Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Wrap Up

Check out the latest and greatest from our kitchen.

Father's Day at Cookology
Dads and their little ones had a blast making their own pizzas at our special Father's Day Daddy & Me, while the big kids whipped up spicy tacos and guacamole.

Do your kids love to cook? Stop by between
2-4pm on July 4th for another make your own pizza party! Pastry chef Brad Spates will also be on hand helping kids create and decorate their own gourmet cupcakes.

Team Building and Private Events
Last week we hosted a private cooking class for the Loudoun County Visitors Association. The teams got hands-on in the kitchen with Chef Ian to create Bruschetta with Vine Ripe Tomatoes and Basil, Pepper Crusted Filets, and delicious Peanut Butter Pie.

Interested in booking a private event for family, friends or coworkers? Prices start at just $50 per person, including wine and instruction from our trained chefs and sommeliers. E-mail us at for more information.

French Wine Dinner with Mary Watson
Last week's French Wine Dinner was the best yet. Guests raved about Ian's incredible menu:

Fried Brie Cheese with Sliced Green Apples and Red Grape Reduction

Red Snapper en Papillote with Braised Fennel, Grapefruit Supremes and Herb Butter
Bacon Wrapped Quail Rubbed with Quince Paste Served over a Leek Creme Fraiche
Duck and Sausage Cassoulet with Roasted Tomato Rouille and Lemon Thyme
Puff Pastry Wrapped Beef Tenderloin, Roasted Mushrooms and Foie Gras Pate with Port Beurre Blanc
Frozen Raspberry Souffle with Praline Truffles and Candied Hazelnuts

Haven't had a chance to experience one of Mary and Ian's dinners? There's still space available for this Saturday's Food & Sake Pairing Dinner! Six courses, seven sakes:

Seaweed and Smoked Clam Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette
Nori-Tempura Fried Ahi Tuna with Spicy Lemon Sauce
Sake Steamed Black Mussels with Grilled Shitake Mushrooms
Crispy Chicken Strips with Sweet Red Miso Sauce and Charred Scallions
Balsamic Soy Marinated Beef Tenderloin Nigiri with Scallion Pesto
Poached Pear with Lemon-Honey Cream

Mary is the perfect guide for exploring the unknown world of Japanese spirits. Over the last 20 years she's been perfecting her palate with wines of all kinds, and the results are some of the most sublime taste combinations we've ever experienced. A chocolaty mousse turns to velvet in your mouth with the sip of a Spanish Monastrell, and a simple wheat cracker becomes fresh and crisp with a juicy Sauvignon Blanc. She even pairs Twinkies, Gummy Worms and popcorn!

The key, she says, is keeping an open mind. Mary believes everyone's palate is different, and with the right wine, a simply grilled chicken breast will be as exhilarating as a seven layer chocolate cake. She conducts all of her tastings with this passion and curiosity in mind, and students walk away with a greater appreciation for tasting techniques, and a new craving to explore the world of food and wine. We hope to see you there! Check out Mary's videos on tasting and pairing.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Meet Our Students!

Local residents Melanie and Marty McKee were in a food rut when they discovered Cookology. The couple signed up for our first Date Night: Deconstructed Eggplant Parmigana, Mixed Greens with Homemade Balsamic and Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries. They were hooked.

"I would've described our skills as somewhere between basic and poor," Marty said. "We had a couple things we knew how to make, but we were tired of them. We started going out to dinner to mix it up, but that became expensive and it still wasn't exactly what we wanted."

Melanie signed up for daytime culinary courses at a Maryland school, but because of their conflicting schedules, they wouldn't be able to take the classes together. It also cost more than she was looking to spend. As fate would have it, Marty came across a yet-to-open recreational cooking school in Dulles Town Center Mall while Christmas shopping later that week.

"I came home and told Mel about it. I said if she wanted to try out some classes there that I would go with her," he said.

Turns out Cookology had the recipe for success. The couple just attended their 25th class last weekend.

"We were really just blown away right from the start. We had so much fun, and then we got home the very first night we realized we had picked up all these tidbits," Mel said. "How to heat up the pan, when to put the food in, how to properly season with salt and pepper...stuff that is really pretty basic, but makes a world of difference when you learn to do it right."

Marty and Mel's previous success shortfall in the kitchen wasn't for lack of trying.

"It wasn't just laziness," Marty said. "We had the best intentions. We bought all the books, we bought the specialized gadgets, tried all kinds of recipes, but we always seemed to come up short. It gets frustrating because you see pictures of a great looking dish and then you spend money and a lot of effort trying to make it, and in the end it just isn't up to par."

The couple says getting hands-on in the kitchen and getting personal attention from our chefs has made all the difference.

"Learning hands-on with such personal feedback is different than watching a chef demo on TV or even in person," Melanie said. "For example, Cookology's chef will tell you what to watch for or how something in a pan should feel. Then you'll be constantly stirring something with the consistency of water and all of a sudden, you'll draw the whisk or spatula through it then with the next pass you'll FEEL the consistency change or you'll SEE the color change. You can't get that type of learning by reading a cookbook or watching a chef do it; it's just not the same. As a teacher myself I know the value of 'learning by doing'."

