I love to eat. I grew up in a typical family having typical American food like lots of pot roasts, chicken, and egg salad. After I graduated from college I spent a year in France, where I finally learned something about food. Namely, that I can cook it, and that most restaurants don't offer much that I can't do myself at home for less money and less calories.
I can cook and bake. I do both of these things regularly, but I love to eat out and I think I'm pretty good at it.
Last week a friend and I went to the Visiting Chefs series at the Kellogg Center. The visiting chef was Cathy Whims from Nostrana restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The first night of the two-night event was a "cooking demonstration," and we weren't quite sure what to expect. When we got to the Kellogg we joined about 150 people in one of the big rooms, set up with long tables. We sat at one of the tables and watched Chef Cathy on stage in the front of the room. For about two hours she cooked, talked, took questions from the audience, and we were served samples of what she was cooking on stage.
The menu was:
insalata Nostrana- she described it as a Caesar-type salad, but made with radicchio
Fabio's creamy creamless squash soup
stewed pork with porcini mushrooms and juniper, served with polenta with parmigiano-reggiano cheese
panna cotta, topped with apple compote with apricots
I am a lover of all vegetables and the radicchio salad was no exception. I am not, however, a lover of most squash soups. I find them to be too sweet. This one was pureed with potato and tempered with hot pepper flakes, which took away some of the sweetness. The pork, sadly, didn't blow me away. What I took away from that part of the demonstration was a lesson in how to cook polenta. It is dead easy, which I hadn't expected. Bob's Red Mill polenta will be going into my repertoire.
The panna cotta was absolutely the star of this show. If you're not familiar with panna cotta, I would describe it as kind of a yogurt-y mini flan. It is a dessert that you make the day before (by combining gelatin, cream, vanilla, yogurt, and oil) and then let sit in the refrigerator overnight in individual ramekins. It's not too sweet, not difficult to make, and I scraped my plate. You could top this with anything- lemon curd, something chocolate, the apple compote that Chef Cathy made, or eat it plain with maybe a little espresso on the side. Delicious.
The tickets to the cooking demonstration were $60 per person. Aside from all the food we were also given wine pairings and copies of all the recipes (mine are covered with copious notes.) It was brilliant, Chef Whims was engaging and easy to follow and the crowd was enthusiastic. We loved it.