Friday, August 17, 2007

hipcooks: Cooking from the Hip

When I first moved to L.A. last fall to start my real adult life as a real adult lawyer (eeeek!) one of the things on my to-do list, along with practicing fastidious car maintenance and making my new apartment a haven of comfort and style, was to learn how to cook. Loving food so much, I have always been intrigued by the mystery of cooking. I figured it's about time I demystified it and learned how to do it myself. I had only cooked a couple of real things before (not counting eggs and sandwiches) and really enjoyed it, but I wanted to learn to cook without recipes, to cook from the heart and with whatever is in the fridge, to know how to cook a piece of fish or whip up an impressive dinner on the fly. I also love having people over, and therefore I fancy myself one of those people who say they just loooove entertaining (doesn't it sound glamorous?). Coming to L.A., I decided I was ready to become that woman who has her friends over for raucous dinner parties and exciting cocktail soirees.

I'm still working on these goals, but I have made great strides in learning to be a real cook thanks to HipCooks. Run by the entrepreneurial Monika and her small team out of a loft in the Brewery District by downtown L.A., HipCooks offers a variety of themed classes (everything from sushi to Persian) seven days a week and twice a day on weekends. You show up to the loft for the class you sign up for online (they fill up really fast...oh man, why, why am I giving them publicity?!) and the classes have anywhere from five to twenty people, usually with a wide range of cooking experience. You all gather around a giant round wooden counter and whoever is teaching that day goes through the menu of the class. Usually there are a few starters, a main dish, and dessert. The proper booze for the meal is also discussed and opened.

Then we get to cooking. The class is taught with a combination of demonstration and participation, and usually there is a knife skills segment. The class mantra is stress-free cooking with healthy, non-processed (but not low cal or low fat, hallelujah) ingredients and using your creativity in the kitchen to make food to your taste to share with friends. There is also an emphasis on entertaining, having a dinner party, etc. After the meal is all done, we pour the wine or whatever we are drinking and sit around a large dining table and eat the meal we have just prepared- which every time has been delicious. Conversation is had, and a couple of days later the recipes are emailed to you, although you are encouraged to use them more for ingredients and refreshing your memory and cook from memory if possible to really "get" the recipe in your repetoire. All the food, drinks and instruction cost $55 per class, which you pay in advance on their website.

It's FUN FUN FUN! And I have learned sooo much. I love it.

Tonight, I am going to the Badda Bing class, which is a follow up to Veni Vidi Vici. Both of these are Italian-inspired classes. The menu for tonight is watermelon salad with feta, cilantro and olives; squid stuffed with squid ink risotto in a tomato-pepper sauce; and chocolate polenta cake for dessert. "A light Italian, white wine" will be served (dollars to donuts it's Pinot Grigio, my beloved!). I will definitely write about it.

The other classes I have been to are:

My First Class: Bastille Day - Summer in Paris

Their description: "Ooooh la la! Strolling along the Seine, smelling the flowers. Time to duck into a warm French bistro for a hearty meal? Here is a French menu that is as easy as a breeze that whispers Louise Moulle! Or mussels, in wine, parsley, garlic and lemon The most wonderful hearty Coq au Vin, with a new twist - with tarrgon, wine, grapes and bok choy Pots de creme au chocolat for dessert, and Chateauneuf de Pape to drink, mais oui!"

The coq au vin was absolutely wonderful. It was served with crusty bread. The chicken was tender and delicious. The recipe was fun and a great introduction to cooking with booze. I still haven't had a chance to make it for anyone, but I hope to very soon, especially since I have a wounded soldier red wine bottle in my fridge that is begging to be cooked (it was a very old Burgundy and when I opened it it had gone it shall be reincarnated as tasty food!!!). The pot de creme au chocolat was also delicious.

My Favorite: A Cocktail Party

Their description: "Attention Hipsters! Let's get together for an evening of creative and fun nibbles perfect to effortlessly throw an outrageous cocktail party. Learn to whip up the Perfect Martini Vanilla Martini, Hipcooks Mojito, Caiprinhas, Lemon drops, with fresh ginger, and a dessert drink, if you behave. Nibbles: Candied nuts Warm crab dip Leek and goat cheese tartlets Crisp potato cakes with goat cheese and thyme Endive gorgonzola and roast pear Cups with caviar, crème fraiche and chive Warm goat cheese & nut-stuffed, proscuitto-wrapped dates Polenta slices with asparagus Tuna tartar on cucumber strips with wasabi roe Dark Chocolate Hearts with Raspberry cream"

This class was FABULOUS. Not only did I learn how to perfect my cocktail skills and discover the UNIVERSAL SECRET TO ALL COCKTAILS (if you're really nice, I'll tell you sometime), but also I learned to make fabulous and surprisingly easy little appetizers which I actually made, with smashing success, for my wine tasting party a few weeks back- namely the tartlet (which I made with whie wine sauteed mushrooms) and the tuna tartar appetizer. Loved it.

Latest Class: The Thrill of the Grill

Their description: "Are you intimidated by everyone’s favorite summertime stove? No need! Let's cook a delightful and delicious meal as yummy and flavorful as summer itself. It's a snap! Gazpacho Andaluz with garlicky croutons Grilled pork loin with a pomegranate glaze / grilled stuffed chicken with pomegranate sauce Fruited and herbed tabbouleh Grilled peaches stuffed with amaretto marscapone Pinot Noir to drink.... or should we make Sangria? OK, both!"

This was a great class and it was really fun to learn some grilling fundamentals and spend half the class outside. Like the other classes, this one took all the mystery and intimidation out of the cooking situation, here the grill. The food was delicious. The gazpacho was amazingly simple and super tasty, I will definitely do it for myself sometime. I also hope to make the grilled peaches as a treat next time a friend invites me to a grillfest, as they were very easy and absolutely delicious. We also learned a quick and dirty sangria that I would definitely throw together for friends in a pinch.

Stay tuned for posts about my lovely HipCooks cooking classes as time goes on. Emilia can write what she thinks, too, as she is joining me in September for Thrill of the Grill 2 at Hipcooks: "Andalusian garlic & almond soup with green grapes - the soup you MUST try; Grilled marinated ribeye with tapenade and chimichurri (an Argentinian sauce); Zuchini parcels stuffed with portobello mushrooms; Apple and peach crumble with vanilla ice cream". Hurray!



Hip said...

OMG! I was searching google for "Hipcooks" which I occasionally do from time to time (who doesn't google themselves out of morbid curiosity?) and I came across your lovely blog! How fabulous! And THANK YOU! I love to see that you "get it" - learning about cooking isn't about learning how to follow a recipe - it is about learning to have fun in the kitchen, to be creative, to follow your instincts and run. Congratulations, you are now a cooking Goddess! You've taken back your kitchen, yeah!

One teeny request - would you mind changing "Hip Cooks" to "Hipcooks" on your blog so that more chef wannabes can find you? and me? Yay!

Yours in yumminess,

Head chef and Player with Food

Patch said...

I'd be happy to. See you really soon!