Posts Tagged ‘cooking classes’

Sur La Table Hands-On Cooking Class in Pentagon City – Hold the Wine, But Lot’s of Fun Anyway!

August 21st, 2013 • No Comments

I hadn’t been to cooking class at Sur La Table in Pentagon City in a long time – maybe 6 years, so it was time to visit one of the original recreational cooking schools in the Washington, D.C. area. The class I took was hands-on – The Best of Szechuan Cooking – and was a great excuse to get my wok skills going again. Wine isn’t allowed to be consumed..so I was bit hyped on tea, but I guess change is always good!

I flipped for this Dish!

I flipped for this Dish!

I actually haven’t owned a wok in over 10 years – in college, I learned how to use a wok from a guy who demonstrated its use in a class on public speaking – he made it seem so accessible, that I used to make alot of my meals in college and grad school with a wok. What I really enjoy about this type of cooking is that once all the ingredients are prepped, the actual cooking isn’t fussy, you just basically add the ingredients at high heat, keep it moving and eat!
Joe Lipinski - Cooking Instructor Extraordinaire!

Joe Lipinski – Cooking Instructor Extraordinaire!

The class was taught by Joe Lipinski who’s title is “Resident Chef” but it really should be Head Culinary Entertainer and Coordinator – he had an excellent rapport with the group and it was obvious he enjoyed engaging the group. DC is a tough town for strangers to meet – intense is a word I often hear for the personality of Washingtonians – and he did a good job at letting people sort of entertain themselves while keeping the cooking in the direction it needed to go. Alot of corporate recruiters and managers could take a lesson from this guy!


2013-08-20 19.15.16Hot and Sour Soup:
This was a very simplified recipe for the dish which can include strange ingredients like wood mushrooms, black fungus and wild lilies – in this recipe, those were replaced from a very available ingredient: shiitake mushrooms. The key to this dish is to balance the hot (which came from hot chile oil) with the sour – rice vinegar worked for this dish. If you balance those two items, you can actually use any ingredients that add heat and acidity like hot peppers for heat and lemon, lime or various vinegars to balance the flavors. Since the pork is really just being simmered in the soup, another animal protein like chicken can work too..oh, and this is an excuse to add tofu to your diet which adds a fun texture to the soup!

2013-08-20 19.43.52Noodles with Ground Pork (Ants Climbing a Tree)
I love noodles, but when you go to an Asian market like H-Mart or Grand Mart, the choices can be overwhelming (and quite intimidating!) – so it’s always nice to get some hands on practice. In this case, the “tree” in the dish is mung bean noodles which were pre-boiled and cooled so they could be added to the dish with the “ants” ie. seared and browned ground pork, to create a wonderful meshing of flavors.

2013-08-20 20.51.39Bang Bang Chicken
Essentially, broth boiled chicken in a chunky peanut sauce – what makes this dish interesting and delicious is really the cold lettuce leaves and cucumber and carrots against the savory chicken. This is a dish that you could either forget about or relish for a fun outdoor BBQ/picnic type of event or an easy to throw together leftover dinner. What’s astonishing is that little changes in your dish like crispy lettuce (or could you make this into a sandwich with bread?), crunchy veggies – which could be replaced with a kimchi or some kind of relish, could actually make this a fun variable dish that could change with your moods!

2013-08-20 20.43.28Dry-Fried Green Beans with Chile Sauce
Essentially this is some type of green been (traditional Chinese long green beans or vericots vert work just fine as well..), seared and blistered at a high temperature with lot’s of flavorful ginger, garlic and chile paste to create a sticky, hot sauce that makes this either a hot side dish or a fun cold dish that could be added to cold lettuce or even possibly a little feta cheese for a fun refreshing summer afternoon. This is a go-to dish – especially because I’m not a fan of boiled green beans, and they seem to be so prevalent at the Farmer’s Market..

