Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Dirty Apron Cooking School

I am loathe to write another post and bump Stellar Seeds, Stellar People from the front page, but I thought you may benefit from my review of the 4 hour hands-on cooking classes at The Dirty Apron Cooking School and Delicatessen in 'Crosstown'.

This "culinary playground" truly is a memorable, fun and delicious experience! We received gift certificates from friends (lovely friends!) as a wedding gift, and cashed them in this week for "Ocean Potion II" (or 'seafood 2' - there were no prerequisites, thankfully!).
"Starting off the class you will be shown how to make fresh Dungeness Crab Cakes and Smoked Paprika Grilled Prawns with Lemon Citrus Yogurt. This is followed by Citrus Butter Crusted Salmon with a White Balsamic Butter Sauce, and polished-off with a luscious Pear Poundcake with a Vanilla Red wine Reduction for dessert." - 
We had Takashi and Mallorie teaching the 4 hour long course, and it was so much more enjoyable than I had anticipated! I mean, you never know what you might face: snobby foodies; instructors that expect you have the skills of a sous chef to begin with; obnoxious attendees, etc.! I'm quite the vivid worrier, aren't I?

But it was relaxed, VERY informative and highly instructive, and both Takashi and Mallorie, as well as the dining room and deli staff, were friendly, chatty and engaging. I absolutely loved it.

I'm a note taker. My husband is not. His folder is now the nice one.

This is not one of the cheaper recommendations that I will make on this blog, as classes start at $150 per person (you do get a multi-course meal with paired wine out of it, on top of first-rate instruction and premium-grade ingredients). But it is a green gift idea for someone special in your life! They even reuse the little plastic portion containers that your ingredients come in (did I mention that everything is pre-measured?! That's one of the best parts! Dump in and whisk! Or mix and coat!).

Oh, these are mine. Theirs are nicer!

It really was lovely. The knife set you get to use is better than any I'd handled before (it makes such a difference!), and I love cooking on gas ranges (also a novelty for me!). The food was amazing, despite the fact that I made it, and the instruction was wonderful - there are a couple rows of chairs facing the front demonstration counter, and mirrors affixed to the ceiling so that you can have both a direct and bird's eye view of the preparation. My favourite aspect of the course was the tips, tricks and "fixes" - how to thin out a butter sauce that's stiffened up (never put it back on the heat!), the cheapest and best places to buy crab (Granville Island, right off the boat), why you are much more likely to get a parasite from sashimi in Asia than in Canada, the fastest way to shell a tiger prawn, how to perfectly cook salmon, etc., etc. I learned so much! Even the best way to chop a shallot and to properly sliver garlic - two things I might NEVER use again (curse this wretched food intolerance of mine! BAH!).

Actually, some of the most useful tips were in hosting a dinner party: what to do when, what can be done well in advance, how to time it right, easy and breathtaking garnishes, plating, etc.!

Honestly, if you like to entertain at home, The Dirty Apron is the place to go!

Nothing was forgotten - the 'servers' in the dining room (who also greet you at the door, take your coats and give you your recipe binder and apron) clear your plates, bring bread baskets, and offer you wine (or beer), and coffee and tea with dessert. They are friendly and talkative, and the dining room is beautiful with it's rough-hewn wooden slab tables and tidy but intimate ambiance. Their little deli is impressive too - not nearly the selection of The Gourmet Warehouse, but they do sell the ingredients used in the classes (which may seem obvious, but I've been places where this sort of oversight has happened!), and at first glance I'm fairly sure that the prices are reasonable, if not cheaper than their competition. Lovely!

A Dirty Apron gift certificate is a highly, highly recommended Christmas gift if you can swing that $150 (best to go with a friend or partner as it's typically two to a station, though you get all your own knives, pots and ingredients - you make your own meal!).

We had the leftover pear poundcake and red wine reduction for breakfast the following day.

Thank you Ciara, Jordan & Wendy!!!

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