Better an Egg in peace than an ox in war
– I found this French proverb and find it particularly suiting for my first cooking class. Today I attended a cooking class at Vie located in Western Springs, Illinois with my friend Mrs. Branda. This class featured gnocchi, which I have never tasted (as far as I can remember) and have certainly never made. It is quite possibly one of the best cooking experiences I have ever had.
Firstly, let me introduce you to this restaurant and of course its chef: Paul Virant
Paul Virant currently has numerous awards for his outstanding menus. Below is a list of a few from Vie’s site now:
Best New Chef 2007, Food & Wine Magazine, July 2007
Awarded Three Stars by Phil Vettel, Chicago Tribune, March 2005
Named Best New Chef by Chicago Magazine, May 2005
Named 2005 Rising Star Chef by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine
Named 2005 Rising Star Chef by StarChefs.com
Named 2006 Jean Banchet Rising Star Chef
- He also appeared on Iron Chef America
When I spent these few hours at Vie today, I found him genuinely amiable and very knowledgeable on locavore-ism, wine, and of course tips and tricks of his trade. His menus are designed to combine interesting pairings with locally acquired food – while also minimizing waste. All food waste is preserved and donated to local farms for composting, most vegetables are acquired through City Farm (see here: http://www.southsideclt.org/city), and most conserve-able food products are utilized in other menu items. It was truly a pleasure getting to experience this.
Ricotta gnocchi, braised t & d willey artichokes,
grilled meyer lemons, radishes, tarragon
– accompanied with 08 Alois Lageder, Pinoit Grigio, Dolomitit, Alto Adige, Italy
Wood-grilled dietzler farm top sirloin steak, arugula salad,
potato gnocchi, city farm san marzano tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano
– accompanied with 06 Maestro Sanguineti, Nessum Dorma, Super Tuscan Italy
Crispy semolina gnocchi, werp farm greens,
mushroom conserva, aged balsamic
– accompanied with 08 La Quercia, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Italy
Biscotti di prato, blood oranges, organic creme fraiche
– accompanied with 07 Domaine De La Pigeade, Muscat De Beumes De Venise, France
If you’re mouth isn’t watering yet then I don’t know what’s wrong with you (perhaps you lack salivary glands?). If you’re tempted to go to this restaurant (I’ll post more info. further along in this entry) or if you’re just curious to know my favorites, I’ll be happy to tell you: First and foremost, the semolina gnocchi is amazing. It’s practically a dessert it’s so creamy. Secondly the complete dessert pairing of almond biscotti, blood oranges, creme fraiche, and that lovely dessert wine. You can smell the citrus in the wine! They are perfectly suited for each other. The next runner up would be the ricotta gnocchi. Mrs. Branda had noticed a meaty flavor that she was not particularly fond of, but i found it more than appetizing – I might forgo the bacon next time. Of course we can’t forget the beef! I have always – and will most likely never stop – loving steak. I like it medium to rare – well, in fact the bloodier the better if it’s a nice cut. The salad included only a few small cuttings of meat which was perfectly fine by me, because the salad and gnocchi alone were more than filling.
All right so have I talked you into it yet? Deliciousness all around. The next class coming up is all about pasta. Learn to make it from scratch on April 19th. I would enjoy taking another class; however, they do cost a pretty penny (not exactly a penny – but well worth it!). Actually while I’m at it, I will list the other classes (taught by the Sous Chef Nathan Sears) available in the future as well.
April 28th Quick Meals – Easy meals that can be cooked fast for when no one has time
May 19th Pizza and Flatbreads – One of my favorites, pizza, along with other similar breads
June 9th Barbeque – The essential backyard foods, sausages, cornbread and salad
June 30th Vegetarian Cooking – Complete dishes focused around vegetables to ease any mind that we need meat
Here is the link in case you would like to read further about either Vie or Paul:
I will undoubtedly post more as I try these recipes out on my own. Also, I wanted to inform you kids about a book recommended to me called Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller – writer of The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon. To buy this book or view other listings of a similar category just click the pic and you will be routed to Amazon.com. Apparently Paul Virant has adapted a few of the recipes in these books into restaurant-grade goodness. Two such recipes that I am glad to have acquired are for a mushroom conserva and a lemon pickle. The mushroom conserva involves cooking up a huge batch of mushrooms in a large quantity of olive oil which can then be preserved for months – and the remaining olive oil is infused making yummy salad dressing. The pickle is produced by grilling lemons and yes, essentially pickling them. From what I understand it is best to purchase meyer lemons as these are entirely edible.
So there you have it: Gnocchi and then some. I have learned something new – hopefully you’ve learned something new.
Did I spark your interest? I have completed yet another of my adventure-a-week items. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about this restaurant and that you’ll consider visiting.
Merry cooking my bloggy friends!
I also wanted to comment on Alice in Wonderland – since my blog title is based on Jabberwocky (by Lewis Carroll, of course). So I have seen the movie and well, it’s not amazing. The costumes of course are pretty fun. J.D. had a role that was considerably above and beyond the old hatter’s call, but that’s to be expected since Tim Burton and J.D. are besties. Okay, I am getting to a point here – yes. I read just recently that Tim Burton based his White Queen on a Nigella Lawson – a TV cook. Burton was quoted saying, “She’s really beautiful and she does all this cooking, but then there’s this glint in her eye and when you see it you go, ‘Oh, whoa, she’s like really … nuts.’ I mean in a good way. Well, maybe. I don’t know.”
Care to compare the resemblance? Check out the videos in the link below.
All right, that’s all folks.
Now who here can tell me why a raven is like a writing desk?