Sarah and I recently won a gift certificate to a Viking cooking class from Live to Cook at Homeand Heinen’s. We’re looking for uses for our upcoming bountiful crop (hopefully), so we took the From Farm to Table class.

Viking has a very nice kitchen complete with envy-inspiring Viking appliances everywhere. All of the students sat around a large granite counter with the instructor at the end.

The class started with a mini knife skills course as there’s plenty of chopping when you’re using fruits and vegetables. Our instructor, Jen, was very helpful in showing us how to do this. I’d already taken a Viking Knife Skills class, so I helped Sarah a bit while we were chopping.

Our first task was chopping everything we’d be using for the whole night. This was both for the sake of mise en place and so we could start on the wine (for obvious reasons it’s not brought out while people are chopping). As it turned out, though, the wine wasn’t served until everything was prepared and we went on break.

The menu consisted of the following:

Seasonal Soup (Asparagus and Potato) w/herb pesto
Market Salad with Niman Ranch Applewood-Smoked Bacon
Rustic Vegetable (Tomato) Tart with Goat Cheese
Fresh Fruit Cobbler (strawberry and rhubarb) w/ Fresh Fruit Ice Cream

Besides chopping, our other preparation included cooking the soup and assembling the tart, salad and cobbler (the topping above is “glopped” on the fruit, to use Jen’s term). Nothing was particularly difficult, and we’ll definitely be making some of these recipes at home. We were a bit disappointed, considering the “farm to table” theme, that more of the produce wasn’t local (with the exception of the excellent local strawberries).

Jen was enjoyable to work with, knowledgeable and helpful. She also runs J. Gatto Catering, and told us a little bit about her roundabout journey to becoming a chef.

We very much enjoyed the tomato tart and look forward to making it again using garden produce. The heirloom tomatoes added a particularly sweet and complex flavor which paired perfectly with the buttery tart and creamy goat cheese. The recipe also suggested squash and caramelized onions for winter, which sounds really good as well.

I also really liked the strawberry-rhubarb tart, but Sarah wasn’t crazy about the presence of rhubarb.

The other dishes were a bit less exciting. The soup (which was partially pureed with a stick blender) could have used more garlic (and perhaps more salt, which was my fault) but I thought the pesto saved it from blandness. The salad wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t inspired either–basically just fresh vegetables, bacon and blue cheese. They also didn’t get Niman Ranch bacon (which I had been a bit excited about), but the Honey Dijon-herb dressing was excellent. There were also some “sample recipe” we didn’t make in our handout that we look forward to trying: Seeded Herb Crackers, Garden Vegetable Gratin and Agua Frescas.

Overall, it was a very good class and an enjoyable experience. Jen was the strongest element and the recipes were generally quite good. The minor problems–non-local produce, wrong brand of bacon, wine served late–seemed to be more of a prep issue on Viking’s part, which will hopefully be corrected in future classes.

Thanks to Heinens and Dave at Live to Cook at Home for the class!

  • Bite Buff

    I really need to get out there and take a class. It sounds like fun! I am a terrible cook and could stand to have some lessons. :)

  • Darcy

    That tart looks yummo except for my aversion to goat cheese. I wonder what I could use instead? Also, very much looking forward to the seeded crackers experiments. I want to make some crackers and my very lazy flips through a few cookbooks didn’t turn up any recipes and I haven’t braved the onslaught of online options yet.

    My sweetie took that knife skills class at Viking a while ago, and it was great for him. He also brought home some yummy leftover chicken fajitas, although I was told later by a somewhat snooty salesclerk there that taking home leftovers is “not usually done.” Although, ultimately I think what he learned was that he would rather I do the chopping, please, whenever possible.

  • Ben

    @Bite Buff: You should! The classes are a lot of fun, you learn a lot, and they’re a definite confidence-builder.

    @Darcy: Sarah asked about alternate cheeses as well, and cheddar or fresh mozzarella would both work (the latter making for a “caprese” tart). I’ve had cooking classes before where they’re antsy about boxing up leftovers (some kind of legal issue) but they were fine with it this time around.


  • Jill

    Just found your blog through Eating Food My Way. I just moved to the Heights two weeks ago, so I look forward to following it. I have been to numerous classes at Viking. They usually serve water or coffee during the class and then the wine after. And don’t let anyone tell you taking home leftovers “just isn’t done.” I’ve been to about 10 classes and took home leftovers in all but one of them. The classes are pricey. I would insist on taking them home.

    • Ben

      @Jill: Most cooking classes I’ve been to anywhere say they’re not licensed to let people take home leftovers, but each one of them does. I’m glad you found our blog.