Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

November 20, 2017

© Kevin Clark

Chef David Roberstson from Vancouver's Dirty Apron.

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Going cooking in Canada

Classes across the country to sharpen your culinary skills

A fabulous new dining experience can be as close as your kitchen. Take a cooking course this fall, dazzle your taste buds then invite family and friends to join you for a meal and dazzle theirs. Writer Lin Stranberg shares some tips and tasty bites she picked up in Montreal, in Prince Edward Country just outside of Toronto and Vancouver. Similar courses in towns big and small across the country are only a web search away.

Treats in Vancouver

My daughter added excitement and depth to the summer by giving birth to her first child on the West Coast. My cooking extravaganza began while visiting mother and baby. Vancouver, with its vibrant food and craft beer culture, has lots of different cooking classes. I zeroed in on “Friday Night Bites,” a new demo-and-dine class at The Dirty Apron (dirtyapron.com), a gourmet deli known for its cooking school and best-selling cookbook. David Robertson, owner, author and chef, teaches the class himself.

The hands-on cooking classes — many themed for couples, singles, kids or teens — accommodate more than a thousand people a month and are usually waitlisted. In response, “Friday Night Bites” was launched this spring.

“It’s got a smaller price point and is more relaxed,” Chef David says. “It’s a great night out for people who don’t want to cook, but would like to enjoy a few glasses of wine and a good dinner. There’s no intimidation factor.”

After seeing the excellent Picasso: The Artist and His Muses exhibit, on now through October 2 at the Vancouver Art Gallery (vanartgallery.bc.ca), I walked over to the Crosstown area and took a seat at one of The Dirty Apron’s communal tables. I was ready to taste some of BC’s finest regional cuisine — halibut cheeks, spot prawns, the Peking breed of duck from the Fraser Valley — and learn how it’s done. It was a little like watching a professional magician at a private party. Chef David talked, waved his hands, asked questions and answered them.

“How do you tell prawns are fresh? When the meat sticks to the shell.” “How do you tell fish is cooked? Flaking and opaquing!” “Score and marinate duck breast, then cook it low, slow and in control. You want to render the fat in the pan.”

Our group took on his chatty vibe, fortified with flights of wine paired with each course. Chef David kept us interested and on track throughout. Enjoying each course was a fleeting pleasure, but the experience stayed with me well after my flight back home. Two-hour Friday Night Bites Dine and Demo classes cost $95.

Grilling in Prince Edward County

During a weekend in Prince Edward County, a foodie hotspot and favourite Ontario getaway, I chose a “Sunday Morning Grilling Techniques” class with Chef Jordon McGinnis, part of a package deal at The Waring House Inn (waringhouse.com). The historic property outside Picton seemed like a good spot to whisk up my skills for summer entertaining.

The cookery school and guest lodges are clustered near the old inn, a limestone farmhouse built around 1860. We had a lodge room with a balcony and environmentally-friendly features, including an energy-efficient electric fireplace with a snazzy faux flame. At dinner, we snagged a window table at the main restaurant, Amelia’s Garden, and went back for breakfast before the class.

There were eight of us. We were all ages, genders and backgrounds yet it was as relaxed and enjoyable as a weekend house party coming together to cook Sunday lunch. We tied on our black aprons, chef’s helper Kayleigh Anne passed around the menu sheets and Chef Jordon ran down our action plan for cooking a barbecue spread. “We’ll focus on ways you can look at average dishes and really improve them,” he said. “The simpler a dish is, the harder it is. You don’t have a lot of ingredients to hide behind.”

We worked in teams, two to a workstation, making buttermilk cornbread; warm asparagus with pancetta, pine nuts and leek; potato salad and a sweet chili barbecue sauce. Most of us had time to cook two or three dishes. Chef Jordon, a food sciences buff, demystified sous vide, the vacuum-bag-in-a-water-bath cooking method popularized by high-end chefs, as he demonstrated techniques for grilling maple-glazed salmon, sous-vide-prepped steak, and chicken with the sweet chili sauce.

We enjoyed it all together over lunch then left with recipes and helpful tips. “Brine chicken then grill over low heat to make it moist and tender.” “Add a few drops of vinegar to the water when you boil potatoes. It keeps them from crumbling.” Classes are approximately three hours long and cost $115.

Pastry in Old Montreal

Wander into La Maison Christian Faure (maisonchristianfaure.ca) in Old Montreal and you’ll get a flash of somewhere far away. It’s all thick stone walls, cozy tables and an out-of-this-world display of elegant desserts.

It’s French pastry art and quelle surprise! It’s all made in the downstairs atelier of the 300-year-old building at 355 Place Royale, across from the Pointe-à-Callière Museum (pacmusee.qc.ca). The discreet little elevator has trick up its sleeve: it takes you to a state-of-the-art international pastry school as well. There’s a six-month curriculum, the brainchild of elite pastry chefs who, like Lyon-born Chef Faure, are Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, the crème de la crème of French gastronomy.

For those of us whose day jobs are far from the kitchen, “Serious Amateurs” classes are offered on Saturday afternoons. Six hours of demos and hands-on creation of things like macaroons, sorbets, even the towering triumph of a croquembouche — it’s the real deal. Prices range from $250 for a single class to $950 for five and $1800 for a 10-class package.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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