Day 29: Cooking Class in France

The last location we stayed in was just outside of the city of Strasbourg, so for our last night, we moved back over to the main city part and checked into Le Grand Hotel.
Not a bad sized room.  At this point I have stayed in a lot of rooms, so as long as I can walk around, put my suitcase out of the way, sit at a desk and sleep comfortably, I am a happy woman.
I had walked around the city a lot the day before and took many great pictures, so on this day I decided to just stroll and take in the sights without going for my camera every time I spotted something beautiful (most of the buildings I already had photos of).  But, I did still take some pictures of the scenes.

Notice anything different here?
One of those windows isn't real.  It's painted.
For lunch, we stopped into a grocery store and picked up some items to enjoy as a picnic lunch in the park.  We couldn't pass on the wine.  I mean we are in Alsace, right?!?!

More strolling the city streets after lunch.  We stopped into this great little gourmet shop with goods from Provence.  They sold things like olive oils and vinegars.  After talking with the shop keeper for a while and purchasing some products, he offered us some of this tart that he had made.  It was strawberry and basil cream.  This was heavenly!  He had used the basil olive oil in this recipe to give it that basil flavor.  What ever he did, it tasted amazing.
Next up was the highlight of the day.  We had signed up for a cooking class at Cuisine Aptitude.

They had said we could have the class in English, but when we arrived they said the class was in French.  Lucky for us, a lovely lady named-and I am not kidding-Marie Antoinette (said so on her name tag!) was in our class and spoke English.  As it turned out, the chef spoke some too, but he had a harder time understanding what we were saying since we talked too fast.  Either way, it all worked out for the best and language was not a huge problem.
Here are all the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, for the 4 recipes we would be making this day.  
The main ingredient we would be using for the day was cherries, and these happened to be cherries that were picked fresh from the chefs garden the day before.
First up was Soupe de cerises aux epices a pain d'epice et kirsch.  Yeah, I don't really speak French either, but that is the official title off my recipe sheet.  In other words, it is this nice liquid "soup" of cherries with a little alcohol in there (I use the word little very loosely...come on, we are in France!).
Here is our fabulous chef/instructor giving us an explanation along with his expert instruction.
Into the pot went lemons and oranges.
Then the cherries, which we had to pit first.

Next up was something using this.  This is a pistachio paste, with some alcohol in it too.  This is what would give our next recipe its nice great color.
This next dish is known as Financier pistache aux griottes.  The name comes from the shape of these molds, which look like gold bars.
Here are the ingredients that we would need.  The jelly looking substance in the cup is egg whites.  Did you know you can keep egg whites in the fridge for 1-2 weeks?  I had no idea, but it seems the French do this often.
Butter!  Again, we are in France.  We used lots and lots of butter.  While not the most nutritious, it is the most authentic.  Plus, it isn't like we ate all of what we cooked/baked.
Once the butter was ready, it was added to the dry ingredients.  Marie Antoinette was my partner and she is a very skilled French cook, but she was also very helpful in helping me with my whisking technique and wanted me to try doing everything.
Once the batter was ready (the pistachio paste was added to the mix above), we transferred it to something to making pouring easier, instead of using a spoon.  It was much easier this way.
After pouring into the molds, cherries (soaked in liquor of course!) were added before baking.
Next up was a chocolate caramel sauce.

