Generally when we travel I end up doing most of the planning. Our recent getaway to Canandaigua was different - the bulk of the planning tasks fell to Paul. The only thing I did was to find out that one of the best pie makers in the US was located about 20 minutes away (hello pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving) and to book a cooking class.
This class was different that many we have done in the past - in fact it resembled a Top Chef (confession, I have never SEEN Top Chef - the others in our group told me that this is what it resembled) . The group met at the market where we were divided into teams of 4. Each team was given $ 20 and sent to wander the market and spend that $ 20 on ingredients. Once the money was depleted the teams went back to the New York Wine and Culinary Centre where they were to cook a meal using the market bought ingredients and rounded out with the provisions on hand.
The Canandaigua Farmer’s Market is an association of approximately 30 farmers and food processors who live in the surrounding Canandaigua area. The agricultural vendors produce a variety of quality vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats and eggs. The food processors sell freshly baked goods, sauces, pickles, jams, maple products and honey.
We were paired with two women who were childhood friends - one from Buffalo, the other from New York. As a group we were a bit confused. We thought that our task was to buy unusual ingredients which would be lumped in with the other group's ingredients and the team of chefs would have to pull a menu together based upon it all.
We bought peppers, poblano peppers, ground cherries, heirloom carrots, rainbow swiss chard, an onion, and local cherry juice (called Stomp). The whole time we were giggling thinking about the challenge we were providing for the chef!
As we left the market I had a wee crisis - my glasses were missing - so I dropped Paul and the ingredients off at the centre, raced back to the house, found them, and raced back to the centre. When I arrived I was told the error of our ways. Happily in my absence the group had pulled a menu together. This part must have caused Paul considerable panic as he is a comfortable cook with a carefully written recipe - but suggest to him that he should just dumped some ingredients together and you witness him break out in a sweat. The others on our team were both accomplished cooks so they helped steer things along.
The stunning kitchen was a hive of activity.
The group explained what they had decided and off we went. Paul was chopping and dicing. I roasted the poblanos over an open flame. The others were making a ground cherry reduction sauce for the chops. The plan was to stuff the bell peppers - I suggested using quinoa. One of the others suggested adding some cheese. It was amazing how it all came together. Then we tossed in some fresh herbs.
The other groups were racing about going through a similar process. The chefs were there to assist as needed, demonstrate techniques, and answer questions.
Everyone was afraid of the grill on the huge professional stove. Paul chimed up 'Jerry grills all of the time' so that became my job.
As everything was coming together we wandered around to see what other people were doing. One a counter I found a container of fried rosemary that was supplied as a possible ingredient by the centre. I immediately claimed it as mine and we used it as a flavouring for the chops and as a garnish on the plate.
Here is our finished farm-to-table meal:
Sauteed swiss chard, quinoa stuffed peppers, roasted poblano peppers with goat cheese, grilled pork chops with ground cherry reduction. We had no dessert but figured we had done pretty well pulling this together in 90 minutes.
The head chef complimented us on our meal telling us that it was one of the most complex he had ever seen in 5 years of doing this class (other people made soup or a panini with salad).
Of course, the best part of it was that everything tasted amazing!