Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tante Marie Cooking School
Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco has been an iconic landmark for the culinary enthusiasts since 1979. They offer classes for the culinary professional, novice or classic foodie who just loves to cook, talk about food and acquire knowledge. The classes range from professional programs, participation courses, guest chef demonstrations or cooking parties.
Tante Marie is located in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Helen and I have taken classes at the school in the past and typically arrive early to enjoy a latte and bagel at the local café about a block away. Inside the school, it is divided into essentially two rooms with ample room to prep and cook amazing food. A few simple housekeeping rules exist and there is a wonderful person onsite to clean up all of the dirty dishes. Now how outstanding is that? All of the utensils, accoutrements, pans, knives and assistance are provided.
Recently my good friend Helen and I took “Italian Comfort Food” with Tori Ritchie. Tori’s approach to making wonderful Italian food is both simple and packed full of flavor. The class is designed around one hour of orientation and instruction with the remaining four hours to cook, learn and of course eat. We had a total of eleven students in the class with an aggressive menu of superb classic Italian delights.
Helen and I decided to conquer the Roasted Tomato-Pine Nut Crostini and Arancini. I thoroughly enjoy the process of gaining new knowledge and have always wanted to learn how to make Arancini. They are relatively simple and the secret is making tasty risotto and using panko breadcrumbs to coat them prior to frying.
Each time we attend, we meet such a wonderful group of people who love to learn and cook. Tori’s teaching style is very approachable and always provides such “real world” instruction and knowledge. We always leave learning several new techniques and recipes.
The “Italian Comfort Food” class was just that ….. pure comfort food with spectacular Italian ingredients such as: porcini mushrooms, pine nuts and rich olive oil. During the class we had a “hands-on” demonstration for making pasta from scratch. We made lasagna noodles from the pasta demonstration to use in the Porcini-White Truffle Lasagna with Fresh Mushrooms and Lasagna Bolognese. Once you take the time to make fresh pasta, you will NEVER purchase the dried lasagna noodles again. If you don’t have time to make, high quality food stores such as Whole Foods sell fresh lasagna noodles.
What Italian meal would be complete with out having Minestrone? We made one with large Cannellini beans and when ready to serve, fresh pesto was drizzled over each bowl. The extra punch of the pesto made the soup out of this world. Insalata Mista is the classic salad served with practically every meal. Typically has radicchio, arugula and escarole with some chopped chives added for extra flavor. The key is to dress the salad with lemon juice, great olive oil and salt, then toss with your hands. Taste along the way to ensure the proper allocations of acidity and balance are there. Finish with several grinds of pepper for a perfect salad.
A few other key dishes made in class were: Roasted Squash Risotto with Gorgonzola and Rosemary, Nonni’s Pot Roast or Ragu or Sugo, and Osso Buco Classico. With the pot roast we added a bit of cinnamon to the dish and it gave it a whole new dimension of flavor and served it over freshly made pappardelle noodles.
The finishing touch to any great meal is dessert. We made a Bittersweet Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato along with a Sacripantina Cake. The Sacripantina is a multilayered cake made with a vanilla sponge cake, zabaglione (a delicate custard made with egg yolks, sweet butter, marsala and sherry wine) cream, and rum. Stella’s Pastry and Café located in the heart of North Beach is the home of the Sacripantina Cake.
What a wonderful day of cooking, friends, learning new things and being in San Francisco. A certified “Foodie” day of perfection!
Tante Marie Cooking School
271 Francisco Street
San Francisco, CA 94133-2010