Enjoy this overview of my fun hands-on cooking class at Sur La Table – here are also some fun cooking classes you may want to take at Sur La Table Pentagon City:

Coastal Italian Cuisine, Saturday, August 24th, 10 am , Sur La Table Pentagon City

2-Day Baking Workshop, Thursday and Friday 11 am, August 29th and 30th, Sur La Table Pentagon City h

Paella Making Class and Dinner, Thursday, September 5th, La Tasca (Chinatown)

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Suthn Cookin’ at Union Kitchen in DC

March 4th, 2013 • No Comments

I wanted to learn how to make the juiciest fried chicken and fluffiest biscuits in DC..

Chicken in the Fryer..

Chicken in the Fryer..

Fried Chicken..Yummy!

Fried Chicken..Yummy!

I had the really great luck to attend a cooking class on Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at a totally new facility in DC – the Union Kitchen. So you may ask what exactly IS Union Kitchen? That actually might be hard to explain, but let me give it a try – it’s a place for Start-Up food businesses to go the next level in production and ultimately business success. But not always..it’s also a commercial kitchen for Food Trucks and other food producers who can schedule a time and then produce their product for commercial purposes..but it’s also one more thing – a potentially excellent venue for hands-on cooking classes and events. In a nutshell, it’s an exciting opportunity for food ventures in DC to go to the next level – I was PSYCHED to go to this event! (Note: Here’s a really good explanation by City Paper )

Union Kitchen - DC's Newest Food Business Incubator!

Union Kitchen – DC’s Newest Food Business Incubator!

The Chef: I stole this from the Chef’s bio on her website, but I also would like to add that the chef was excellent at organizing and teaching a cooking class – she had wonderful rapport with the 10 attendees and she was very organized and straight to the point of the class – let’s get cookin’! Jessica also mentioned to me that she’s working on a commercial recipe for her Southern pimento cheese ..but I didn’t get much detail, I’m sure there will be more to tell..From her page: Jessica O’Neal started JLOkitchens to share her love of Southern cuisine with the District. She teaches cooking classes at CulinAerie, is a personal chef for a very tall man and is currently developing a line of Southern food products at Union Kitchen. She will gladly trade you her tasty pimento cheese for honest feedback and/or champagne.

The Class: This class was held in a commercial kitchen, so we used the same industrial equipment that all of the commercial businesses use, but our recipe was for producing similar amounts to what we would make at home. We got right down to cracking eggs, adding them to the flour with hunks of butter and making biscuits. The basic format was that we were shown how to make each dish with basic recipes and then broken down into groups to cook for the group.

The Secret to Great Biscuits: 1) cut in half..

The Secret to Great Biscuits: 1) cut in half..

Step 2: Layer and Press!

Step 2: Layer and Press!

The Menu:

Sweet Potato Herb Biscuits with Honey Butter – I finally learned the secret of making great biscuits – hunks of butter and folding the flour and compressing to create layers for steam and flakiness..
Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken – I actually missed the recipe for this part and basically all I did was flip some fried chicken (my fault – I was off on a tour of the facility!)-a much longer than expected slow fry in the oil made this chicken both crispy and cooked through..but the meat was really juicy – I ate it down to the bone!



-Creamy Cheddar Grits with Smoky Greens – this is actually 2 dishes, but they were combined. The secret is in both the type of corn grits and in the way they are ground – stone ground is best. And cheese was added at the very end only as a topping, rather than in the cooking process. We used curly Kale, but any green works for this dish.
Cornbread Custard with Berry Coulis – this was a very simple dessert essentially using store bought corn bread, breaking it up and adding eggs and milk into a custard and heating at a relatively low temperature – simple, but classic comfort food!
-Bourbon Whipped Cream – real Bourbon..I should know, I was sipping some of that Jim Beam during the class..

Good Eats!

Good Eats!

Charlie Adler..cooking on the Job!

Charlie Adler..cooking on the Job!

