A publicist from the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City recently read my 5 Unique NYC Date Night Ideas for Married Couples post. She reached out to invite me to take a class since their classes were sold out at the time that I wrote the initial piece. I’m so glad that she did. My husband Reggie and I have been very deliberate about having extra special dates on a regular basis and a couples cooking class was the perfect fit. There are so many different types of cuisine available at ICE, so the most challenging thing was trying to decide on a final class! Fortunately, we were able to get a seat in our #1 pick – Asian Favorites. (The New Orleans, Spanish Tapas or Burger classes were our alternate picks.)
The Couples Cooking: Asian Favorites class that we took was amazing. We really lucked out and learned from a true culinary expert, Peter Berley. (In addition to teaching classes, Peter has written several books and owns the North Fork Kitchen and Garden Culinary Studio in the Hamptons.) There were four couples taking the class. After we introduced ourselves, Peter talked us through the entire recipe packet of 8 popular Asian dishes [CHINESE HOT and SOUR SOUP, CHINESE PORK POTSTICKERS, PAD THAI, KOREAN BULGOGI (Grilled Seasoned Sliced Beef), STEAMED WHOLE FISH with SOY and GINGER, THAI YELLOW CHICKEN CURRY, KOREAN BIBIMBAP (Seasoned Vegetable Rice Bowls) and DEEP-FRIED BANANAS.] This part was so helpful, because Peter was such a wealth of information. Both Reggie and I took a lot of notes on our packet. Some of the things that he shared included the following:
- The best places to get certain ingredients and actual prepared dishes (I need to go to Flushing to get some prepared bibimbap.)
- Ingredients that can be substituted for others (i.e. I now know how to make self-rising flour from all-purpose flour.)
- Definitions of certain cooking terms (i.e. “slurry”)
- Various cooking tips (i.e. I didn’t know that meats marinate quicker at room temperature than in the refrigerator.)
- Kitchen gadgets that are actually helpful to have around (i.e. I need to get a cooking thermometer.)
After we went through the packet, Peter assigned each couple 2 dishes to prepare. Reggie and I both love Korean food, so we were happy to be assigned the 2 Korean dishes (bulgogi and bibimbap). Reggie and I had a lot of fun working together. Reggie is really cool and calm with whatever he does….including cooking. He did a great job with everything…except for his knife skills. Peter came over and gave him a mini knife skills tutorial. My knife skills weren’t much better. I’m from the “just don’t cut yourself” camp, but Peter was able to teach both of us some helpful tips. Fortunately, both of the dishes that we prepared turned out well. We really love bibimbap and it’s not difficult to make. However, there are a lot of ingredients and it takes a lot of time to prepare it so I think that we’ll continue ordering that dish at restaurants. The bulgogi is another story. It’s relatively quick and easy to make and doesn’t require a whole lot of ingredients. The marinade was awesome so we will definitely make that dish again. (I shared the recipe for the bulgogi on the How to Cook Korean Beef Bulgogi at Home post.)
Once the 8 dishes were prepared, all of us gathered at a table and ate family-style. It was like a fun dinner party. Everyone did such a great job with each of their dishes. That’s a great thing because it would have been awkward if there was a dish that no one wanted to eat! Peter was walking around and helping everyone though, so I’m sure that his assistance helped. The food and drinks (wine) were abundant, the conversation was lively and a great time was had by all.
As we traveled home, Reggie and I discussed why we thought the Asian Favorites cooking class was such an incredible date night experience…
- We were able to meet new people due to the dinner party atmosphere before and after we cooked.
- It was both entertaining and educational. Because it was so hands-on, I noticed that I have used some of the techniques that we learned in my daily cooking. (We still might need to go back and take the Knife Skills class though!)
- It was a fun, focused time to do something together. Because we were learning and doing something new, we didn’t have any time to talk about the kids, bills or any other general life topics that can creep into date nights.
- We were able to have a great meal at a reasonable price. Where else in NYC are we going to get an 8-course meal for 2 people for $250?!
- Lastly, we walked away with a greater appreciation for the food that we enjoy…especially bibimbap!
In any event, I believe that a cooking class at ICE is worth the investment…for individuals or couples. There are so many class options available. Spring classes include the following:
- Spring Harvest (spring offerings from Hudson Valley)
- Luscious and Lean Vegetarian (led by culinary nutritionist Jackie Newgent, author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook)
- Paleo for Beginners: Spring (with a focus on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats)
If you could take any cooking class, what would it be?