As much as I like to eat, I nearly like to cook just as much. I’ve done cooking classes at Southern Season, La Farm Bakery, and more over the years. So of course, I couldn’t resist when I got an invite from Whisk out in Cary to attend one of their cooking classes. Whisk is a newer kitchen goods store out in Waverly Place and with a very nice demo kitchen in back, they’ve put together an excellent series of cooking classes over the past six months. Peering through the very long list of classes I spotted one being given by my friend, Chef Jeff. Tuscan Trattoria meal? Sounds good to me so I emailed Whisk and I’m scheduled for their July 25th class.
Heading over to Waverly Place, it’s remarkable how much this plaza has changed over the past two years. Outside of Whole Foods, there wasn’t a whole lot of reason to visit this place. But in the hands of a new developer, it’s slowly turning into an upscale destination for local Cary families. And with a CineBistro (movie theater/restaurant) scheduled for construction, I’m expecting bigger and better here. But going back to Whisk, it’s got a nice storefront on the western (far) side of the plaza. Inside, the space is jam-packed with everything imaginable for the kitchen including an impressive display of kitchen steel. Head on to the back if you’re doing a cooking class.
The cooking demo area is already getting busy. With 18 seats in two levels, everyone is pretty close to the action. Chef Jeff is finishing up his prep work so we say hi and let him get back to business. He’s got two assistants with him to help with the class prep and meal service. And there’s a high-def panel to the right showing an overhead view of the kitchen action. The menu tonight is pretty vegetarian friendly outside of the bistecca but it definitely feels Italian and healthy. We all get a printed recipe list if we choose to re-create tonight’s meal. Some wine and beer is served to get the class started and Chef Jeff has some delicious focaccia prepared to tide us over!
Over the course of the next two hours, we’re prepared a very nice and colorful summer salad, some grilled flatbread with lemon ricotta and basil oil. Two very colorful and fresh looking summer dishes that are perfect for the summer. Chef Jeff provides some tips on making vinaigrette (adding mustard to help with emulsification), making dough wet to create steam and the desired bubbles in pizza crust along his favorite knives (Shun). He definitely cooks with more professional techniques than most home cooks would use so it’s nice to see them demonstrated. We get a short 10-minute break to poke around the store and of course my friend Amanda comes back with a kitchen goods purchase.
As we’re eating our salad and flat bread, Dan the owner has gone to the side to prepare our steak. Chef Jeff is going with flank steak, cut against the grain and Dan returns with a large plate of medium beef with nice sear marks! The steak is paired with a garlic, parsley oil and some light salt and pepper and of course, it’s my favorite dish for the evening. The meat is perfectly medium with a tender chew and plenty of flavor. Like the two previous dishes, there’s a very light touch to this Italian cooking which is par for the course. Chef Jeff reminds us that the overuse of garlic in Italian food is largely an American trait and not likely to happen over in Italy, touche!
And finally we move on to dessert, we’ve got a zabaglione (custard) flavored with marsala and poured over berries. This rich brown custard is spiked with some alcohol flavor and pairs nicely with the fruit. Some crushed cookies on top give it a bit more crunch and sweetness to really make it a dessert, nice! It’s a very simple preparation but very nicely done and different from what you’ll find in most Italian restaurants in the area.
As the class finishes up, we say thanks to Chef Jeff and head on into the night with full tummies. The class was interesting and similar to what you might find at Southern Season but in a much more intimate setting. Whisk is really doing a nice job trying to bring higher end cooking classes to Cary and I’m sure if you’re a foodie in the hood, you’d be interested in checking them out! So mangia and buon appetito, thanks for having us for dinner Whisk!
Chef Jeff Grimm, Tuscan Trattoria – Dinner and Date Night Abundant summer salad with fresh mozzarella and sugar snap peas Grilled flatbread with heirloom tomatoes and basil oil Bistecca Tagliata: grilled steak with garlic and parsley Marsala zabaglione with seasonal fruit