I love dumplings..actually, I love any starch covered meat/seafood/vegetable whether it’s fried, boiled, steamed or sauteed! I attended a really unique and fun cooking class organized by AIWF’s DC Chapter with Executive Chef Scott Drewno at The Source in downtown DC on Saturday, February 9th, 2013. Here are the highlights and some photos – you WILL salivate when you see the dishes..and honestly, I just can’t forget the mouth-watering aromas of ginger, garlic and soy in so many wonderful combinations..in some ways you really need your sense of smell to appreciate this post!
1)Layout – very unique and maybe a bit daunting at the beginning, but there were 3 separate seating areas with 3 individual cooking demonstration stations. It was sort of like theater in the round, with the main Chef Scott Drewno in the middle station (he’s on the far left in the photo above) with his “Madonna” headseat on and 2 separate chefs demonstrating on opposite/perpendicular sides of the stage – I guess you could call it a 3-Chef C-Stage Cooking Demonstration. Unusual, but it worked mainly because of the entertainment value and also because you could watch your own chef – a very creative use of a space that actually is difficult to layout for classroom style events!
2)The Menu – I usually have a pretty low expectation of a cooking class that is simple food like dumplings, but then again, I know chef Drewno notoriously is an impressive foodie and he couldn’t (wouldn’t) let us down. Here’s the menu and dish photos are below:
Chinese New Dumpling Class Menu
-Chinese Spare Ribs, Black Bean Glaze
-Sea Scallop Sui Mai, Curried Lobster Emulsion
-Pork Belly Pot Stickers, Black Vinegar, Chili Oil
-Szechuan Style Green Beans, Candied Walnuts
-Crystal Chive Dumpling, Kurobuta Pork, King Crab
-Chilled Cucumber Salad, Toasted Sesame, Togarashi
-Szechuan “Dan Dan” Dumpling, Organic Chicken, Peanut Sauce
-Millet Congee, Red Braised Pork Belly, Pickled Butternut Squash Relish
3)The Process – we sat down at various dining room tables and actually got some hands-on hand-rolling of 2 kinds of pork dumplings, we each had 2 wrappers of each kind to roll. Now we got a complete explanation and demo of how to roll, and then we rolled up our sleeves, dipped our finger in the egg wash and wrapped up the mini-balls of meat into dumplings. Some people were good, some were ok, and some simply had falling apart dumplings, but hey, we weren’t going to eat these anyway – the meal was prepared for us. Primarily a demonstration cooking class, I found myself talking to my fellow Foodies more than actually listening to the class – I probably could have learned more, but honestly the vibe in the room and the amount of alcohol being served (sparkling wine and that tasty Dragon’s Fire Cocktail with Tequila!) kept the noise/buzz omni-present – if this had been my first cooking class, maybe a bad thing, but for experienced Foodies it was actually a really fun event.
4)The meal – served primarly family style (except for the Millet Congee and the dessert), it was fun to share with 3 other people at my table. My Foodie Buddie Bruce Miller (who has attended at least 200 TasteDC events or more in the past) was very experienced at these events. I actually prefer the family style method of serving – it helps create rapport and camaraderie. By sharing food, I learned more about my newfound fellow foodies than if everything had been individually plated. Some specific comments: the variety of dishes, proteins and vegetables was very thought out – from garlicky clams to
rich pork belly and braised pork belly, back to the Sea Scallops Sui Mai and then finally to the deliciously syrupy dessert (I forget the name!). Also the Chilled Cucumber Salad helped to cool my palate and acted sort of like an Amuse Bouche between dishes – actually the Cocktail did the same with it’s Tequila and grapefruit – a very smart way of using a drink to refresh the palate!
5)Service – I was really impressed by the Source’s staff and presentation and service – they cared..something that you don’t always get with service nowadays, but each server was focused and putting in effort. There were many parts too – the hot hand towels which came out twice, the initial layout of the wrappers on a small granite plate with a moist towel on top to protect the integrity of the dumpling wrappers, the pouring of sparkling wine, the making and serving of the cocktail, and the actual serving of the food which was primarily family style. There was one obliteration of glassware episode – and I mean ExPloDing glass – but luckily it was to the side, and the server quickly cleaned it up – no harm, no foul..in fact, maybe an extra plus for handling a delicate situation so well!
6)Overall Impression – very professional presentation and staff, but not stiff – I felt like things were being taken care of without pretense. This event was very much theater in the round and in fact, there were two un-affiliated groups of people present – the AIWF DC Chapter and a list of Chef Scott Drewno’s contacts/Foodies. I thought the cooking layout of 3 chef demonstration stations although unusual, it created some theater and a chance for more discussion – and it was the best use of the available space which is awkwardly broken up by an atrium/stairwell. The space is actually quite visually pleasing with the extensive windows and the wine wall next to the stairwell. Chef Drewno is also a very good presenter and entertaining and answered questions clearly from the audience – Scott knows his Asian ingredients – oh, and this WaPo article will give you some background on that. Really curious about ethnic food? Then Check Out Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler