Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dining under the Stars


With as much excitement as sitting in the front row of a Broadway musical, the anticipation for the "Hands On Cooking Class" started a few weeks back when I realized I would be able to offer delectable, delicious, full bodied wines which each course. Va La winery in Avondale provided 3 intoxicating wines to pair with the abundant foods we would be creating that evening.

~La Prima Donna, their premier White, An elegant name suited for this exceptional golden wine.
~Silk, This brick colored, dry Rosato type wine, served chilled goes down as smooth as the name implies.
~Cinderbox, a rustic, full body wine, decanted for a perfect robust yet soft taste.

Taking a few hours each morning I crafted the recipes and planned the dinner. It had a Italian flair, an accent from the hills of Italy. I love to cook food from The Motherland, as Clint calls it.

I woke up early to start the prep work for this exciting class. It would be a cool day with all the windows open and a steady breeze blowing through the kitchen.

Bamboo cutting boards, sharp knives, wooden paddles, stainless steel bowls crowded the work tables.
I set out the raw ingredients at each place, laying measuring spoons and cups alongside sea salt and extra virgin Olive oil.
The white wine La Prima Donna, a wine so crisp and flavorful it is hard to stop drinking, lay flat, cooling along side Silk, a lighter red wine, in the fridge, nestled among bowls of shrimp and platters of prosciutto and sharp cheese. I opened and decanted the rich Cinderbox Red, arranging the bottles soldier-like on the antique carpenters bench, laden with crostini and bruschetta to nibble as we cooked.

A stack of aprons neatly folded alongside dishtowel and printed recipes sit waiting for the class to arrive.

A cool evening filled with the promise of rich wines and sauteing garlic awaits us.

Recipes at the ready, my guests stream in excited to begin this culinary adventure. I take them for a tour of the kitchen, introduce the wines and foods we will prepare and the evening begins with excitement and anticipation.

We dice and slice and saute our way through laughter. There is a camaraderie here. We are cooking together, sharing this experience, I look around and feel truly happy, my home is filled with people who appreciate and love good food and wine. We are cooking together and having fun.

Each station holds husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, childhood friends, brothers and sisters, cooking together, laughing and sharing the one thing that always brings us together~food and wine.

We cook a Summer Crab and Corn Chowder, with corn sheared from the cob and succulent jumbo crab meat floating in a sea of coarsely chopped vegetables, ribbons of linguine coated in a Blush Vodka Sauce swimming with garlic laced shrimp, flattened Baby Potatoes sprinkle with a glitter of sea salt and browned in extra virgin olive oil, bright green String Beans tossed with golden strips of prosciutto and caramelized golden shallots, a refreshing Arugula Salad with shaved sharp cheese in a light vinaigrette, oven-roasted Shitake Mushrooms, so good I can eat them like candy, a tuna and Olive Tapenade, made with tuna packed in shimmering olive oil and juicy fat olives, a Herb Encrusted Pork Loin rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs, roasted to perfection, Zucchini Coins bathed in a light tomato sauce and crowned with a golden crust of locatelli cheese, glistening Roasted Yellow and Red Peppers blackened by fire and peeled and bathed in olive oil, topped with crusty Italian bread crumbs, Cipolline,the tiny onions swimming in a agrodolce syrup, Fettunta,with the sharp taste of arugula and Parmesan cheese, spread on toasted peasant bread, fried Italian long peppers with globes of whole garlic cooked in and gathering the hot smoky taste of the peppers, and finally the curtain call ~ a Raspberry Chantilly Mousse studded with fresh raspberries and laced with berry liqueur.

We cooked into the darkness of the evening, laughing, sharing, learning and sipping that wonderful wine.
We gathered around the 10 foot long table to eat and enjoy the fruits of our labor, friends together with a feast before us that we will likely never forget.

The magic of simple delicious foods and perfectly paired wines on a perfect starry night, a memory to keep and savor.


  1. Bravissima, my friend! This looks like a bellisima sera! Absolutely gorgeous menu. Hats off to you for really showing how to do it the right way!

  2. Yummy and fun all rolled up in one! Looks like a great time was had by all.