For our 13th wedding anniversary, I gave my husband a list of 13 months’ worth of date nights to take us to the next year. After giving him the itinerary, I also went straight to the family calendar and marked them all off, because you know that if it’s not on the calendar, it ain’t gonna happen.
For this month’s date, we went to Dish Cooking Studio for a group cooking class and dinner. About 20 people gathered at the kitchen counter of the studio, then we prepped a four-course meal and ate our creations. The theme was Sizzling Sicilian, and we made a grilled octopus salad; a gooey, cheesy, crispy baked eggplant; chicken (they made me a vegetarian mushroom and quinoa patty ahead of time); couscous; and chocolate cannolis with fresh Ontario strawberry sorbet. Each course had 2-4 people to prep it, and two chefs circulated to help us with the details. We could also step away from our own stations to check out what was happening elsewhere, and learn about all the different courses. Wine was available, and we sipped while we cooked. We could meet new people, but we could also catch up on our days, trade stories from this long week and giggle together.
The meal was delicious, and I learned a fair bit not only about the items we all cooked but also general kitchen tips. (Heat the pan, then add the oil until it looks like water, then add the meat. If done in that order, the meat will never stick to the pan.)
The biggest culinary revelation was the octopus. If you’ve had the experiences I’ve had with calamari, you’ve probably had a rubbery, hard-to-chew breaded thing. It is never my first choice on the menu, but this experience has transformed my view of the seafood menu. This octopus was tenderized, beheaded, de-beaked, cooked for 90 minutes in broth at a temperature of between 170 and 190 (yes, you have to stand and watch the thermometer), cooled, then skinned and then grilled. Easy, it is not. Delicious? I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious. Like buttah. We each got about a leg’s worth, and it was rich and buttery and tender and flavourful and ever so impressive.
Ted and I made the strawberry sorbet with fresh Ontario strawberries (easy!!) then pitched in with the cannoli (Not easy!! They had made the dough ahead of time, but we had to make the ricotta filling, roll out the pastry, cut out rounds, roll them onto pins, deep fry them until crisp, cool then stuff them with decadent ricotta and chocolate filling, then dip the ends into freshly candied peel.) To. Die. For.
All of the food was delicious, but definitely ambitious. We went home with the recipes for all the courses, but I would never undertake to make all of those courses for a single meal. It would take three days’ prep! But when all the prep is shared among 20 people, it all comes together with miraculous ease. I would love to try making the octopus at home one day.
Date nights were designed to be gifts to both of us, and for this mama who is sick to death of cooking but loves good food, it was a great boost to go and try something new. My kids would eat exactly none of what we prepared, not even the cannoli, but I am pretty sure that they will love the sorbet, and it is definitely in all of our skill set to make and enjoy together.
A date night idea I highly recommend.