Millennium Cooking Class: Chiles
So, you may remember, last time I took a cooking class with Eric Tucker, Exec. Chef of the gourmet vegan restaurant Millennium, I said I couldn't imagine a better way to spend a Sunday. So this time, it's the best way to spend a Saturday morning and a Sunday, 'cos I attended the "foraging" part of the class at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market.
Incredibly, this was my first visit to the Ferry Building Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. And, it was really quite a treat (in the sense of locating unusual and fantastic produce and also in the sense of dropping $$). There was certainly an advantage to being part of Eric's entourage: the vendors all talked up a storm about their produce, and, chatted happily about their latest creations/discoveries/crops.
And, although the class was focused on chiles, we also explored vendors selling mushrooms (OMG!), apples, beans, and greens.
Here' s Chef Eric purchasing some chile peppers from Lee, who had some wonderful chile jams, including a very beautiful, bright red tomato, red chile jam which we all enjoyed tasting:
But, honestly, discovery of the weekend (for me) was the Blue Chanterelle mushrooms:
And, to salten the deal,....yep, those green beans in back are the elusive salty sea beans I've been seeking.
The most amazing thing about the Millennium cooking classes, apart from the discovery of awesome fresh ingredients, is how Chef Eric and his trusty assistants, Thomas, Ryan, and Sarah, turn a bunch of relative amateur cooks into a team that can produce restaurant standard (well, excellent, at least) food in a matter of hours. The team cooking approach (the class is split into two groups) builds a strong, immediate sense of comaraderie and a touch of competitiveness. Eric is constantly instructing, floating out ideas, while at the same time drawing on individual ideas and interest. He knows exactly when to put the pressure on the group to perform and pull together to make a dish happen, but also when to hang back and see what happens.
And, here's the proof, in photo gallery form....
Indonesian Coconut Potato Soup with a topping of Thai basil and a crunch combo of fried shallots and peanuts:
Cauliflower Bisque with shaved Matzutake Mushrooms and Chili Oil:
Black-Eyed Pea Fritters:
A pretty plateful (from noon: Chickpea fried Oyster Mushrooms (on the main menu and way better than calamari), toast triangles with macademia nut pate and chile jam, Italian Butter Bean Ragu with Chile Salsa Verde, and Grilled Blue Chanterelles :
Black-eyed Bean Fritter with blow-your-head-off hot sauce, tomato & pepper salsa, and mango-habanero sauce:
They may look like coal, but these grilled blue chanterelles, marinated in XV olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, and plenty of salt and pepper were the "roast beef" vegan dish of the century:
Beautiful butternut squash tamales:
Tempeh Picadillo Rellenos :
And, of course, the other great thing about the class is you get to eat everything that's cooked. If only the Internet could communicate flavor! Honestly, everything was soooo good, it was hard to find room for the desserts (which are made first).
But who can resist .....
Apple Pepper Strudel with Pomegranate Chile Caramel and a sorbet of chocolate chips, mint, and chiles:
And, the total OTT (Over The Top) dessert, Mexican Mole Torte with Chocolate Ganache and Orange Sorbet:
To my mind, this super moist, intense chocolate orange dessert can only be described as "killer".
The food you make and eat at the Millennium cooking classes is amazing. But, the sense of comraderie, on top of the food, makes the classes a truly amazing experience. This weekend, the class enjoyed the company of Ann Wheat, who, along with her husband, owns Millennium. Ann is one of those down-to-earth, hands-on types. Not only was she a pleasant person to chat with and talk restaurant business with, she was also out there in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, and hanging with the rest of us.
Here's Ann in the Millennium wine room with food photographs by Joan Linn Bekins.
(Obviously) I feel the Millennium cooking classes offer a truly unique hands-on learning and tasting experience. I plan to take the classes as my "treat" each month for the next year. So, stay tuned....