Dispatches From My Phone: Cooking Class in Barcelona

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I was lost in the Gothic alleyways of Barcelona with five minutes to go before the cooking class was to begin. With the help of my iPhone, I eventually made my way to the Cook and Taste kitchens to begin what would be a wonderful way to spend my last night in Barcelona.

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I have taken cooking classes in the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris, with Frank Brigtsen in New Orleans, a head chef at the Imperial in Saigon, a hairy man in Morocco, and was on a few Indian kitchens without permission of the head waiters. To learn about food is not about the recipes, but rather the time you can spend with a local chef: they will always tell you how it is, and you can learn more than a few new tricks if you will ask the right questions.

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My two tasks of the evening were to macerate the walnuts, parsley, hazelnuts, garlic and oil into a pesto consistency. The flavours of the toasted nuts was brilliant, and I can see how this concept could easily make its way into my culinary repertoire; expect it in my upcoming Paderno work.

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My second job was to sear the chicken and vegetables for the paella. Paella is a dish that, frankly, I can already do on a higher level at home than most restaurants offer. Tonight’s paella was…good, but not brilliant. Still, I learned key techniques that will perfect my own paella in ways I never imagined. Maria, the instructor, gave clear ideas about the style of the food, and my classmates were both interesting and interested in what they were doing.

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The purpose of a cooking class should be to connect you to the food and local chefs. Tonight, my expectations were easily met and for 65 euros, I enjoyed tomato soup, brandade Mille feuille, Catalan cream, chicken paella and wine. The instruction was strong, but unique versus scholarly or orthodox. I would strongly recommend taking a Cook and Taste class if you are Barcelona.

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I should mention that I blow-torched the cream myself, much to the horror of Maria, as I much prefer a bitterly burnt sugar crust to a lightly done sugar brûlée. Just looking at these images make me hungry now a few hours later, though I would have been able to produce much higher quality images if I had the 1DmkIII versus my iPhone. The Hasselblad film images should show a better perspective on the wonderful night.

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