Tuesday, July 28, 2009

“Gourmet” Supper Club: The 60’s at The Urban Element

After all my husband has done for me, the least I can do is make an effort in the kitchen. But where would I gain the confidence? I'm up against a magnificent cook who caters to my fussy palate every single day. I needed somewhere I could learn but on a more relaxed scale than the hustle-bustle of a real restaurant. And for this reason, I decided to sign up for the “Gourmet” Supper Club at The Urban Element – ALONE. My husband and I have been to a few events there already. In my mind, they are a fantastic way to spend an evening with your significant other. Unfortunately, I rely a little too much on him when I'm in any kitchen, asking every little question I can to make sure I don't screw things up. So when I arrived this evening, I was pretty nervous. Well, excited and nervous, all at the same time.

Chef Candice Butler has been doing a series of “Gourmet” Supper Clubs over the summer. One of the Urban Element clients donated her collection of Gourmet magazines from 1940 to the late 1970's and they've been building these hands-on cooking classes from them. I got to check out the magazines this evening and they're quite interesting. I thought to myself, how different could cooking have been back then compared to now? Maybe it's just me, but the recipes seemed much more labour-intensive then. And the choice of ingredients are interesting too. But as I did expect, the dishes were quite comforting.

I chose to work on the one course I felt I could accomplish without too much trouble – a minted pea soup. Only the roux part of it was scary. Anytime I've ever tried to make a white sauce I end up burning it in the pan. But this was the one and only thing I had to think about, and therefore, was quite successful. As I've mentioned in previous posts about the staff here, they are truly fantastic. They are fun to be around, they get everyone involved, and they are always there if you need them. They obviously believe in your ability to cook and they know just what to say to give you that extra bit of confidence you need to push through it on your own, which is really quite rewarding. Another thing I enjoy quite a bit is that they are not pretentious in any way. In fact, they'll point out the things they learned from trying it before we arrived on the scene and offer helpful hints that you can use going forward. They all seem to have tremendous experience in the kitchen and are so calm through the entire thing that you can't help but find the whole experience meditative.

Even though I enjoyed the cooking, my favourite part of the evening was eating all of the delicious food. We started off with 4 appetizers displayed beautifully on a plate – a fresh Minted Pea Soup, Deviled Stuffed Eggs, a yummy Cheese Fondue Dipping Sauce with bread, and my absolute favourite item of the evening, Codfish Balls. They even left the additional ones out for us to snack on afterward! (Yes, I ate more than I should have, but I really couldn't help it). These tasty treats were served with crisp bacon and a mustard sauce – heavenly.

They paired these up with an Ontario wine, 2007 Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué.

Next came our main, a moist Grilled Trout cooked to perfection, topped with a flavourful Corn Relish and served with Green Beans in a walnut sauce and probably my second favourite thing of the evening, Potato and Celery Root Mold. A homemade garlic mayo, chives and capers really made this dish special. And I now have a new love for celery root. It's got the consistency of a potato, but has way less starch and so much more flavour. If you like celery and potatoes, you'll love it. Every ingredient in this dish complemented one another nicely.

They served our main with a great local rosé from Domaine Perrault. The perfect accompaniment to the meal.

And if that wasn't enough, dessert, which proved to be a little more difficult than some of the other dishes, but came out great nonetheless. A Strawberry Savarin. It reminded me a lot of a strawberry shortcake but less cakey and more rich and sweet in the sauce – a nice finale.

These hands-on classes aren't just for beginners. Any skill level will learn something new (as my husband has in the past). I would have to go to many to get great in the kitchen, but courage is the first step. And I definitely gained some of that this evening.


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