I knew this was going to be a good night when I walked into the Spanish-style kitchen and was handed, along with an apron, a champagne flute filled with a deceptively tasty French sparkling aperitif. It was so good that I had no idea how much of it I had drunk by the time the actual cooking part of the class began, which may explain my misuse of a paring knife – but that will come later.
An avid cook, I always wanted to try a cooking class so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to go. I attended Company’s Coming, run by Ed and Jinny Fleischman, veterans of the cooking class business for 35 years. They host classes most Friday and Saturday nights plus some days during the week in their home in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of the District. The kitchen is huge with state-of-the-art appliances and a long island for prep work and demos. There is an attached dining room for guests to enjoy the fruits of their labor at the end of the class.
Ed and Jinny are world travelers and their menus reflect their experiences. This particular evening we would be learning how to prepare foods from the south of France.
The night started off with a goat cheese spread and tuna mousse paired perfectly with Francois Montand and Brut Rose, which guests were free to enjoy while Ed and Jinny explained what exactly we had gotten ourselves into. As goat cheese is not a common staple at home because it’s not cheap, I missed some of the intros while I was thoroughly enjoying the forbidden cheese.
When I came around to taking my place in the kitchen, Jinny was splitting up the guests to start prep work on dinner – cutting up potatoes, peeling garlic, prepping asparagus and chopping up shallots. The second group helped out with preparing the chocolate ice cream for dessert. The guests took turns stirring the milk and chocolate in a saucepan and others helped to combine ingredients in the mixer.
Meanwhile Ed was gaining the respect of the gents as he prepared the grill for the chorizo, smoked beef sausage and the massive leg of lamb. He led most of the guys outside for bonding time with the grill while us girls chatted and drank more Brut Rose.
Ed left a few men to man the grill while Jinny taught the rest of us how to quickly chop up an onion and peel garlic. She said my method of pounding the garlic clove was not the best option (thanks Food Network for embarrassing me). Warning that their knives are sharpened daily, Jinny cautioned us to be extra careful when cutting up the vegetables. I took the paring knife to the red pepper, confident in my cooking abilities. Bad idea because I immediately cut my finger and had to get bandaged up. Damn you champagne. Back to the goat cheese spread for me.
As dinner was coming together, we were all ushered into the dining room where bottles of French red and white wine awaited. A couple at our table were from Australia and the Netherlands and another was a local. Meeting new people was certainly a highlight of the evening.
The soupe au pistou was first, a simple dish with potatoes, carrots, green beans, saffron and bread but topped off with pesto. Trays of the grilled sausage appeared next, hot off the grill. Then the beautiful grilled leg of lamb was laid out in the kitchen and cut up by more guests that were handier with knives than I was. The lamb was accompanied by roasted red potatoes with garlic and an asparagus salad with red pepper and shallots.
Dessert had been churning in the ice cream maker and was ready to make an appearance. Best. Chocolate Ice Cream. Ever.
Ed and Jinny are kind enough to give the recipes used to guests and feature additional ones on their website. It was a wonderful evening, knife injury and all, and I would love to do it again. Even if you have no cooking experience whatsoever, Ed and Jinny are friendly and hands-on and will host an unforgettable evening.
Company’s Coming: 3313 Ross Pl. NW, DC; www.companycoming.com; 202-966-3361. Saturday classes are $75/person, Fridays are $45. Customized classes are available.
DC is one of the Nation’s most popular destinations for food fanatics and casual diners alike. Celebrity chefs, culinary geniuses, and home-grown talents turned chef all flock to Washington to share their creations and grow their talents. The restaurant scene in DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia showcases a delicious combination of political hotspots, beach inspiration, and international influences.
In addition to a flavorful and interesting place to take a culinary journey, DC offers a variety of classes taught by knowledgeable chefs that teach patrons how to make mouth-watering, restaurant quality dishes themselves. Whether you’re looking for a fun way to entertain a promising date, a new girls’/guys’ night activity, or just want to expand your skills, cooking classes are a great way to go.
Averaging 15 years of experience, the instructors offer a variety of classes from around the world, including a Summer Sushi Rolling Class. These courses feature a healthy dose of camaraderie with a pinch of friendly competition with their mini Iron Chef competitions. Though seemingly expensive, the flow of wine paired with a restaurant quality three course meal pays for itself in good food and drink, and a great overall experience.
CulinAerie: 1131 14th St. NW, DC; 202-587-5674; www.culinaerie.com
Just Simply…Cuisine focuses on making restaurant quality meals, like Corn, Lobster, and Roasted Tomato Risotto, with groups or private sessions while using wild, organic, cage-free, naturally produced ingredients. Since 1955, they have been emphasizing the importance of using products from organic, fresh, wholesome farms and dairies in cooking. Owner, Chris Coppola Leibner, describes the atmosphere at Just Simply…Cuisine as “one of the best-kept food secrets” in Washington.
Just Simply…Cuisine: 3224 Cathedral Ave. NW, DC; 202-487-3316; www.justsimplycuisine.com
Leave your passport and your inhibitions at home! If you are interested in Italian language, food or culture the chef says “The best place to learn about Italy is in the kitchen.” First, get hands-on experience preparing four traditional Italian dishes, then relax and enjoy the finished product with fellow students and your knowledgeable instructor.
Casa Italiana: 595 3rd St. NW, DC; 202-638-1348; www.casaitalianaschool.org
Sur la Table:
Sur la Table sells nothing short of the top-of-the-line cookware, tools, and cutlery. Their niche for class and quality carries over into their cooking classes. Offering specialty summer classes like Pizza On the Grille, Grilling Great Seafood, and Sushi 101, Sur la Table is a yummy, elegant place to explore your inner chef!
Sur La Table: 1101 S Joyce St. Arlington, VA; 703-414-3580; www.surlatable.com
L’Academie de Cuisine:
L’Academie de Cuisine offers two types of courses. For those who want to sit back and enjoy some delicious food, there’s the demonstration course, during which the instructor prepares a dynamite meal while the class watches and devours the final product. The preparation classes are for students who want to get hands-on culinary instruction. The class does the cooking with help and oversight from the chef. Finally, for those with hectic schedules, L’Academie de Cuisine, offers a full day of classes on Saturday’s including classes starting at 9 a.m. or 7 p.m.
L’Academie de Cuisine: 5021 Wilson Ln. Bethesda, MD; 301-986-9490; www.lacademie.com