charcuterie plates that were served whilst we were cooking, and the complimentary apron. I believe that these additions really elevated the experience and made the night even more polished.

Welcome hors d’oeuvres and sparkling wine served on arrival.

You can read my full review from last year here, and things haven’t really changed when it comes to the format of the class. I was still impressed by the professionalism displayed by the Chef and the team – everything was explained very thoroughly and very calmly – there was no Gordon Ramsay style yelling. Once the dish has been demonstrated and tips given, you are sent back to your station to make an individual-sized portion for yourself. If you are unsure of anything during the cooking process, the Chef and the team are always on hand to provide helpful tips or advice. This comes in handy as there are sometimes quite a few steps to remember.

The first dish that we made was black pepper fettuccini, served with crisp double-smoked bacon and a white wine arugula cream sauce.

I found this demonstration particularly helpful as I have made pasta at home by myself and whilst it turned out quite good, I felt that there was room for improvement. Tips provided such as using a mix of flours, not adding flour whilst rolling the pasta, and a demonstration of the correct kneading process, will really help me when I try to re-create this dish at home. My pasta turned out incredibly well and the sauce really couldn’t have been any simpler to make. All in all, this dish was much less complicated than it seems and, boy, was it tasty. Give me just a bowl of this and a glass of wine and I’ll be happy!The second dish of seared sablefish with lemon prawn risotto, blew away many of the perceptions I had associated with making risotto. Risotto would have to be one of my favourite dishes and I really don’t mind spending the 45 minutes to an hour stirring in stock and tending to it. I was told last night (shock horror) that I didn’t need to do this and that this actually made the rice more gluey by constantly stirring. The other tip that rocked my world was that you could make the risotto in advance by cooking it until it is about 80% done and then spreading it out on a cookie tray, wrapped and chilled, until you are ready to finish it off. Seriously, I did not know that this was possible. When done this way, the risotto only took about 15 minutes to finish. The sablefish, much like the Mediterranean bass I made in the French class, was so incredibly easy to cook (less than 10 minutes in total) that I feel like a bit of an idiot ordering fish at a restaurant now.The meal concluded with a warm Frangelico and roasted pear tart, served with soft mascarpone and Muscat sabayon. Before the class, this was the dish that I was the least excited about making but it is now my favourite dish of the evening. The whole process wasn’t overly complicated – really most of the work is waiting for the pears and the syrup to cook down, and then whisking the sabayon until it is light and fluffy. I’ve made cupcakes more complicated than that! I have never attempted sabayon before but I will definitely be re-creating this dish at home, particularly if I’m hosting a dinner party.

The appetizer and the main are served with your choice of red or white wine and the dessert is served with tea or coffee. If you are going to do a course at The Dirty Apron Cooking School, be prepared and go hungry. I was soooo full after eating all of this and, sure, I didn’t have to eat it all but it was all so incredibly delicious that I felt like I had to! When I sat down to eat such beautiful, delicious, dishes that I had created, I really felt a strong sense of achievement. The classes are $150 each and I have no hesitation in recommending them to you, or the foodies in your life.

Dirty Apron Cooking Class – Ooh La La!

22 Jan

Do you use the new year as an opportunity to set goals for yourself? I do, although I tend to shy away from saying that I’ve made “resolutions”. I prefer to use January as a time to review the goals I had made and achieved in the previous year and then set new goals for the new year.

One of my personal goals for 2012 is to do more cooking classes. I want to learn skills and tips from trained professional chefs, as well as increasing my cooking confidence by getting out of my comfort zone. I had a great experience with the “Serious Foodie” cooking class from the Northwest Culinary Academy last year but this year I want to try different cuisines and see what other skills I can acquire.

My friends, Rose & Rommy, and my sister were thoughtful enough to buy me a gift voucher from The Dirty Apron cooking school for my birthday and I wasted no time in booking myself into the “Ooh La La 2″ cooking class. Trying to decide on what class to do was quite difficult as they offer a lot of appealing classes, ranging from French to Italian to West Coast cuisines, as well as specialty classes that focus on Julia Child’s dishes or comfort food (among others).

The hands-on classes are about 4 hours long and in most classes you will cook a 3 course meal. The class follows the format of the chef demonstrating how to cook the dish and then the students return to their stations to re-create it. Once you’ve completed your dish, everyone eats together at a long table with a glass of wine (included in the cost). You then follow the same format for the next two dishes.

Our chef, Dave, teaching us the way of the kitchen.

The class was very professional and explanations and safety information were given along the way. All students are given printed copies of the recipes, as well as a loaner apron and name badge. Classes are kept quite small with a maximum of 22 students at a time. The night I went there was only about 13 of us, which kept it even more intimate. I found our chef, Dave, to be very approachable and I couldn’t help putting up my hand to ask multiple questions (food nerd!). Whilst you are cooking at your station, the chef and his sous chef would come by offering words of advice or a friendly chat.

Dish 1: Herb-crusted roasted beef tenderloin, served with a mushroom herb crepe and mushroom ragout.

The reason I had chosen to do the French class was that the menu sounded awesome. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. The first dish, a herb-crusted beef tenderloin, was superb. I didn’t plate it very well but I can say that it tasted much better than it looks in this picture! Surprisingly, the beef requires very little cooking time and hardly any prep time so this dish is a good contender for a dinner party dish. The crepe felt like an unnecessary addition as it didn’t really add anything to the dish so I’d skip that step next time.

Dish 2: Mediterranean bass with lemon caper butter sauce and steamed vegetables.

The next dish, a Mediterranean bass with lemon caper butter sauce, was my favourite dish of the evening. Once again, I was surprised at how little cooking time went into this dish. Most of our work was in filleting the fish ourselves. I was incredibly nervous about doing this as I had never filleted a fish before and the chef prefaced this part of the class with “If you are going to cut yourself at anytime tonight, it will be here”…yikes! I felt the pressure. Thankfully I came out with no scars but with the satisfaction of decapitating and filleting my own fish. The rest of the dish was incredibly simple (score the skin, sear the fish skin side down, and throw it all in the oven for a few minutes). Bam! That is it! Who would have thought making tasty fish was THAT simple?! Not me.

Dish 3: Chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce.

Our final dish was a chocolate soufflé, which turned out surprisingly well. Mine was a little runny inside but that didn’t stop me from tucking in. Next time, I would give it a few more minutes and I wouldn’t bother with making the chocolate sauce for this dish as the soufflé was chocolate-y enough on its own. I would, however, use the sauce in another dessert or just over the top of vanilla ice-cream.

Overall, I had a really fun time at The Dirty Apron. The class format and the recipes were easy to follow, the chefs were friendly and relaxed, yet informative, and the school and dining room were very modern, clean, and inviting. My only complaint is the price of the classes. It is $150 (not including taxes) for this class and I find that quite high. Yes, all of your ingredients, tutorials, and two glasses of wine, are included but I still have a hard time understanding why it is that expensive.

I am extremely grateful that I had friends who were generous enough to help me do this class. I would love to go back and do another class or two but at that price it will have to be something I save for special occasions. If you have the cash (or generous friends), it is well-worth it.

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