Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February for Foodies in Walla Walla - Chocolate!

If you are allergic or a hater of chocolate - - turn away now! You have been warned!

There are just a few days left to celebrate "February is for Foodies" the month-long promotion driven by "Experience Walla Walla." In fact, the last cooking class series is this Saturday, February 25. I understand there will be classes on pasta, soups, sauces and even chocolate truffles! For only $20 you get more than your money's worth. Not only do you learn handy food and kitchen techniques, but you eat and drink all day.

I could not pass up the Saturday, February 11 cooking session as it featured - - CHOCOLATE - - and so perfect since Valentine's day was just around the corner. The day started at 11:00 am at the Titus Creek Cafe at Walla Walla Community College. We were welcomed with introductions from the chefs; along with coffee, tea and fresh breakfast rolls awaited us.

Chocolatey-coffee goodness ready to be frozen!
Onto the first session of chocolate which was an introduction in sorbets and ice cream by Chef Dan Thiessen, Director of the WWCC Culinary Arts program (Chef Dan also made the announcement that the program will soon be renamed "Wine Country Culinary Institute" as well as some packaging of food products by the institute that will be seen on the grocery store shelves in the future). He had prepared the bases of what would soon become frozen and fruity deliciousness of an orange-pineapple-strawberry sorbet prepared with natural fruit juices and honey. Also, a rich and creamy chocolate-coffee ice cream prepared with not only cream and milk, but egg yolks and of course vanilla bean, semi-sweet chocolate and coffee. These fresh ingredients made even the best ice cream on grocery store's shelves pale in comparison.

Cocktails 101 by the Marcus Whitman's Mixologist, Silas Manlove demonstrated the ingredients needed at home to make the spontaneous cocktail. Glassware and the proper tools were also pointed out as a necessity to have on hand such as a jigger, shaker, strainer, muddler and more; including a bar book. After Silas discussed types of drinks (neat, rocks, etc), flavors, and styles; the end result was a "chocolatini" that the class imbibed in. This chocolate "martini" included many different chocolate flavored liquors and cream. Silas also included some of the favorite drinks recipes from the Marcus Whitman's Vineyard Lounge.

Sacher Torte
A generous buffet lunch was served before we went onto the other two cooking sessions - - even the tasty and tender tri-tip-style beef  was marinaded and prepared with a savory chocolate sauce. Tim Donahue, instructor from the WWCC Enology/Viticulture program was on hand to pour the wines produced by the students at College Cellars. Take it from me, the College Cellars Malbec was so well done and such a great pairing with the beef (those Agentinian cowboys know what they are talking about when pairing beef with their native Malbecs). Sacher Torte was served for dessert, which reminds me - -

Torte! Chocolate Torte! Chocolate Sacher Torte! Pastry Chef Greg Schnorr from the WWCC Culinary Arts program shared with us the story of this rich chocolate cake with roots from Vienna as far back as 1832. He demonstrated for us how this cake can be made so easily by using a basic cake mix, apricot jam, a bottle of rum, dark chocolate and a pint of whipping cream. He made it look so easy - - but tasted as if it came from the Vienna Hotel Sacher itself. Perfect with a cup of coffee which is traditional in Vienna. However, I broke tradition and enjoyed a glass of wine with mine.

In fact, Jaime Chalk from L'Ecole No. 41 joined us at this foodie experience to pour for us L'Ecole No. 41's 2009 Estate Syrah from the Seven Hills Vineyards. It was a dark inky wine with earthy aromas of cigar box and spice. Flavors of dark concentrated fruits such as plums and blackberry was so perfect - - so perfect paired with the heavy dark chocolate cake.
A Girl's Favorite: Roses, Wine, and Chocolate!

Pastry Chef Mandi Konen from the Marcus Whitman demonstrated for us chocolate truffles filled with a salted-caramel center. Of course we were the beneficiary of the samples! She displayed for us an assortment of various chocolates from unsweetened to white chocolate that can be used in preparing confections. She showed us tips on how to temper chocolates from the melting and cooling stages, as well as molding them into their perfect shapes. Once again, Chef Mandi made the production of these beautiful chocolate squares look so easy.

What? There was more? Yes, there was a treat in store for us. The Four Tenors arrived! This talented quartet not only sang to us, but also gave red roses to all of the women. Chocolate, flowers, wine and tenors! What more could we want for Valentine's Day? At this time the Four Tenors are performing at the Power House Theatre and this is their last week. They sing a variety of music from Pop, Country, Broadway, and Classical (okay, yeah that is me posed with them below - they visited me at the wine shop).

Chocolate Truffles by Chef Mandi
Yes and there is more! Last but not least, Chef Antonio from the Marcus Whitman Restaurant and the students from the Titus Cafe served us up a platter of morsels to be paired with the Syrah from L'Ecole No. 41. However, this wasn't just a little sampling of cheese and crackers - - it was another meal! Our wine pairing food was not only a plate of charcuterie and cheese, but also a lamb-sicle layered on top of a tomato/olive/caper relish and a layer, of what I thought was possibly creamy polenta, was actually creamed parsnips prepared with white chocolate. Yes, I would have originally turned my nose at it, but so happy I sampled before I knew what it was - - it was remarkably - - delicious!

Four Tenors and Moi!
This session may have stopped at the WWCC Titus Creek Cafe, but it continued later with a Happy Hour session of "Wine and Bites" at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Once again, there is one more Saturday session and if they aren't already sold out, this is so well worth the time and the affordable dollars to attend. Many thanks to everyone who prepared these wonderful Saturday events - - whomever says, "There is nothing to do in Walla Walla" must not venture far from their couch.

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