Tuesday, February 07, 2012

February is for Foodies in Walla Walla!

It's February and this month has never been known to be filled with warm and sunny days. Many of us are still in hiberation and looking for something to do. We are often looking for something to keep us entertained, possibly educational, affordable and a plus if it is tasty, too!

February for Foodies is a month-long promotion driven by "Experience Walla Walla," a campaign organized by the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center and promoted by other area businesses. This five-month marketing campaign is to assist in building off-season tourism into "year-long tourist season," especially during the slower months of November through March.  The ultimate goal is to fill more rooms. More accomodations booked means more the Walla Walla Valley benefits - not only from winery tourism and accomodations, but restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and other retail businesses benefit - - in fact, we all benefit!

Each Saturday is a full day filled with food and fun at an affordable price of only $20! Last Saturday (February 4) was a theme around the Super Bowl!
February 11 - Chocolate is for Lovers: You can guess how you will spend your day.
February 18 - Rivers, Oceans, Field and Farm Proteins: Grilling, roasting BBQ'ing, the perfect sear and even smoking.
February 25 - Classical and Modern Cookery: Fresh pasta, Mother sauces, soup making and the art of the perfect souffle'.

These culinary experiences also conclude with "Wines and Bites" from 4:30 - 6:00 pm hosted by the Marcus Whitman, where guests may sample local wines and appetizers made by Chef Antonio of the Marcus Whitman Restaurant.
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Brenda Mussman making bratswurst with Chef Jay
This last Saturday I had an opportunity to attend the first of the February is for Foodies Culinary Experience. The theme was Super Bowl and what a day! It was a full-day of eating and learning and even  drinking wine. I am excited to share my first-hand experience with all of you.

The day started at 11:00 am at the Titus Creek Cafe at WWCC. We were welcomed with introductions from the chefs, along with coffee, tea and fresh breakfast rolls.  Onto the first sessions of cooking. The morning classes included how to make naan (a South Asian flatbread) taught by Chef Greg Schnorr, instructor at WWCC Culinary Arts program. Delicious! The art of making German bratswurst by Chef Jay Entrikin, also instructor at WWCC Culinary Arts program. He made it look so easy!

Not only were we given an opportunity to have hands on cooking experience, but we were also given the recipes and generous samples to nosh on throughout the day. Lunch was provided with salads along with the samples from the demonstrations including naan made into pizza topped with freshly made mozzarella.

Chef Antonio making fresh mozzarella
Wine pairing was also available throughout the day by Tim Donohue, instructor at WWCC College Cellars and Shari Brumbach of Woodward Canyon, along with coffee, tea, pop, and water for those non-wine drinkers.

The afternoon brought us more cooking experiences! Chef Antonio Campolio from the Marcus Whitman demonstrated the art to fresh mozzarella cheese from start to finish. Oh my! The cheese was silky and so fresh. And last but not least, Chef Dan Thiessen, Director of WWCC Culinary Arts program produced for the class a venison stew. The tips for seasoning, making stock, using tomato paste and wine to break down and soften proteins, carmelizing vegetables and browning meats were endless and not just for this particular recipe, but so valuable for every day cooking.

Kobe beef with coffee rub

The full day came to an exciting conclusion with an Iron Chef Cook-Off with Chef Antonio and Chef Dan. The subject was Kobe beef. We all had the best seats in the house as we were invited back into the kitchen to watch it all happen. Each chef had a team of two culinary students to assist and a table full of ingredients to choose from.

We watched knives fly and pans flame. Chef Antonio prepared the beef into Asian-inspired shish-ka-bobs on top of a colorful cabbage slaw accented with two very flavorful sauces. I wanted to keep licking the plate. Chef Dan rubbed fresh coffee grounds and spices on the meat and served the bite size morsels with a fresh cilantro sauce and freshly-made pickled ginger. I loved the smoky flavor from the coffee. And the winner? It was a very deserving tie! Both chefs had components that made each dish a winner.

So, see what you missed out on?  A day of food, fun and to hang with the chefs. Don't miss out on next week's addition - - Chocolate! I understand there will be chocolate goodies taught and prepared, another Iron Chef cook-off and even a Happy Hour Mixology 101. Wine tasting by L'Ecole No #41 and WWCC College Cellars. For more information contact the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center or call  509-524-5110.
Chef Antonio and Chef Dan with WWCC Culinary Arts Crew

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