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Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Gourmet Retreats at Casa Lana

We're back! Our mini-moon was everything we wanted. We dined. We cooked. We relaxed. We indulged. 

You might remember that one of our must haves for our mini-moon was a Cooking or Wine Appreciation Class. We achieved this must have, spending 3 days of our mini-moon at Casa Lana's Gourmet Retreats. Our two main criteria (after location and value) for selecting a class were hands-on instruction and solid coverage of knife skills and basic techniques. We practiced knife skills - I learned consistency in size of cuts (something I tend to not always do). I learned what a food processor is for and how to use it. We discovered our sauce techniques were a little faulty with incorrect oil choices and poor ordering of ingredients. (Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce Take 3 here we come! Based on the color and consistency of the sauce and comments about overbrowning the garlic, any idea on what we did wrong? Hint: It involves both the type of oil and more importantly the pan.) 

First off let me say that a true hands-on cooking experience can be a little overwhelming. We had 7 people in our class, broken into two 2-person teams and one 3-person team two of the days and three 2-person teams and a solo station the last day. Lana went over every recipe/technique with the group so that we'd know the intent of a recipe as well as the why for certain steps and ordering. 

The first day our station was responsible for the salad and vinaigrette, the grilled bread, and the pesto. Now for someone who already knew how to work a food processor (yes I know), this would have probably been a less daunting station. Luckily other students helped us out. The second day we were easily distracted as there were a lot of components that required set cooking times (artichokes, poached pears, chicken, etc.) and we shifted between stations depending on what we were interested in working on. The third day we were all on task and responsible for a particular component. The baking station had the most challenging day in terms of coordination while the sauce station had the most laid back. cubes and I both had different areas we wanted to focus on so we paired up on day one but switched up teams on day two and three. I was determined to become friends with a food processor (something that when we get one and you sample our pesto and romesco you can be the judge of). 

Overall score: A-
  • Pluses: Hands-on instruction; focus on specific trouble areas until mastered; detailed take away notes; discussion of the science and intent of recipes; consideration of allergies in menu. You can tell Lana loves what she's doing. She makes sure you get comfortable with techniques so that you can do them on your own when you go home.
  • Cons: Pacing of class a little too fast in spots (first day where we were trying to get ingredients blanched, cooled, bread grilled, vinaigrette emulsified, pine nuts toasted, pesto made, salad dressed and plated).
Day 1 - The Results of Our Work: Let's Eat! Minestrone Genovese served with a dollop of Pe
Day 1 - Arugula, Radicchio, and Endive Salad with Shaved Goat Cheese and Myer Lemon Vinaigrette
Day 1 - Grilled Bread
Day 1 - cubes plates his Fruit Tian
Day 2- Aioli
Day 2 - Steamed Artichokes
Day 2 - Pan-Seared Chicken with Wine Reduction Sauce, Toasted Barley Risotto & Sauteed Leafy Greens
Day 2 - Spiced Apple-Cranberry Crisp (Dairy-Free)
Day 2 - Spiced Apple-Cranberry Galette
Day 3 - Grilled Vegetables
Day 3 - Romesco
Day 3 - Potato and Herb Frittata

Day 3 - Grilled Flatbreads with Goat Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil

Day 3 - Spiced Wine Poached Pears with Zabaglione and Hazelnut Biscotti

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