Conclusion: This was a really fun event in a great location..I was warned about this neighborhood, but when I found the space (it was a little hidden – but it’s an old warehouse building, c’mon!) and parking in front, I began to think – people are just living in the past..this facility IS the future of DC and the entrepreneurs who run it are the next wave for DC. Jessica gave a great cooking class and the facility is perfect for a multitude of events – there’s even additional spaces for Pop-Up Dinners, wine tastings and more culinary endeavors. OK, so it’s a bit edgy, but you know the expression – you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

The class is just getting started..

The class is just getting started..

The Setup

The Setup

2013-02-28 20.24.42

Get Thee To a Valentine..

January 31st, 2012 • No Comments

(Note: Updated on February 9th (Thursday) 2012 – will be updated as events unfold or get Sold Out..)

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, but like Halloween, it’s a celebration/festivity that has taken on a life of it’s own. And 2012 is no exception, there are just a plethora of Valentine’s tastings for both the chocolate and non-chocolate lover – I’m not even sure if the latter exists! Some quick thoughts on Valentine’s and tastings: if you’re a restaurant or event provider who wishes to really draw people in this time of year, any theme with chocolate, sparkling wine (especially Champagne) or some over-the-top rich dish like braised meats seems to bring people in in droves – oh, and also any food/concept connected with Amore, for example oysters and fondue (both chocolate and cheese work). It’s also OK to add terms like “seduction”, “decadent”, “aphrodisiac” and even “libido” to your menu descriptions which breaks away from the everyday norm of exclusion of these concepts – Valentine’s gives you as the marketer the right to explore the racier side of life..and people will accept and forgive you for about a week! Of course, certain cultures are also associated with lasciviousness so French and Italian restaurants and themes have a distinct advantage. If you have a strong combination of all of these themes and concepts, you can also expect a marriage proposal or two to occur – and hopefully, not with your staff!

Oh, and to make all this information just a touch more confusing..Valentine’s Day is officially Tuesday, February 14th, but many events list their date on Saturday or Sunday as “official” Valentine’s Day events – it’s a celebration of love and romance, does it really matter what the official date is? I think not..

I will list the major tastings by date (Note: if you’re just looking for a listing of restaurants that have multi-course dinners especially for Valentine’s, here’s a pretty good list by Washingtonian):

Thursday, February 9th,

Sommelier Showdown (as part of the DC International Food and Wine Festival), 7:00pm-9:00pm
Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest Washington, DC 20004

Tickets are $150/per person and can be Purchased Online

See top DC Sommeliers flex their knowledge at the Washington DC International Wine & Food Festival’s inaugural Sommelier Showdown. Our experts will engage in a friendly tête-à-tête and compete in a race of the taste, using deductive tasting to identify wines with hidden labels.

To complement the wines presented, the Showdown will feature five of DCs most noted chefs who will be tasked with bringing food and wine together, including Chefs Todd Gray (Equinox), Xavier Deshayes (Ronald Reagan Building), and Jaime Montes de Oca (Zentan).



SOLD OUT-Savory Syrah – A Global Tour
7 pm
Chain Bridge Cellars, 1351 Chain Bridge Rd. McLean, VA 22101

Wine experts all agree that Syrah is one of the “noble” varietals, capable of making some of the most complex, layered and age-worthy wines in the world. But the kinship between a $10 Aussie Shiraz and a $70 Hermitage is pretty hard to fathom! So take a worldwide tour of everything Syrah/Shiraz can be and see if you can find some common themes. We’ll taste bargains from Australia and the South of France;  classic American, South African and Rhone wines; and a couple of “big guns” from the Barosa and Cote Rotie.

This class includes seven wines, Syrah-friendly snacks, and take-home descriptions of each wine and region covered.

To reserve a space, email [email protected] or call 703.356.6500


TasteDC Chocolate Making 101 at Wanders Chocolaterie

How to Blind Taste Wine
February 9th (Thursday) Session 1: 6 – 7:30 pm; and Session 2: 8 – 9:30 pm
Adour in The St. Regis, 923 16th and K Streets, N.W., Washington, DC 20006

Wine Director Brent Kroll will conduct a sensory analysis on how to quantify wine flavors and origin.

