Nerdie Foodie: Nerdventures to Reimagined Spring Vegetables

So, I did a thing a couple weeks ago where I decided at the last minute to take my first ever cooking class entitled “Reimagined Spring Vegetables”. I had no idea on what to expect, only that the class was kind of pricey and I thought to myself, “I hope this is worth it…”. Let me preface this by saying that I originally wanted to just write a little blurb post on the Nerdie Foodie Instagram page, but didn’t realize that my not-so-little thoughts and reactions would be more than what Instagram posts allow. So instead, this has turned into a blog post about my nerdventure to Gourmet Warehouse after hours!

Result: It. Was. Worth. It. Y’all, it was worth so much more!

Appetizer

From The Acorn, owner Shira Blustein and former Acorn Head Chef Brian Luptak did a cooking class called Sprouted: Spring Vegetables Reimagined. There was even a surprise guest! Current Acorn Head Chef, Devon Latte, came on his day off to help with the class!

Shira, Brian, & Devon | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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It was all about seasonal veggies; making your own oils, sauces, spreads, creams, cheese (more about this later!!); how to use parts of one item in one thing and saving the rest for something else. Using every part of the vegetable, fruit, and/or flower while trying to keep waste at a minimum. Where to source locally grown food and using what we have here geographically to its full potential versus importing from other countries. How can you not love learning about different resources and vegetation that you never knew about before? Hop shoots and flowering currants? Had no clue what they were before class, only that the dishes listed in the course description sounded amazingly yummy and I wanted to see it in person! I’m pretty sure I ended up taking three pages worth of notes, trying to absorb everything. I know, I’m nerdy, and I love expanding my knowledge on what we have here locally in our province, a bit about foraging, pickling, which parts of the plants to use, and so much more tips from not only the instructors, but also loving to learn from a few of the participants whom were more than happy to share their knowledge with first-timers like myself.

Update: I have revisited my notes on my phone, and it’s SIX pages long instead of the aforementioned three pages. Carry on.

Main Course

Did I mention this class was worth every cent?? Because it was. It was a masterclass, a private dining and shopping experience, a mini wine tasting, and a mini group session all rolled into one. It was where you could ask the instructors anything about the topic at hand and even going off on mini tangents were allowed. My kind of people!

I think it’s safe to say that Shira, Brian, and Devon (thank you for joining us on your day off!) blew our minds with the creativity of all three dishes and how putting together different components once you have the base set up doesn’t compromise the quality or taste of the ingredients used. It merely enhances it …by a lot! Even though some of the prep work can be time consuming just to make one dish, the payout is well worth the effort! How can you not appreciate it when it’s jam-packed with amazing, contrasting, yet complementary flavours?? Spooning oil into a container of cream sauce before pouring it onto the dishware – sauce splitting. Learning which veggies can substitute for others if you can’t find the one listed in the recipe – super useful knowledge. And how about nettles? One wouldn’t think to use nettles as an oil for a hint of vanilla flavour. The bonus content of the night for me was making fresh ricotta cheese on the spot! This was the cheese moment from Chef Brian to us participants. How did you know that I love a good cheese moment?!?! I savoured every last subtle salty taste of the still warm ricotta that was spooned out for us to taste test! Thank you for the mini snack!

Roasted Napa Cabbage with Bavarian Mustard Cream, Pickled Vegetables & Chickweed | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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Favourites of the Class:

Browned Hazelnut Butter

This stuff reminded me of peanut butter and Nutella, and quite possibly a little bit like a melted Ferrero Rocher. I could eat this by the bucket – on toast, crackers, on its own by the spoonful. You get the idea. Who knew that over roasted hazelnuts would be so dang tasty? Let alone as a base for the hop shoot salad with super tangy pickled vegetables!

Hop Shoot Salad with Browned Hazelnut Butter, Pickled Hop Shoots & Chickweed | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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Puff Pastry

Okay. My moment to shine. If y’all have been around here for a while, you know that I love to bake. When it came time for the dessert portion of the night, I was very stoked and in my element! Puff pastry? Lamination? French rolling pins? That small plastic white rolling pin (which I thought was suppose to be for fondant and not dumplings) Chef Brian found in one of the drawers? Right up my alley! When I saw that they were using the lamination process to make homemade puff pastry, to say I was excited was an understatement. I might not know much about hop shoots, flowering currants, foraging, or pickling to name a few, but I understand baking! Also, shoutout to Chef Brian for trying to help me find his favourite baking spatula on the store floor. In the end he couldn’t find it, but did point out what makes a good spatula that will last you for a long time!

Puff Pastry Tart with Whey Ricotta & Red Flowering Currant Jelly | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Okay, here is our cheese moment. Carbs, cheese, chocolate, and baking. Any of those and you’ll find you have yourself a very happy Nerdie Foodie in your hands. Since this class was about spring vegetables, I wasn’t expecting to learn how to make ricotta cheese. This was huge surprise for me, and you can bet your tush that I took step-by-step notes even though they were already printed in the pamphlet of recipes that we each received when we checked into class.

Ricotta Cheese Tasting | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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Flowering Currant Jelly and Sparkling Wine

I’m not a huge wine person, but this tasted amazing! A wet, sweet, fruity, bubbly and slightly floral sparkling wine – me likey! But most importantly, while eating the hop shoot salad with browned hazelnut butter, the sparkling wine did not have an increased bitter alcoholic taste to it like most wines do for me after I’ve consumed food. I was astounded! For that, I applaud The Acorn for creating a wine that I am able to enjoy! Shira, do you guys sell it by the bottle?

Flowering Currant Sparkling Wine | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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The jelly was sweeter than I had thought it would be. You’d think that with it being a flower, it would have a strong floral taste. Wrong! Chef Devon taught us that the flowering currant has a strong floral scent, but hardly any floral taste to it. And because of the sweetness of the jelly, it balances the saltiness of the fresh ricotta, while counteracting with the uber crunch of the puff pastry! The pastry itself reminded me of phyllo sheets, just slightly thicker.

Flowering Currant Jelly | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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I didn’t think I would be this fascinated with a flower before, but the Flowering Currant has stolen the show for me! I love that we each got to take home a mini jar of it with us as a parting gift!

Final Thoughts

Once again, I’ll repeat. This class was worth every penny and then some. You can’t put a price on the continual learning when you are cooking and to learn from some of the best in the biz is such an honour, privilege, and a gift all rolled into one. Shira, Brian, and Devon were all very welcoming, warm, approachable and humbled. It was so great to have a chat with them during the class break. If they ever do another cooking master class at Gourmet Warehouse, sign up! Yes, it is not the cheapest class you’ll ever take, but it is also not the most expensive. You won’t regret it! And if you have the chance to stop by The Acorn Restaurant, do it. They have started doing a tasting menu for their dinner service and I for one, plan on stopping by for my very first visit soon!

The Haul | (Photo Credit: Nerdy Curious)

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‘Til next time,

Stay Nerdalicious!

jen monocle nerdy curious
 

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