Culinary Adventure with Chef and Author Joanne Weir

Culinary Adventure with Chef and Author Joanne Weir: In the summer of 2011 we traveled to California and had the very special privilege of joining Chef/Author Joanne Weir in her fabulous kitchen in San Francisco for a week’s culinary tour of the Mediterranean.  During the week we journeyed through the lavender fields of Provence, enjoyed Italy’s rustic charm and then to the wonderful and magical Greece and Morocco. We concluded our journey in Spain with saffron and Paella. Each day gave us the opportunity to prepare dishes that celebrate these countries’ cultures.

 

Culinary Adventure with Chef and Author Joanne Weir

When Gayle and I contemplate a vacation we engage all of our senses in choosing a destination that will satisfy our wanderlust. In early summer our thoughts drift to the Mendocino Coast and the smell of salt air accompanied by the sound of waves breaking on rocks.  But we also await the smell of fresh planked Salmon plucked from the nearby inlet and the tinkling of wine glasses filled with Mendocino Pinot Noir. In August we dream of a trip to the coast of Maine and eating fresh lobster rolls from a walk-a-way stand on the wharf and talking to locals about where to have dinner. In September we contemplate returning to Santa Fe with ristras of red chilies hanging from the adobe buildings.  We recall the smell of pinion smoke and anxiously await breakfast at Tecolotes.  I’m thinking Huevos Rancheros with freshly made red and green Chili sauce

This summer we traveled to California and had the very special The Classprivilege of joining Chef/Author Joanne Weir in her fabulous kitchen in San Francisco for a week’s culinary tour of the Mediterranean.  During the week we journeyed through the lavender fields of Provence, enjoyed Italy’s rustic charm and then to the wonderful and magical Greece and Morocco. We concluded our journey in Spain with saffron and Paella. Each day gave us the opportunity to prepare dishes that celebrate these countries’ cultures. It was a wonderful Culinary Adventure with Chef and Author Joanne Weir.

Joanne spent five years cooking with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and studied with Madeleine Kamman in New England and France and was awarded a Master Chef Diploma. She has written over a dozen wonderful cookbooks, of which we have several. And she has won a number of prestigious culinary awards, including James Beard nominations and awards. She also has her own TV show on PBS, Weir Cooking in the City.

Neither Gayle nor I are novices around a kitchen. I grew up in my parent’s restaurant in Sonoma, California. When we signed-up for this class I was a little concerned that it would not be “expert” enough for us to learn new skills.  I needn’t have worried. The class was filled with haute amateurs and marmitons, several whom had taken a number of classes with Chef Weir.  The week was filled with advanced cuisine and there were plenty of challenges both from the recipes and in the preparation techniques. We had eight students in the class and each day we split into four teams of two to set out and prepare our recipes.

For the day in Italy we made Chocolate Caramel Amaretto Budino.  At one time we were caramelizing sugar, melting bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler, scalding milk, roasting almonds, grinding amaretti cookies, beating eggs and boiling water. The hot caramel was poured into a cake pan; scalded milk was mixed with the chocolate, then tempered into the eggs, then mixed into the ground cookies and almonds and then poured into the cake pan. Immersed in a hot water bath the Budino was ready for the oven. Okay, break time. I’m worn out.  Thank goodness Joanne planned for a dish washer as we dirtied nearly ½ the pots and pans in her commercial kitchen. And there were three other teams also using pans, knives, mixers and small appliances.  The kitchen hummed with organized activity.

Also in attendance were two culinary students, Elizabeth Harvey and Inken Chrisman.  Their role included keeping the culinary students safe from self inflicted burns, stabs, slices or spills. They assisted us assemble our “Mis en Place.” As explained by Chef Weir, Mise en place, pronounced [miz ?? plas], is a French phrase that means putting in place. In professional kitchens it refers to organizing and arranging the ingredients such as cuts of meat, relishes, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components that a cook will require for the menu items that he or she expects to prepare. Finally, they were observant to keep our recipes flowing on time and using proper culinary techniques. After all, Chef Weir could not be everywhere in her kitchen at once.

Over the course of the week we were exposed to all types of work in a professional kitchen including various methods of cooking such as sauteeing, baking, grilling, frying, and smoking.  She lead us through making pasta, tagine, pissaladiere, galaktoboureko, the traditional steaming and seperating of couscous (for hours), and spit roasting lamb in her fireplace. This was an exciting and stimulating week for a foodie. We also participated in plating, garnishing and serving. And, most importantly, each day we had an opportunity to sample all foods that were prepared, along with the wines that accompany them.

We targeted that all our recipes would be concluded and ready about 2:30 each day. With four teams each preparing 2 recipes it was much more than a late lunch, it was an early 5 course dinner.  Local wine merchants brought wines from around the world to pair with the wonderful foods. The lunch was slow and leisurely, with lots of conversation and sipping of fine wines.  During these afternoon sessions Joanne spoke of her world travels and offered  personal insights into each region that we visited. By the end of the week we knew we had made a new friend of Joanne as well as our fellow students. And our hats off to Elizabeth and Inken, there were no injuries to students and no permanent damage to Joanne’s beautiful kitchen.

After a pleasant sufficiency of aromatic foods, unctuous wines and lively conversation, Gayle and I would don our windbreakers for the chilly hike back to our hotel. July is cold and foggy in San Franscisco, and the marine layer was especially thick for the duration of our visit. The Sherpa-like hike to our hotel each afternoon was straight up for 10 blocks. Something seems to be weighing me down, what could it be?

And where else did we dine while in San Francisco, a city with many fabulous restaurants? After all that lunch about the most we could handle each evening was a late visit to a local eatery and a small appetizer, but more wine of course

Gayle and I feel honored to have attended this class. Chef Weir’s personality was both kind and earnest.  All in attendance agreed that the class was educational, entertaining, and a barrel of fun. Next on our agenda is to travel with Joanne Weir to a Tuscan Villa or to an Estate in Provence for an even more advanced culinary adventure. Bon Apetit!

Join Joanne for week-long culinary journeys to Provence, Tuscany, the Piedmont, the Veneto, Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre, Seville and La Rioja. Each week is filled with hands-on cooking classes, wine tastings, and visits to outdoor markets, local artisans, vineyards, and Joanne’s favorite restaurants. Joanne secures luxurious accommodations to ensure an unforgettable experience. Joanne also teaches hands-on cooking courses in her professional kitchen in San Francisco, California. http://www.joanneweir.com/ 

Where we stayed during our Culinary Adventure with Chef and Author Joanne Weir: Hotel Drisco 2901 Pacific Avenue, Pacific Heights, San Franscisco https://hoteldrisco.com/