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Monday, January 25, 2010

Cincy Chic Cooking Series: Italian!

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend the first of the Cincy Chic Cooking Series by their Editor Amy Scalia. For full disclosure - our attendance (me and BF) was free (normally $30 each) but I'm not one to tell you I loved something if I didn't just because it was free...so read on!

The classes are at the Party Source in NKY in their EQ area. Our tables were set with a hand out of the recipes as well as Cincy Chic info. I've been to one class at PS before and they do a phenomenal job - you're never disappointed!

We started off with a Limoncello - which in layman's terms means - a strong ass lemon drink. Honestly it was too strong for me...burned going down. One sip was enough - but if you like everclear and lemon - it's the drink for you!

Here's a "classroom" shot - we all had either a two-top or a seat right at the stove - those are fun but have a bit of obstructed view unless you're in the middle. The crowd was all women - except my BF - what a good sport he is!

Shortly after the drink was a loaf of freshly baked bread and soft butter (yeah!). It was delicious and yeah - I ate the whole damn loaf. I'm telling you now - for $30 - this is a full meal and an education!
Here are Chef Jay and Chef Phillipe warming up the crowd for the upcoming class. It was Italian night - taught by a Frenchman!

One of the user-friendly aspects of the class are the tvs set up above the chef's work area. They give everyone a good view of the cooking as it's happening. It's great for when they're chopping or discussing consistency of a dish.

First up for the recipes was a Parmesan Cannoli. It was delicious! It's a bit different when you're used to a cannoli being sweet instead of savory - but it was very good. The sauce is a balsamic vinegar reduction. And even chefs make mistakes - Chef Phillipe had to redo his reduction - glad to know I'm not the only one that screws up in the kitchen now and again.

Here also is where I want to mention how accommodating the Party Source is. The lady next to us was discussing with one of the Chefs that she had an egg allergy. There were eggs in the cannoli shell shown above and in the tiramisu later. After hearing them talk - I piped up about BF's allergy. We all had a good laugh that two egg allergies were sitting next to each other in a class of 26! Party Source went above and beyond in helping with this. For this dish, they provided crackers instead of the cannoli and later they actually made a separate dessert for our table neighbor and my BF. So YEAH PARTY SOURCE for dealing with allergy issues!

Next up was a 5-herb pesto. This was my favorite of the night. The main reason being I could (and will) actually make this at home! It was that simple! BF even commented "Hey - I could do that!"

All dishes were served with accompanying wines - I'm not big on red wines - so I tasted quickly and moved on. Am I a bad foodie because of my dislike of red wine? Oh well...that's just me! Party Source also provided the name, price and aisle of where we could find each bottle of wine - big help for those that wanted to go purchase. All were under $10!

Next up was the complex dish for the evening - mushroom risotto and veal marsala. The risotto was perfect - and they used morels which I've only had the pleasure of tasting once before! I'm definitely putting "mushroom hunting" on the to-do list for the summer! Often times risotto is sticky or chewy or just not good - but this was light and cooked really well. It's a complex dish that takes quite a bit of work but man was it good!

The veal Marsala - again new to me - I've never had veal and am a little wary since I love animals...but we won't get on a soap box now cuz I have to say - it was damn tasty! The veal was very thin strips and cooked perfectly. To my surprise the Marsala was actually a fairly light sauce - I've typically had these thick dark brown Marsala dishes at Italian restaurants and this was nothing like that. Definitely changed my mind to this dish!

We also got tips and hints throughout the entire two-hour class. Chef Phillipe was so helpful - answering questions and just providing his knowledge. My favorite tidbit was in reference to wooden cutting boards: "Don't go to Home Depot and buy a piece of plywood." Sage advice my friend...sage advice. But seriously - he was very helpful and knowledgeable.

First up for dessert was the egg allergy dish - apples and bourbon. BF gave me a taste and it was really good - sweet with a definite bourbon bite and the whipped cream was a great little creamy addition.

Chef Phillipe made tiramisu for the rest of us. And again - blew me out of the water. Honestly - I hate coffee - so I typically can barely stomach this dessert but this was great! (I know - I hate coffee and wine - what kind of foodie am I?) This had such a light coffee flavor and was so creamy and delicious - I wished they'd brought one out for the BF so I could have eaten his too!

Here's a look inside the dish so you can see all layers - delicious!

Our neighboring egg allergy table had a couple of comments after the class - one was great for me - she said she only went because of my blog! She'd never heard of Cincy Chic before and this was her first event! w00t! And that they'd definitely be back!

Her allergic friend said she's lived in big cities and expects this kind of quality and education in a place like Chicago or New York - but Cincinnati? She was extremely surprised and pleased at the entire event!

Also - I drug the BF to another cooking class somewhere else earlier last week and he hated it. It was boring, the instructor wasn't very smooth and there wasn't even enough seating for people (the class was free - fyi). He was NOT looking forward to this one. But by the time it was over he went up to Chef Phillipe on his own and said, "YOU CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT COOKING CLASSES!" So - for all you ladies out there - take your husbands, boyfriends or whoevers... Maybe they'll end up cooking for you!!!!

Why Should You Go? Whole-heartedly I can say a big thumbs up to the Cincy Chic Cooking Series and the Party Source EQ classes. I really can't wait to go to more... The class was fun and $30 for a full belly and a night of culinary education, tips and tricks - it's a good deal!

There are more classes to come and you can find the menus and registration links on Cincy Chic's site. Mexican night has me drooling already!

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Limoncello on FoodistaLimoncello
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