Out and About: Fall Comfort Food

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL

Cooking Classes in West Michigan

Imagine stretching a ribbon of freshly made pasta dough hand over hand until the flour and egg mixture spans the length of the kitchen. This dough is then masterfully cut into sections, and 30 students are instructed to slice, fill, and seal their own pasta pockets – Mezzaluna.

The filling is a combination of cheese, fiddlehead ferns, ramps, and treasured morel mushrooms in a wine, stock, and demi-glaze reduction also prepared by the students. They’ve followed the instructions of a delightful, very knowledgeable young woman who boisterously directs them in order to be heard above their sociable chatting and noshing.

The group learns and laughs and ultimately enjoys a full meal they’ve made at this Morel Dinner Class at the Local Epicurean in Grand Rapids. This summer event was topped off with strawberry basil shortcake. Each student dressed a generous slice of cake with toppings such as orange zest, orange liqueur, a splash of brandy, fresh basil, strawberries, and whipped cream made on site.

Additional enticing classes have included Fresh Mozzarella and Butter Making, where students learned to make curds and stretch mozzarella brine as well as infuse fresh-churned butter with herbs, fruit, and even flowers. The Chocolate Lunch explored the art of making chocolate truffles and Belgian sugar waffles. Students can also select from among regional favorites, including Italian dishes such as Sicilian scampi, featuring lobster cakes with pesto aioli, and lobster pasta, where they make and indulge in lobster manicotti with tomato Alfredo sauce.

The Local Epicurean’s mission is to deliver the finest in organic small-batch pasta through classes and at the charming store. Artisan chefs use centuries-old traditions and local products to create and sell pasta with unique fusions of natural organic herbs, vegetables, and flowers.  Colorful products at the store include marigold and oregano pasta, purple pansy and basil pasta, and many more.

A plethora of classes and products are also available at the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids.

Classes here have included Cooking with Beer, which even incorporates beer into the dessert:  chocolate stout cupcakes. Slow Your Roll: Beginner Sushi is a guide to the basics of rolling and preparing three classic sushi rolls using newly learned Japanese knife skills. Japanese beer and sake are available for purchase. Also, Pasta Estivea instructs students in proper rolling techniques for two delicious pasta dishes – a fresh herb fettuccine with homemade Alfredo sauce and a hand-shaped orecchiette with seasonal vegetables. They are complemented with a shaved root veggie salad and wine available for purchase from a curated wine list.

The Downtown Market’s website is a user-friendly resource that allows the selection of classes through categories such as Kids/Teens, Couples, Technique and Skill, and much more.

The Downtown Market is bursting with culinary delights, with restaurants and over 20 vendors, including a butcher (Carver’s), a fishmonger (Fish Lads), and several delis. The Spice Merchant is a great destination for hard-to-find products such as Korintje cinnamon, which is available in many sizes.

Sur La Table, a kitchen supply store in southeast Grand Rapids, is another entertaining venue for classes. A national chain with four locations in Michigan, Sur La Table offers premium cookware and dinnerware, novelty kitchen gadgets, and seemingly limitless classes.

In August, the Late Summer Celebration class uses seasonal ingredients in an apricot and arugula salad and introduces techniques for grilling flank steak with tomatillo corn relish.

Other seasonal-themed classes include Octoberfest Favorites, a Pumpkin Spice Macaron Workshop (with guidance on whipping meringue), and Autumn Favorites, featuring dishes perfectly suited for fall, when diners are ready to turn from summer salads to the comfort foods of autumn, according to the website.

Fall is also a great time for the How To Can Fresh Produce class as well as Cast Iron Cooking. Or explore regional classes such as Parisian Patisserie, Italian Feast, and Thai at Home, which instructs students on creating pad tai, a classic dish of spicy chicken with cashew nuts and jasmine rice.

Sur La Table is a recent addition to the Breton Village Mall area in southeast Grand Rapids, which has undergone a major renovation and is a great fall destination. Fresh Thyme, a year-round Farmers Market and more, is just steps away. Autumn is a lovely time to stroll among the freestanding specialty shops and restaurants.

 

The Local Epicurean 1440 Wealthy Street SE, Grand Rapids / (616) 206-5175, TheLocalEpicurean.com

Sur La Table 2500 Burton Street SE, Grand Rapids / (800) 243-0852, (616) 956-6880, SurLaTable.com

The Downtown Market 435 Ionia Avenue SW, Grand Rapids / (616) 805-5308, DowntownMarketGR.com