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Entries in Not-boring culinary education (9)


My Masters program is cooler than yours

Yep.  It's true.  My Masters program IS cooler than your Masters program.  Reason #286:  For last night's "Comparative Cuisine" session, our professor took us out of the classroom and in to the kitchen.  We broke up in to five teams of approximately five/six, and prepared two-three dishes based on traditional Israeli and Palestinian recipes.   My team was assigned to make cheese bourekas and kanafeh.

Cheese bourekas topped with sesame seeds: We even made the dough from scratch!After everyone finished preparing their respective dishes, we sat down and "broke bread" together.  And toasted with Israeli and Lebanese wines. 

Tabbouleh: Chopped red onion, tomato, cucumber, and bulgur saladLabneh: Strained yogurt dip/accompaniment drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za'atarHummus: Dip/accompaniment made from chickpeas, tahini, oilive oil, and spicesIsraeli chopped salad and fried eggplant slicesChicken schnitzel and Israeli couscousDeconstructed kibbeh: Bulgur, minced onion, and ground lamb Shakshuka: Eggs poached in a robust tomato sauce...and those are just a handful of the dishes from last night.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to snap photos of the gorgeous kanafeh dessert we made - or the other half of the appetizers and entrees!

Considering that we are still early in the semester and many of us are new to the program (we do not know each other yet), I thought that last night's "kitchen class" was a brilliant way for us to interact and bond.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


A fromage fetish: Sexy Cheeses & Sumptuous Wines

Commitment.  The word, alone, kind of terrifies me.  But especially when it comes to  my precious week nights.  So, you can imagine my angst when I signed up for Tuesday evening's 2-hour "Sexy Cheeses and Sumptuous Wines" cheese course at Artisanal.  Nearly two months ago...

With 45-minutes to spare, I walked across town (towards Artisanal Premium Cheese Center's brutally far-west-side abode), and grabbed a margarita at Angelo Sosa's new Anejo Tequileria & Restaurante.  Although Village Voice claims that they pour NYC's #1 Margarita, I wasn't sold.  Pinche gringos nortenos!  Don't get me wrong, the 'rita was fine/decent, but it wasn't anywhere near the best version in town.  However, the coolest part about Anejo is the fact that their strong margaritas are on-tap!  Not only is this awesome in and of itself, but it cuts the time from customer order to service in half.  This is music to a margarita addict's ears!  Oh, and on weekends, they serve a "prixe-fix & bottomless brunch" for $38, which includes:  Coffee/tea, brunch, plus all of the Bloody Maria's, Mimosas, or Margaritas you can drink!  Seriously, I can't recall the last time I heard something sofa king exciting!


Shortly before the 6:30pm start time, I arrived at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center for my class.  When the elevator opened to the second floor, all I saw were offices.  This is the company's headquarters, after all.  A friendly woman directed me towards the classroom area, which was interrupted by a gathering space.  Bottles of champagne and flutes, plus a sizeable cheese board sat atop a long, rectangular table.  Chairs and ottomans lined the room's perimeter. 

"Please, help yourself to cheese.  Fondue will be coming out shortly.  We're just finishing it up.  Would you like a glass of champagne?"  I almost asked the employee if I was at the wrong class/location, until the instructor approached and introduced herself as "Erin, your teacher for tonight's 'Sexy Cheeses and Sumptuous Wines' class."  Whoa.  They sure didn't do all of this at Murray's Cheese (classes)!  This fromage and bubbles "reception," if you will, lasted from 6:30-7pm, giving each student an ample amount of time to arrive, snack, imbibe, and meet fellow classmates.

Our class began promptly at 7pm.  For the first 30-45 minutes, we learned some interesting history and factoids about cheese.  I was also surprised to discover that this particular location was home to Artisanal's cheese caves!  Hey, you've got to love creative, space-deprived New Yorkers!  But, certainly, the most memorable part of the lecture came when our teacher listed her "top 10 reasons that cheese is sexy."  Shortly thereafter, we began to taste our cheeses and wines, both separately and together. 

Artisanal trademarked their own "cheese clock" that is both logical and user friendly.  We followed the "clock" in class: 

  • At 6 o'clock  Start your cheese plate with young mild goats, double or triple cremes or bloomy rind cheeses.
  • At 9 o'clock  The next type of cheese should be soft to semi-firm, like a mild cow, an aged goat or a sheep milk cheese.
  • At 12 o'clock  Your next cheese can become stronger, bolder and nuttier like hard mountain, long-aged cheddars and mild washed rind ("stinky") cheeses.
  • At 3 o'clock  To finish, choose cheeses with a bigger presence, such as more assertive washed rind cheeses or a classic blue cheese like Roquefort.


The cheeses we sampled are as follows (beginning at "6 o'clock" and moving clockwise).  Note that we tasted each cheese with four different wines.  The "wine pairing" listed by each cheese, below, is what I found ideal with the said sample:

*The cheese plate was accompanied by chunks of fresh baguette.

