We went to a vegan cooking class last night. It was held at this new restaurant in State College that has a separate vegan menu and is housed in an old Original Italian Pizza. It’s really kind of bizarre – the inside hasn’t been remodeled and the pizza boxes are still sitting on the shelves. There is also no sign, so the only way you’d know about the restaurant would be by finding it on Yelp or via word of mouth.
The owner and chef is quite the character. I think he really believes he’s going to be one of the big shot vegan chefs out there, so it’s not like he is very customer service focused. I knew this before we got there because I met him when we dropped our grocery deposit off, so I went there with low expectations. That was probably good because although the whole experience was kind of strange, it had its good parts.
There were 13 people in the class. Everybody brought their own cutting board, knives, pans, etc. The kitchen barely offered enough counter space to fit all of us, but we made it work. After listening to instructions about knife skills and being safe, we were able to begin.
At this point, I had no idea what we were really making. There were just a lot of vegetables laying out, and I knew I’d need my cutting board and knife. First order of business was parsley.
We learned how to chop it with a big chef’s knife. Dave gave this one to me right before the class. He said he bought it six months ago and was going to give it to me as a present eventually. He figured this was an appropriate time, and he was right. I like getting random gifts more than forced ones anyway.
Garlic was next: mincing through chopping and smearing.
Then we made lemon zest and sliced mushrooms before peeling and filleting a tomato.
In order to peel the tomato, we first dropped it into boiling water for 30 seconds.
And then immediately transfered it into a bowl with ice to stop the cooking.
This made it super easy to peel the skin off. Next, we learned how to filet the tomato, removing all the inner seeds.
Then we chopped the filleted tomatoes to go with the rest of the veggies.
We didn’t know this for the approximate two hours we spent chopping veggies, but we were actually working on creating a veggie cocktail.
Basically, what that means is we stuck the various veggies on the rim of a bowl that was filled with cucumbers and cocktail sauce and added some Trisicuits with tomatoes and lemon zest on the side. The owner told us this presentation would elevate this from a $3 to a $10 gourmet dish. I will leave it to you to make your mind up on that one.
So, by this time it was after 8 p.m. We had spent over two hours chopping veggies. We had been told to come to the class hungry, and my expectation was that we’d cook for half the time and then sit down to enjoy our creations. No such luck. I was starving, and raw vegetables weren’t really cutting it at this point. There was also no water offered at any point. The chef offered us some of his wine, but I didn’t want to get tipsy and handle really sharp knives, although he didn’t seem to have that concern and was happily downing one glass after another.
The rest of the night, so another 2.5 hours, were spent watching the chef stress out over how he would get everything done that he wanted to do. We were instructed to rub olive oil on a portabella mushroom and then coat it in flour and spices.
I followed the instructions, still hoping to get an actual dinner out of the night. The problem was that cooking space was limited, so we could only cook a few mushrooms at a time. We all had to stand in line to wait for a pan to become available.
We just kind of dropped them in the pan, while the chef cooked them, yelling out instructions for how to do it and what to get him from where. Only semi-helpful and not particularly relaxing or enjoyable.
He made a demi-gloss with this vegetarian gravy, red wine, onions, and mushrooms. We topped our mushrooms with that and then were allowed to chow down our dinner standing somewhere in the kitchen, only equipped with a small fork.
A gourmet presentation? I think not. It was, however, definitely the most delicious thing I ate there. Although it was too salty.
It was getting later and later, but the chef seemed determined to cook eveything he had planned. So we watched him make some rice, burning himself in the process and reopening a wound he had on his finger form cutting himself a few days ago (he was wearing one of those finger condoms, so there was no blood, just a lot of swearing).
Here is Dave trying to be helpful and cutting collared greens for a rolled-up quinoa dish.
Here is the final creation.
The quinoa was mixed in with a silken tofu based sauce that contained lots of spices, but too little lemon juice. The quinoa needed some dried cranberries besides the apple he mixed in.
We didn’t actually eat these there (just tried a bite, although even that we had to initiate) and people started leaving. We just kind of put some into to-go containers because it seemed like we should really get a little bit more food out of the night.
Here are our leftovers from the class, which were dinner tonight (I added dried cranberries, which helped a lot).
While I appreciated the knife skills lesson (although a shortened version would have cut it, no pun intended), the rest of the class was a disappointment. He tried to do way too much, which led to us doing a minimal amount of hands-on cooking. We were told to come hungry, but I had to have a snack when we got home because we actually never really ate there. Plus, we didn’t get any recipes to take home, so I won’t really be able to replicate any of the dishes we did unless I want to try going off of memory.
Living in central PA, it’s not like we have an abundance of such events to pick from. But unless someone else gives something similar a shot, I think I’ll stick to food blogs and cooking videos to improve my skills.