Article by Yvonne Gill, a former expat now embracing the burbs of Portland.
As the Portland weather strives to gear up for spring, sunny days prove to be few and far between. Dreariness still casts its dark shadow and the sun’s appearance and warm rays carry a novel status. Hiking trails and rosé on rooftop terraces have yet to beckon my name. While the gloom may seem dismal and deterring, it’s our chance to reap the benefits of unique indoor activities. Tucked away in the corner of a shop in the Pearl, is a foodie’s quintessential escape from drizzly skies.
I wrapped the white apron tightly around my waist, rolled up my sleeves and sipped on my red wine. Allowing a few introductory moments among fellow food lovers, shortly thereafter the chef took the stage. His jovial spirit was contagious, evoking each cook’s passion to take fire. We gathered around the kitchen island divided into several workstations. Our instructor highlighted our menu for that evening’s cooking class at Sur la Table: grilled pork paired with roasted grapes, alongside a citrus fennel salad, culminating with zabaglione. Meanwhile, his sous-chefs assured wine glasses were brimming and I had no qualms asking for seconds.
On a date night, my husband and I joined seven couples to share the duties of chopping and sautéing. With every step, we mimicked the chef’s motions, fine-tuning our knife skills, which we learned are an art rather than a chore. Experimenting with new tools, I couldn’t believe there were some I had lived without for so long. (Hello, garlic peeler!)
Each ingredient was revered, treasuring Portland’s farm-to-table approach. We contested the power of garlic’s whispers infused in a dish and deduced the compelling benefit of gently scraping vanilla paste from its bean. Recommended techniques were sprinkled throughout instructions, leaving students hungry for not only the food, but also the craft of cooking. A reminder of our local availability of endless lavish flavors and their marrying options was my catalyst to dream of designing a captivating spread for my family and friends at home.
The class proved cooking to be a collective affair: the silver lining ensuing an experience of savoring the fruition of recipes with others.
The process in reaching our menu’s finale was enlightening and genuinely enjoyable. When we finished grilling our pork and grapes coated in a sweet mélange of balsamic vinegar and honey, as well as taking fennel to a mandolin, the chef coerced us to shop the store, at a discount, with him as our guide. Le Creuset’s vibrant colors lined the shelves, teasing me alongside so many tools too good to pass up. They were all muses that I wish to acquire in due time.
Upon returning to the kitchen, the sous-chefs had elegantly plated our objet d’art, waiting for us to indulge. Before that evening, I never would have known the coupling of egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine, would induce such a palatable bite. Nor would I have known the amount of time to accurately cook pork without leaving someone reaching for a glass of water.
My husband and I recreated this menu for friends and it was a hit; reassuring its garnering for another worthy occasion. This was one of several classes I have taken at Sur la Table, all of the recipes and experiences cherished. The class prior was with my young daughter allowing her a hands-on experience (and goody bag), which revealed her zeal for partaking in the kitchen at home.
Whether on a date, with your children, or out with the girls, the occasions and meal options are endless. What better place than our foodie capital, for novice connoisseurs to unite.
Yvonne Gill is a former American expat who spent time in Brisbane, Australia and Lyon, France. Her experiences ignited a wanderlust mentality, which keeps her dreaming about where in the world to explore next; or more realistically, how to travel at home through a book, movie, restaurant, or activity and she writes about it all onybexpat.com. She currently resides just outside of Portland with her husband and two young children.