Tickets are $60/per person.
Call (202) 509-8000 to Make Reservations


Almost 2012..a Look Back at TasteDC

December 25th, 2011 • No Comments

OK, it’s just a bunch of photos from past TasteDC events, but it kind of shows you where TasteDC comes from – it’s my imagination of how people really would like to eat and drink..a bit of a dream world, but food is so much more than nourishment..Just Enjoy!

Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”


What IS a Wine Dinner?

December 25th, 2011 • No Comments

I spent over 15 years organizing and attending wine dinners at TasteDC – it is definitely my favorite part of being in a unique business! Weird as it may seem, a “wine dinner” is conceptually as confusing as a wine tasting to most people – it’s a very foreign concept to many Americans – literally! A wine dinner is in essence a multi-course dinner served with several different wines – this is the simple explanation. A GOOD/GREAT wine dinner is when the various elements come together in a wonderful symphony of an event: wine, food, timing, pairing, educational component (this usually means a speaker), and impeccable service. It sounds very snooty, but that’s primarily because it’s based on the fine dining traditions of the Old World – particularly France and Italy. So what IS a wine dinner?


“A Wine Dinner Is a Meal Divided by Courses”

Most wine dinners include a menu of dishes served in three or more courses. For example, when you go out to eat at a fine dining restaurant, the menu is often broken down into Appetizers, Main Dishes, and Desserts. A Wine Dinner is a smart way for a restaurant to showcase both great wine and delicious dishes that showcase their chef’s talents. And yes, there is a formula: according to the traditional European format for a dinner (actually, any serious meal!) is begin with the lightest dishes, move on to richer dishes and finish with dessert – and yes, often there is a cheese course before dessert. A very simple multi-course dinner (with or without wine, but in the European tradition, food is pretty much always served with wine) would begin with some hors d’oeuvres, a seafood or pasta dish, a light meat dish (chicken or pork), a rich meat dish (beef or lamb) and dessert. Each course would be served with a different wine in a wine dinner and possibly even more than one wine per course. This would be called a 4-course dinner because hors d’oeuvres are usually not considered a dish, so don’t count in the number.

“Each Dish Should Be Paired with the Appropriate Wines”

I’ve been to wine dinners where there is only one wine paired with each dish, and that can be very satisfying! But I’ve also been to wine dinners where there are two, three, even four wines paired per dish (that’s a single dish!) and those can be very fun – albeit confusing at times. I want to touch upon the concept of pairing: pairing wine and food means there’s a synergy of flavor that is 1 + 1 is GREATER than 2. There are some classic examples of pairings: Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese, Pinot Noir and salmon, and Cabernet Sauvignon and steak, etc. that work but I’ve had pairings that stretch the limits. The original old school formula for pairings was “white wine with fish and red wine with meat” but this is extremely outdated – creative chefs today don’t serve simply prepared dishes that are formulaic, they often prefer to add unique flavors and cooking techniques to their dishes that can be difficult to pair. To keep it simple (I wrote a whole chapter on pairing in “I Drink on the Job” entitled “A Meal Without Wine is Breakfast”). Just like with food, most wine dinners begin with lighter-style wines (like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling) and move to heavier-bodied wines later in the meal – this makes sense – you wouldn’t want a Big Cab with your shrimp dish/course at the beginning of the meal, that would be way too heavy early in the meal (and a poor pairing!). Also, later in the meal, your palate needs richer and bolder flavors or you won’t notice a dish, so big wines and red meat (or dishes that are braised/slow cooked to increase the rich flavors of a meal) make sense.

A quick note on pairing/wine dinners – most have a theme like “Italian Wines” or “California Boutique Wines” that create the expectation of a special celebration of a wine region or theme. This is important because a wine dinner is a “showcase” event – a chance for a wine maker to show his/her best efforts in the vineyard or a display of a chef’s talents to create gourmet offerings. The point is that usually either the wine or the food is the main center of the wine dinner, one almost always overshadows the other. For example, I attended a wine dinner a few years ago with MacArthur/Addy Bassin’s Liquor where there were over 20 boutique California wines served – yes, the food was excellent at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. (I think it was 7-Courses, but I forget!), but every wine was introduced before each course by either the wine maker or a representative who intimately knew the wines – educational and exhilarating!

