Posts Tagged ‘washington dc 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

How To Make Pasta with Class

February 18th, 2013 • No Comments


I’ve been to many cooking classes and in fact many Pasta Making classes so it was really fun to attend a creative take on a cooking class organized as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Education Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013 held at various restaurants on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. as well as the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital – a truly cool space!

I took 2 classes, but this article will only cover the class Pasta Making With Chef Wendi – a 60 minute class where 12 total participants got to make our own pasta and share in the meal afterwards – all for a whopping 20 Bucks! I’ll take you through a quick run-through of the class:

Instructor: Wendi James who teaches quite a few culinary classes at other schools in the region including at Culinaerie, Sur La Table – Pentagon City, VA (or she said she once did – another story!) and at her own cooking school Rutabaga Sweets. I spoke with her before class and she has quite a pedigree having worked at many top-rated restaurants in the U.S. (she worked at Restaurant Daniel NYC, The Inn at Little Washington and Charlie Trotters Chicago) and hailing from serious Foodie City Chicago. Her attitude was refreshingly honest and she spoke her mind about the local restaurant scene and her plans to open up a breakfast place in Asheville, NC. As an instructor, she was direct and “get to work” – but of course we only had 1 hour to make both hand-roll fettucine and ravioli with the hand-cranking pasta machines – no time to dilly-dally..


Flour, Eggs and maybe 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil!

Pasta Ingredients – simple..all you really need is All-Purpose flour, some eggs, and a little olive oil (you could actually skip the olive oil). I was working with 2 other cooks who had never made pasta homemade before. Maybe you can get a little fancy and learn to crack an egg with one hand, but one secret to getting the egg in theĀ flour with No Shell is to crack the egg against a flat surface NOT the bowl. If you mix it in a bowl, it’s very forgiving, but it’s nice to make a small “well” in the middle of the flour to hold the eggs and then swirl a fork (or your hand – watch out, it can get sticky/messy!) until the ingredients all become a dough..if it’s too sticky, add some flour, if it’s too dry, add a little water, it’s very forgiving.

State of the Art Cooking Facility

State of the Art Cooking Facility

The Facility and Setup: Class is held in Hill Center’s state-of-the Art teaching kitchen. It was relatively small – only fitting 1 instructor and 12 participants, but it was truly an easy kitchen to learn from and to do hands-on cooking. There was the main table where everyone gathered round in a circle with the burners, and then there were 2 work tables in the back for up to 6 participants each. Things were kept very simple – we were given a bowl of flour and eggs, some olive oil and a tablespoon, and the ravioli filler which we had to cut up the basil and add to the ricotta and parmesan cheese to put into the ravioli’s – just like Italian food, there were simple ingredients and simple instructions. If you’ve ever been to Italy and have seen how pasta is made – it’s very simple and traditionally was done by Grandma at home. BTW – you can also make pasta without the eggs and just using water – that’s how it’s often done in the south of Italy. And then, we had to roll..

pastarolling1Rolling Pasta:

Hand making Ravioli

Hand making Ravioli

Once you make the dough, you can wait an hour or immediately begin rolling it out into sheets. The way it works is that you begin with the widest opening, do that a few times until the dough kind of “comes together” (the gluten begins to stretch and take shape) and then you keep feeding the sheet into smaller/narrower settings until you get to the lowest setting – and boy, does the dough spread out – I mean it can go for yards! The same sheet of dough can be used for noodles or for ravioli and fillings – I once took a class where different kinds of flour were used for both (All Purpose Flour for Ravioli because it’s relatively soft/tender, semolina flour for a chewier pasta) but frankly it’s a matter of personal taste.

Cooking Pasta: The sauce in this class was made for us (another post on Sauce..soon..) but in a nutshell there was a white sauce with cheese and cream and a red sauce with tomatoes of course. So Chef Wendi boiled the pasta in unsalted water – a discussion ensued – in Italy, they always salt their water for pasta (“as salty as the sea” is the famous quote on how much salt for pasta water – this always starts an argument with Italian cooks!) – her philosophy is you don’t salt the pan when you sear a steak, you salt the steak – so my interpretation is that the pasta/ingredients and the salt should be properly salted. In my own defense of the Italian way of salting the water – it depends – for example, if you cook your greens in the salted water before you cook your pasta (like for Broccoli Rabe and Orecchiette), you have a very flavorful pasta water..well, just like 2 Italians, Chef Wendi and I may never agree!pastasauce1

Upcoming Pasta Classes on the TasteDC Site:
Handmade Pasta Workshop at the Kitchen Studio (Frederick, MD) (February 21st, 2013)
Pasta Fatta in Casa (Pasta Made at Home) II at Culinaria (Saturday, February 23rd, 2013)
Pierogi Cooking Class at Hills Kitchen (February 23rd, 2013)
Fresh Pasta Workshop at Sur La Table (March 13th, 2013)
-Handmade Pasta and Sauce at Cookology (Ashburn, VA) (Saturday, March 23rd, 2013)