This started with some corn syrup and cream.
We were given some chocolate as well, and told what kind was the best to use.  It came in huge bags, and the brand I believe is called Valrhona.  It was a 40% milk chocolate.
Here is the caramel once it is ready.  Making a caramel from scratch can be easy if you have the right instruction.  I am not so sure I would ever be able to do this on my own at home.  But, in class, it was easy.
Then we poured this over the chocolate pieces.
The heat from the caramel was enough to melt the chocolate into the caramel.
Yum!!!  You can see that I was happy.  I had been sampling, or rather doing quality control as the chef called it.
Next up was the gratin de cerise a la pate de pistache.
Basically, we just cooked the cherries.
Then they were added to a little dish.
We also made a mixture with the pistachio paste.
I think the toughest part for me was whipping the cream.  I couldn't quite get the technique down, but my parter was quite helpful in showing me how to do this.  I think she must make fresh whipped cream often since she seemed like a pro.  Once it was ready, the pistachio mixture was added.
Then it was poured over the cherries.  After that things got really fun as we were given little torches to brown the tops of the cream.  It was not crispy like creme brulee, but it did get a nice golden color on top.
So much fun!
At this point, the bars we made were ready.  Didn't they come out so nicely?
Here is the cherry "soup", which should be chilled overnight for the best results, but of course we didn't have that much time, so an hour is all we got for this to cool down.  I think it still tasted good.
The final step was plating up everything that we cooked.  The chef did a really good job making it look pretty.
Mine did not come out as nice, but it was definitely tasty!
I am so happy that I had the chance to take this cooking class with 3 awesome ladies, and Marie Anionette.  Plus, I am happy that our instructor was a good teacher.  He was patient and genuinely wanted us to learn and enjoy the experience.  I highly recommend this place for cooking classes if you are ever in Strasbourg.

The afternoon moved on with a few glasses of wine and good conversation while sitting outside at a cafe.

Now, there was still one traditional food that I had not tried (I guess this is in addition to the kugelhopf) and really wanted to.  The restaurant next to our hotel had it on the menu, which was not surprising since it is very typical for this region.

This is known as tarte flambe, which looks like a pizza, but is really a thin crust with a creamy sauce topped with other ingredients.  The most traditional is with ham and onions.  We ordered one for the table, but of course this was not the one for me.
Instead, I tried the vegetarian tarte flambe.  It was really, really good.
Since there were 4 of us, we also ordered this nice salad, complete with goat cheese, for everyone to enjoy.
Wondering how we finished our time in Strasbourg?  At a wine bar!  We were given a few recommendations for Terres a Vin so that seemed to be a good choice.  They definitely gave up the vibe of a laid back wine bar.
Down stairs was the wine cellar.  You could go down and look at all of the bottles, then select the one you wanted to drink.
Check out all those bottles!

They even had some cheeses and other gourmet items here.
After deciding on some wine, we also decided we needed some more food to go with it (plus, some time had passed since the last meal).

This is smoked salmon with lentil salad.
We also ordered some cheese plates because it goes so well with the wine.
To bring the evening to a close, we ordered the chocolate cake and shared this while finishing off a bottle of red wine.  What a great end to a great few days in Strasbourg France and the Alsace wine region.
By now you must be thinking I have lost my mind because I have been traveling for 29 days.  I admit that I miss my husband a lot, but the days really have flown by because the trip itself was broken into smaller parts and I was with different people throughout so each leg of the trip was something new and exciting.  But I will say, it would have been nice to be able to share these experience with Ryan.  Obviously he wasn't able to get the time off work, and Europe is a long haul from Japan to only come for a short time.  The reason I am still away is because I have a nutrition conference coming up next, and I wanted to attend this.  So, this means next I am heading back to Israel for Israel Nutrition Week.  

Between the trip with my family, the wedding in Spain and the conference, which wasn't until June, I had some time to fill in because I wasn't going to head back to Japan (unless I planned on skipping the conference), and this is how I wound up going on the Contiki trip and to Strasbourg with friends.  Those things came about to quench my thirst for travel, but also to keep me busy and with other people while hanging out in this part of the world before the conference.  So, after an amazing 29 days on the road, it is now time to head back to Israel for the conference.  

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever taken a cooking class on vacation?  Have you ever taken a cooking class in another country?  Have you ever cooked any traditional French dishes?


Roz @ weightingfor50 said...

Hi Melinda. I don't think I can say more than "WOW"!!! This is an amazing post, and I'm living vicariously through you as I read it. Thank you SO much for sharing this great experience and lovely photos with us!!!!!!

special k said...

I think this was my favorite part of our time together. You have such an enthusiastic spirit and I was SUPER lucky to share it with that means I should post up my summary as well. You inspire me

chow and chatter said...

wow what a cool experience and I never knew that about egg whites either

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