“A Speaker Needs to Introduce the Wines at the Wine Dinner”

Not particularly profound, but someone needs to talk about the wines at a wine dinner and the more knowledgeable, the better. Normally, the wine maker or a representative from the wine community talks about the wines with each dish. Some speaker’s introduce the wines before each course, but this can be detrimental: it can add too much time to a dinner and it can get tedious for attendees! Most people don’t want to sit for more than three hours or so at a wine dinner (including breaks – hey, with all that wine, you may need to visit the bathroom!) so the length of an event is important.  I always suggest that the wine professional speaker introduce their wines at the event, maybe speak once in the middle of the meal and then at the end of the meal. Most people at these events would rather talk privately to the speaker, so walking around and “schmoozing” with dinner attendees is a smart move.

Things I haven’t covered in this wine dinner discussion include the importance of speedy service, event duration, popular themes for wine dinners, and the myriad of service issues with this type of event. Staffing is VERY important – experience really makes a difference. One of the most impressive wine dinners I ever went to with the wines of Chateau Pontet-Canet at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. was because of one factor: the Sommelier Caterina Abbruzzetti decanted every one!

Of course, there aren’t only wine dinners: In 14 years at TasteDC, I’ve attended craft beer dinners, whiskey dinners, Tequila Dinners, Cocktail Dinners, Rum Dinners and innumerable conceptual “dinners”, often unique and unusual, but one thing they all had in common – the dishes and the beverage were paired in some way..Hope this all whets your appetite – Cheers!

Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”



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The “Where” To a Wine Tasting – Beware the Blunders..

December 18th, 2011 • No Comments

This is Part 2 of organizing a wine tasting (Part 1 Here) – I get the phone call “we want to organize a wine tasting for a <birthday/celebration/housewarming/shower/corporate event/bachelorette party> can you help?” My first question…DO YOU HAVE A VENUE? Reply – total silence, I can literally hear crickets churping..then the mumbling and nervous reply “well, uhhh, no, uhhh (thinking to themselves “you mean I have to think of everything??”) and then often something like “somewhere in DC, Virginia or Maryland”..and now I’m at a loss of words..

Unless your people can teleport wine into their faces, you MUST FIND A VENUE! OK, but how? Couple thoughts..the most obvious venue is the place you work or hangout, maybe someone’s home. Before you make the phone call to a Professional Event Planner (that’s what wine speakers/professionals become from necessity – we have no choice!), ask a friend/co-worker if they know a nice place to hold a wine tasting. Most likely, a short brain-storming session will begin and potential spaces will be considered – someone’s new home, a great meeting place the group already frequents, a winery, etc..DO THIS BEFORE YOU MAKE THE CALL..OK, I have a confession..

Over HALF the phone calls I receive requesting a wine tasting are VENUE SEEKERS, ie. they could care less about a wine tasting, they just want to squeeze my brain for all the venues I know and just work directly with them..But that’s another Subject!

Back to your needs..hotels and restaurants should be your last choice – why? Because they charge many fees that raise the cost quickly and significantly: room/rental fees, food minimums, corkage fees for wine (a little more on this below..), plus taxes and surcharges on top of all that. Many restaurants and hotels don’t allow an outside vendor to bring wine into their facility – of course – they can sell their own wine to you for a 250-400% markup (this is a common cost multiplier – a $6 store bought wine being sold in a hotel for $21.50 to $30 a bottle ++)

Since cost is a major factor to over 90% of the people that call requesting a wine tasting, think cost first – a free venue is the best. What free venues are available to most people? A home comes to mind first, so contact friends who have a nice place, or who for whatever reason (Ego!) want to show-off their abode. What about an apartment complex – many have community rooms that are empty most of the time, and if you know someone who’s a tenant in the complex, that helps a bunch! Some other potential “free” or low-cost venues include office spaces, office building atriums, art galleries, and non-profit spaces. A note about art galleries and other public venue – they may have quite a few restrictions..well, that’s another article, Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler – Check out my book NOW Available on Kindle or Soft-Cover – I Drink on the Job


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A Wine Tasting – What’s in a Name?