The couple tries to recreate every recipe at home at least twice, sometimes even three or four times. After they'd taken a handful of classes they hosted their own dinner party, with rave reviews. Soon they were churning out homemade creme brulees and improvised sauces, a far cry from their routine of the same boring chicken dishes, each not-so-affectionately dubbed "suck chicken."

"Our kitchen has changed a lot in just the few months we've been going to classes," Marty said. "We haven't bought salad dressing in months; we make our own. We've gotten rid of a lot of processed foods from the pantry. Now we have fresh herbs, more fruits and veggies, more multicultural ingredients."

And, Marty says, they've actually saved a lot of money on food and dining. He believes Cookology's focus on how to cook, rather than recipe recreation, promotes a more targeted shopping experience.

"We've learned what staples we're constantly using, so we've stocked our pantry with those things," Marty said. "We also know more about how to get the most out of the ingredients we buy. Chicken 101 was amazing. Before I would've walked by a whole chicken in the grocery store and thought to myself 'I have no idea what I would do with that.' Now I know now how to make something easy with every part of the chicken. Ian even showed us how to make a simple broth from the leftover bones. You just learn how to get so much more for your money."

After 25 classes, they are still getting something out of each session.

"No matter how basic or advanced your skills are, I really believe you can walk into any class and get something out of it," Marty said. "Ian is such an accomplished chef that he is able to tailor classes for any skill level."

In a recent Sushi 101 class, beginners like Marty and Melanie focused on basic rolling techniques, while those who had worked with sushi before worked with Chef Ian on more advanced skills like rolls with rice on the outside, and making more complex dipping sauces.

"Ian and Tabi really put the emphasis on how to cook," Melanie said. "They're always reminding us that it is our food, and that we should make it how we like it, not necessarily follow the rules of a recipe."

That laid back attitude and personalized approach are what keep Marty and Mel coming back.

"Everything about it is just right on the mark," Marty said. "The classes are fun and entertaining, you meet new people, get a great meal and walk away with a lot of useful skills."

The couple urges others to give it a try.

"You really can't fail. I think some people get this image of Hell's Kitchen and they get intimidated, but that couldn't be farther from reality," Marty said. "Everyone is so friendly, and there's a real carefree, cheerful and collaborative environment. It doesn't matter what class you're taking; you're going to learn a lot and you're going to have a great time doing it."

Shared Wisdom from Marty & Mel

Each class starts from scratch, so anyone can take any class at any time, regardless of skill level or amount of experience, and not feel like they're behind. There are no prerequisites to any class, so no matter how many classes a person has taken, they're basically at the same level as someone who has never taken any classes at all.

Doing the cooking yourself is a totally different ballgame than watching a chef demonstrate it on tv or even in person. During the week after a given class we make the meals we've learned from class. It usually takes us two attempts at it to get it down. The great thing is that if we've messed up something on our first attempt at home, we can come back in and tell the chef what we did and he'll tell us what we did wrong and how to fix it.

Chef Ian and Tabi both want everyone to have a good time and enjoy what they're doing. They don't expect anyone to do anything perfectly. If you did, you wouldn't be there, right? You learn by practicing and by trial and error. The more classes you take and the more you practice at home, the better you'll get.

Here are just a few of the things they've learned so far that both chefs preach in every session:

•If you're using a recipe, read it all the way through before you start.

•Get all your ingredients out before you start cooking.

•Estimate how long each thing will take to cook and start making the thing that will take the longest.

•If you can make something well beforehand, do so (such as the dessert).

•Hold the knife right. And don't try to grab it if it falls!

•TASTE EVERYTHING AS YOU GO. Don't dump the whole amount of anything a recipe calls for into the mix. You can always add, but you can't get it out once it's in there.

•PLAY with your ingredients. On a day when you've got time, mix them up this way or that, and see what you come up with—THAT'S cooking!

•Always read the foreword if you're using a cookbook.

•Your food is only as good as your ingredients, so choose wisely and buy fresh.

Monday, June 8, 2009

French Cooking Series Inspired by Julia Child

Julia Child famously admitted that she didn't start cooking until she was 32. Up until then, she just ate. A meal of oysters, sole meuniere and wine in Rouen, France was a culinary revelation, "an opening up of the soul and spirit." From there she immersed herself in culinary study, and eventually became a world famous chef, author and TV program host. She had a big personality, an infectious cheery enthusiasm and a lot of heart. Her kitchen is an exhibit at the Smithsonian museum.

Julia reminds us that passion and curiosity are the most important parts of food and cooking. Inspired by her undeniable joy for food and for life, we've designed a French cooking series based on Julia's recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. At the end of this six class workshop you will have hours of practice in basics like knife skills, sanitation, cooking methods, product identification, seasoning, proper usage of herbs, and of course extensive practice of classical French techniques.