  1. Geit-in-Stad, Netherlands:  Goat milk / Sweet, mild, grainy, with a "cajeta" aftertaste.  Wine pairing:  Arneis Ceretto 2010, or Valpolicella Classico Superiore Riapsso Buglion 2007
  2. Robiola due Latti, Italy:  Mixed milk (cow and sheep) /  Savory, creamy, with an edible rind.  Wine pairing:  Viura Rioja Cortijo 2010
  3. Taleggio, Italy:  Cow Milk / Salty, soft, melts-in-your-mouth.  Wine pairing:  Arneis Ceretto 2010
  4. Idiazabal, Spain:  Sheep milk / Smoky, nutty, semi-hard.  Wine pairing:  Viura Rioja Cortijo 2010
  5. Appenzeller, Switzerland:  Cow Milk / Nutty, similar in taste to gruyere.  Wine pairing:  Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre Cotes du Rhone Ch. Beauchene 2009   
  6. Gouda, Netherlands:  Cow Milk / Sweet, nutty, flaky, hint of caramel/butterscotch.  Wine pairing:  Arneis Ceretto 2010
  7. Roquefort, France:  Sheep milk / Buttery, pungent, creamy.  Wine pairing:  Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre Cotes du Rhone Ch. Beauchene 2009  


With about 5-minutes left of class, we were informed that, if interested, we could order any one - or all - of the cheeses that we had just enjoyed.  I cannot wait to receive my gouda! 

Cheese classes makes me feel so grown-up and sophisticated.  Having only ever attended similarly-priced Murray's courses, I will never look back:  Without a doubt, Artisanal has the classiest, most bang-for-your-buck, top-notch cheese education program in NYC.  If not the country/world. 

I cannot wait to take another class; in fact, I'm considering hosting a personal event here - after all, my birthday is only months away!  And that's quite a big statement coming from a commitment-phobe!   

Artisanal Premium Cheese

483 10th Avenue

NY, NY 10018

P: 1-877-797-1200


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


Chocolate + love stories with Jacques & Hasty Torres

De Gustibus Cooking School: "Icing On The Cake" class, taught by Jacques & Hasty Torres


Allie Beck, my dear friend and recent FCI grad, invited me as her +1 for Jacques Torres' "Icing On The Cake" class held at the De Gustibus Cooking School.  "Meet me on the 8th floor of Macy's at 5:20pm," she instructed.  "What's Macy's got to do with this?"  I wondered.  Well sure enough, De Gustibus does occupy an ample amount of space on the department store's 8th floor.

I wasn't sure what to expect from, not only this particular "school," but the class itself.  Would we be cooking?  Should I have worn close-toed shoes?  

Our class of approximately 40 students was warmly greeted by Her Culinary Majesty, Arlene Sailhac, who introduced instructors, Jacques "Mr. Chocolat" Torres, and his wife, Hasty "Madame Chocolat" Torres.  Luckily for us students, our only assignment was to observe the Mister and his Missus as they prepared a chocolate tasting, and spoke candidly about everything from cocoa nibs to falling in love.   

Please enjoy some of my favorite snapshots from 3 glorious, Tattinger champagne + chocoloate-filled hours with Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Torres...

Jacques & Hasty TorresFellow classmatesAmuse bouche of sweet chocolate and savory marscapone cheese100% chocolate! Note the purse that she's carrying, which is chocolate, too!I dream of Christian Louboutin pumps made out of solid chocolate...Marshmallow-on-a-stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed graham crackersTasting plate: clockwise - chocolate marshmallows, peanut brittle drizzled with dark chocolate, mendientsVanilla-bean custard-filled bomboloni: the stuff that death-row wish lists are made of


Food blogging with Steven Shaw: online journalism pioneer, author and James Beard Award-winning food critic

Blogging has taken the worldwide web by storm, leaving the publishing industry to question, "What is the future of print media?

I was honored to have been invited to sit in on the first of six "Food Blogging with Steven Shaw" classes at the International Culinary Center.  Virtual food writing has come a long way since Mr. Shaw began his website, www.egullet.org, in the late 1990's; and even further since I conceptualized The Lunch Belle in the summer of 2007.  Having taught myself how to create/design my blog, I wasn't really aware of the vast array of food-centric resources and how-to courses available.  How naive of me!   

Steven Shaw uses The Lunch Belle (website) as an example in "Food Blogging with Steven Shaw"

The six week course, which lasts for about two hours on Thursday evenings, is perfect for those who wish to start/expand a food blog, but haven't done so or proceeded due to lack of time, confidence, skill, etc.  Mr. Shaw teaches students from step "one" to step "done," using www.wordpress.com as his platform of choice.  In this first class, we learned:

  • Tidbits of the history of print media and how it's rapidly morphing in to web-based media
  • Just how easy it is to procure your own blog on a free platform, such as www.wordpress.com
  • The most successful blogs are updated daily in order to maintain/pique readers' interest

Prior to our first meeting, Mr. Shaw asked that the class bring their cameras.  L'Ecole's manager (who also happens to be a sommelier) prepared a sherry tasting for us, where we were encouraged to take pictures.  As you can see, photography goes hand-in-hand with food blogging.

Sherry tastingOver the course of the six week sessions, Mr. Shaw has lined up visits from some of food industry's "who's who," including: photographer Melissa Hom, Alan Richman, and Adam Roberts.  Additionally, students receive one-on-one email diaglogue and critique with Mr. Shaw between classes.  While the course is pricey (think $795), those who are very serious about getting in to food blogging should look at this fee as an investment towards their future.  Can a price-tag be put on receiving first-hand instruction and insight from some of the culinary industry's greatest leaders? 

In conclusion, I was very impressed with Mr. Shaw's enthusiasm, instruction, knowledge, and engagement.  I cannot wait to virtually follow his students on their journey towards food blogging fame and achievement!