Cook Dinner or Night Out? Cooking Classes Offer Both!

Cooking Classes offers Dinner and a Night Out

Saturday Night. Going out for a flavorful, delicious, expertly-prepared dinner. Sounds great…and relaxing. But wait – you’ll be the one cooking that delicious dinner? Yes! But you’ll be guided through hands on cooking classes and you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of your labor, you’ll probably have a few laughs along the way.

Intrigued? There are several places you can participate in cooking classes around the Phoenix area, but they basically fall into 3 categories. Let’s explore:

There are places where cooking classes (and sometimes selling awesome kitchen stuff) is the main purpose. Enter Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School. The class called “Gourmet Couples” is an evening class and would be a perfect date night. You and your partner learn how to prepare a full meal, and then get to taste that meal with an appropriately-paired wine selection. For instance, an upcoming class sample meal: “a lemony spinach-artichoke dip with toasted baguette; North Woods bean soup with kielbasa, beet salad with candied almonds, served with Sauvignon Blanc. The entree is Cuban-spiced pork tenderloin and soffritto rice with onions, green peppers & garlic; ricotta dumplings with wild mushrooms; turnips & broccoli rabe with parsley, served with Zinfandel. Chocolate peanut butter Mousse Cake for dessert.” Wow. That’s quite a meal. And to come out the other side with the knowledge of how to prepare it, huge bonus!

Sweet Basil first opened in 1993. It was a small space that could accommodate up to 12 people in a class. Fast forward five years, and they moved three doors down to a much larger space, with room for 26 students, more hands-on cooking, and better demonstrations. They also have a store that sells quality kitchen wares, cookbooks, etc (with merchandise available both at their location and online).

Sweet Basil Gourmetware & Cooking School, 10749 N. Scottsdale Rd., #101 Scottsdale, Arizona 85260, www.sweetbasilgourmet.com

Another category of places that sometimes holds classes like these is culinary schools. The Classic Cooking Academy in Scottsdale for instance holds “night out” type classes on select evenings, most of the time with a theme. For example, Fridays they host a gourmet cooking class where students learn to prepare a gourmet dinner, after which everyone sits, discusses and eats the goodness they’ve just created. A recent class was titled “Italian 101,” and the menu consisted of “wild mushroom cannelloni w/lemon thyme cream sauce; chicken Saltimboca w/creamy polenta; Italian cheesecake strudel.” I’d say that’s an Italian staple that would be amazing to add to your cooking repertoire. On select Mondays and Saturdays at Classic cooking Academy, there’s a “5 Course Wine Dinner,” where a chef will talk to you about the food he chose for the meal, and a wine expert will go over the specific wines served with each course – and will also answer any questions you may have about wine in general! Wednesday evenings, it’s a pizza class…and so forth.

Classic Cooking Academy, 10411 E. McDowell Mountain Ranch Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85255, www.ccacademy.edu

Another avenue, and probably the most personal way to take cooking classes, is going to a chef’s home kitchen or having him or her come to yours. This provides a more intimate feel and these classes are often the most hands-on. At Whisked Away, you cook alongside Maggie Norris, a professional chef who has worked at the Food Network in New York, with celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Kat Cora, and the like. You learn in Maggie’s state-of-the-art, Viking-appliance clad kitchen where you can either pick from the classes she comes up with, or tell her what you have in mind, and she will tailor a class for you. This can be perfect for a special occasion, a night out with close friends, a family birthday party, or a corporate gathering. It’s very flexible and takes on the mood of your event. Whisked Away even does private classes in your home and offers private chef services for small occasions like dinner parties.

Whisked Away, 4823 E. Mulberry Drive, Phoenix, AZ, 85018, www.whiskedaway.net

So, go to these websites or call around for more information. Most classes do require advance reservations and tend to fill up. Have fun brushing up on your culinary skills while sipping fine wine…

Wait! Not in the Phoenix area? Your area may have some awesome cooking classes as well…OR there’s another option. And this one might even be less intimidating, for a first timer. So, maybe you invite a girlfriend over and get the same “cooking lesson” experience, but you can both be wearing pajamas and can make any small changes/substitutions your hearts/taste buds desire. I’m talking about using a website like www.pannacooking.com. This is an example of a site where you can watch step-by-step videos by master chefs from around the country. Award-winning, professional chefs like Rick Bayless and Nancy Silverton make a meal in a home kitchen, and show you how to do the same. It’s truly like a cooking class, right in your own home with the bonus of being able to hit pause when you need to. Subscription prices vary, and are usually annual, allowing access to different recipes/archives, etc…so find the one that’s right for you and enjoy a gourmet cooking lesson without leaving home.

Kristine has been researching, writing about, and enjoying beverages for years. A freelance writer, she's wife to one cool guy, and mom to another. She's an avid researcher, reader, hiker, texter, hat wearer and music listener. She lives in Phoenix with the aforementioned cool guys and all three love to explore restaurants and travel. She can be reached at krisgresh@yahoo.com

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