Robert was recently given a gift certificate for two to attend the Bon Vivant School of Cooking. Bon Vivant is a local cooking school which offers series courses such as “Mastering the Basics” as well as individual cooking classes. Individual classes focus on specific regional cuisines, cooking methods or types of dishes (desserts, salads, etc.) There are also occasional field trips to foodie locales around Seattle such as Pike Place Market.

After browsing through the class listing, I finally settled on the “Saveur Cooks: Spanish Classics” class. Spanish food isn’t my favorite cuisine, but the menu for this class sounded irresistible: Tortilla EspaƱola (Spanish Potato Omelette); Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach with Chickpeas); Alcachofas en su Salsa (Artichokes in Their Own Sauce); Paella de Mariscos (Shellfish Paella); Patatas a la Riojana (Potatoes Stewed with Paprika and Chorizo); Gelat de Crema Catalana (Burnt Cream Ice Cream); Carquinyolis (Catalan Biscotti).

Despite being a pretty popular school, Bon Vivant is definitely a small operation. If you are picturing a big classroom with individual cooking stations for each cook, think again. Most of the classes are run by Louise Hasson out of her home in North Seattle, and the cooking is all done in her single – albeit large – kitchen. It is much more of an intimate experience than you get in other cooking schools. Twelve students in one kitchen gets cozy real fast!

We arrived to find two rows of folding chairs set out facing Louise’s kitchen; on each chair was a printed booklet featuring the recipes we would be preparing that day (all of the recipes for this class come from Saveur Magazine.) Once everyone was seated, Louise briefly went through the recipes with us, noting any quirks or special techniques to watch out for. A sign-up sheet was passed around, and each student signed up for the dish that they were interested in making. Then, we started cooking!

Things were a little chaotic at first. Fortunately, it wasn’t enough to cause anyone to lose a finger and, after a while, everyone settled into a nice rhythm. I had signed up for the artichoke dish. I’ve always been intimidated at the prospect of trimming artichokes down to their hearts, but it proved to be rather easy if somewhat labor-intensive. Once trimmed, the dish was a breeze to prepare. The artichoke hearts are braised very simply in a combination of water, sherry, olive oil, garlic, scallions and parsley. My dish was part of the tapas menu for the day. Robert worked on the other two tapas: the tortilla and the spinach with chickpeas (yes, he pulled his weight in the kitchen much more than I did.)

With the tapas out of the way, our work was done. Robert and I got to sit back with glasses of red wine and champagne and watch the other students prepare the rest of the meal. Seeing the paella being made was a highlight – paella is always a stunning dish to look at and, since it is cooked in a huge, wide pan, it was easy for everyone to watch the entire process. The flavor didn’t disappoint either. The mussels and prawns were cooked perfectly, and the rice was enjoyably chewy and flavorful. I also particularly liked the stewed potato dish and the artichokes (and not just because I made them – it was just a really tasty dish.)

We were sent home with Saveur-inspired goodie bags, and Robert was the lucky winner of a $25 gift certificate to! If you like cooking or are just looking for something fun and a little different to do, check out the Bon Vivant School of Cooking. Louise really knows her stuff. I’ve been cooking for a long time, but I still picked up a few tips here and there. Now that Robert and I are experts, it has already been decided that the theme for my family’s Christmas Eve feast this year will be Spanish Classics!

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment