Tonight as I was pulling together a most excellent Thai peanut sauce, I recalled a great way to spend an evening in New York City, and one you might not think of. For the price of a night on the town, you can take an evening cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education. We had taken advantage of this education/entertainment option a number of times and now have a collection of fabulous recipes in Thai, Vietnamese, Vegan, Risotto, Ligurian, Mushrooms, and Provencal cuisine categories (if anyone is interested I can scan and send some great ones…)
The institute is a serious culinary school, but has a recreational division. I remember my husband and I drooling over their quarterly catalog and plotting out our next culinary adventure. The school even offers more than cooking classes, we also did a wine education class and a day long food-tour of New York.
So here is how it goes down, at least last time we attended.
First step is to sit around a big table in one of the institute’s cooking classrooms with the chef instructor. Our experience was that the instructors were NYC restaurant owners/head chefs and authors. For example, our Two-Day Vegan course was given by Peter Berley, former executive chef at the famous vegan NYC eatery Angelica Kitchen and three-time author. My husband took a class entitled “The Mushroom Lover’s Workshop” which was instructed by Amy Farges, author of “The Mushroom Lover’s Cookbook and Primer.”
Once you review the menu and discuss the process, the instructor breaks the group up in teams of four (don’t worry, couples are kept together.) The dishes are divided up to provide an evening’s worth of cooking and you head to your station to begin. Throughout the evening, the instructor and comes round to check progress and provide invaluable instructions, such as knife skills and sauce secrets.
This is fun for a number of reasons. First, you get a great sense of accomplishment. At the end, you’ve actually pulled off (hopefully) a gourmet meal. Second, when you gather an eclectic group together, there is always entertainment. In every class we’ve taken, there’s been the classic crazy people mixed in with the people you bond with during the course of the evening. This provides days worth of conversation post-class.
A few hours later, when the meal is as complete as it’s going to get, the tables are pulled together, a white cloth is spread, and a selection of complimentary wines are presented to accompany the creations you are about the enjoy. In addition to a folder full of recipes, you get to take home left overs.
I checked out the website, and it seems that not much as changed since we took our last course. Classes are slightly more than when we went, now about $110 per person, but again, you’ll pay at least that for an average evening out in NYC. Whether you are living in the city, a tri-state resident, or are just visiting New York, I highly recommend an evening at the Institute of Culinary Education as a unique way to spend a New York evening.