Julia's influence on American cooks is undeniable. Both Martha Stewart and Ina Garten (of Barefoot Contessa fame) kick started their culinary careers by working through the recipes in her book. The novel Julie & Julia by Julie Powell is about a woman who, facing a quarter life crisis, makes it her mission to cook every recipe in the book in one year. Soul-stirring revelations (and a lot of kitchen hilarity!) ensue. The book is also being made into a major motion picture starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child (check out the trailer here). Perhaps journalist Sylvia Lindman put it best as she wrote about Julia at the time of her passing in 2004:
Before Julia, whisks, soufflé dishes and copper pans were novelties brought home from France by pretentious tourists. After Julia, they were standard American kitchen battery. Before Julia, French cooking was an effete art form. After Julia, French cuisine was within reach of any home cook. Her joie de vivre, ability to explain techniques, and what-me-worry approach to mistakes made serious cooking fun.
If you're in a recipe rut, a skills rut or even just a life rut, this series is sure to spark a new passion for food and culture that will whet your appetite for the good life. The methods and techniques you'll learn will provide a solid foundation of culinary knowledge and practical applications that will open a whole new world of possibilities in your kitchen! You may not be the next Julia Child (or maybe you are!), but you'll walk away from this series with a greater appreciation for French food and wine, and the know-how to whip up a mean Sole Meuniere, perfect Potage Parmentier, and more!

This special series begins next Tuesday, June 16 from 7-9pm, and meet every week for a total of six sessions. You can save $25 by purchasing the classes as a series, or you can register for individual sessions for $65 per class.

Click here to register for the series, or click on the class titles to sign up for an individual session.

Preparing Hot & Cold Hors d'Oeuvres
Fonds D'Artichauts au Gratin (Stuffed Artichokes au Gratin)
Petits Choux au Fromage (Cheese Puffs)
Rilette de Saumon (Salmon Rilettes)

Preparing Classic Sauces
Bechamel Sauce
Veloute Sauce
Espagnole Sauce
Hollandaise Sauce
Classic Vinaigrette
To demonstrate some of the sauces we will be creating:
Filets de Poisson Gratines, a la Parisienne (Fish Filets Poached in White Wine, Cream and Egg Yolk Sauce, a Veloute sauce variation)
Baked Chevre Salad with Lavender Vinaigrette

Preparing Hearty Soups
Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)
Soupe au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup with Garlic, Basil and Herbs)
Forest Mushroom Consomme with Foie Gras Crouton and Chervil

Preparing & Plating Composed Salads
Salade Nicoise
Crispy Fried Sea Scallops over Peppercress Tossed in a Dijon Champagne Vinaigrette

Seafood Fabrication & Preparations
Thon a la Provencale (Tuna Steaks with Wine, Tomatoes and Herbs)
Pan Roasted Halibut over Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Vegetable Fricassee

Poultry Fabrications & Preparations
Poulet au Porto (Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream and Mushrooms)
Chicken Fricasse with La Fricasse de Champignons Sauvages au Cognac (Fricasse of Wild Mushrooms flambeed in Cognac)

Weekly Wrap Up

Check out the latest from our kitchen...

Our Sushi 101 class was back again this week by popular demand. These students are just sitting down to enjoy the handmade rolls they made in class.

Saturday we went on a Mediterranean Vacation. Our students learned to create Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Cheese Hummus with Toasted Pita Bread, Roasted Chicken Pies Stuffed with Sauteed Spinach, Feta Cheese and Pan Seared Cherry Tomatoes served over a Red Pepper Coulis and Candied Mixed Nut Baklava with a Red Wine Honey Glaze. Delicious! Here they are in action.

Weekends are our busiest times for kids birthday parties. This birthday girl had a blast making a three-course, kid friendly meal with all her friends!

If you're looking for a fun and unique way to spend your child's next birthday, look no further than our kitchen! E-mail Chef Tabetha at for pricing and menu details or to reserve your spot!

Don't forget we have a revised kids class program this month. View our schedule online to see when we're offering new and improved classes for Mommy & Me, Big Kids, Teen & Tween Cooking Fundamentals and more.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Asian Cuisine at Cookology

It's been a busy start to summer so far at Cookology! Check out the pics from some of these awesome world cuisine classes, and stay stuned for details on our SUMMER STAYCATION SERIES, coming soon!

Sushi 101
Chef Ian schooled our students in the art of sushi making. Everyone made their own California Roll, Philadelphia Roll and Veggie Roll. They turned out beautifully!

Best of Thai Cuisine
Our students also learned how to make authentic Thai food! They created a delicious Chopped Chicken Salad with Julienned Fresh Vegetables and Chili Vinaigrette and Shrimp and Potato Curry with Coconut and Jasmine Rice. Chef Ian taught them tips on cooking shrimp correctly, perfect Asian rice and adjusting the heat of sauces and marinades in Asian food. Check out these shots of our students in action.

Interested in learning how to cook authentic Asian cuisine? Try one of these classes!

Asian Noodles
Thursday, July 2 from 7-9pm

Sushi 201
Saturday, July 11 from 2-4pm

Taste of Japan
Thursday, July 16 from 7-9pm

What other world cuisines would you like to learn how to make? Let us know in the comments!