December 11th, 2011 • No Comments

I’ve organized or promoted over 1,000 wine tastings and wine classes in the Washington, D.C. area since 1997 through my organization TasteDC.com. A few times a week I get a phone call at headquarters (a room in my Georgetown townhouse with 2 computers, a color printer and a Fax..but it IS Ground Zero for DC wine tastings!) asking me to organize a wine tasting or class for a group of say maybe 15 people. What’s funny/unfortunate/amazing is that the call is almost always the same – THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A WINE TASTING IS OR WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR!

A wine tasting is an event from the TasteDC perspective – it has a beginning time, an ending time and a theme to fill the middle of the tasting. Say for example, a wine tasting of wine styles: rent a room, supply it with glassware (maybe a little food – cheese, crackers and bread would be nice!), a selection of wines with say three different “styles” (could be anything, but normally it might be light-bodied, medium-bodied and heavy-bodied wines) and put them at their own tables with volunteers pouring the wine..or people could pour their own wine – then we suggest you put out an information tasting sheet on each wine..


  • Do you have a Date?
  • Do you have a Venue?
  • Do you have a wine “theme”?

There are literally thousands of ways to organize a wine tasting! I do want to make note – if you use the term “wine class” that most likely means a seated event with a speaker. Does a wine tasting necessarily need a speaker? No – the simple answer is sometimes (most of the time!) a speaker ads an unnecessary expense to a tasting – speakers charge for their services and the fees range significantly (I start at about $500 per event, but I have other ways to increase my profitability – hey, don’t attendees want a copy of my book “I Drink on the Job” ?

I’m going to write more about what to look for in a wine tasting – both for a private group and for a fun public form of entertainment – keep checking back – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler


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Working with Fillo – Spanakopita and Tiropita

February 20th, 2011 • No Comments

TasteDC held a Great Greek Classics Cooking Class at Veranda on P Restaurant in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 6th, 2009 and this is a short video of using fillo in greek pie preparations. I grew up in Harrisburg, PA which has a large Greek community, so spinach and cheese pies (Spanakopita – Tiropita is basically the same filling without the spinach) where readily available. When I think about the buttery flakey fillo crunching in my mouth and the creamy, salty spinach and cheese oozing onto my tongue, frankly it brings back great memories! I was a bit critical of the food I grew up with in Harrisburg in my book I Drink on the Job but I was very fortunate to have had a great selection of restaurants run by Greeks to enjoy a mix of American and Greek cuisine. Lamb and Moussaka were often on the menu at these little neighborhood restaurants which opened up my awareness to real food.

This is the very basic recipe for Spanakopita we used in the cooking class – you can vary the cheeses if you like. The video is more for demonstrating using fillo which I think scares people a bit to cook with because it’s temperature sensitive and pretty easy to break while using. Give this recipe a try – enjoy!
Spanakopita Recipe
One box of fillo dough
one box of frozen spinach
8 oz ricotta cheese
one lb of feta cheese
One bunch of spring onions (Chopped)
Dill (a small bunch)
one or two eggs
salt (to taste)
white pepper (for seasoning)
Olive oil
Butter (melted)

Defrost and strain well the spinach. Place all the ingredients (except the fillo) together and mix. Cut the fillo in three or four long rectangles like lasagna pasta. Take one strip of fillo and place a small amount of the mix on one of the corners of the fillo. Fold the fillo to form a triangle and use a little of the melted butter to keep it together during cooking. Brush a baking tray with butter and place the finished pies on the tray. Place it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees UNTIL it’s only brown on the outside, then lower the temperature to 300-325 degrees and cook until the interior is crispy, don’t overcook.

P.S. You can decide the shape and the size of the pie.

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler