NEW MILFORD, Conn. — “If there’s anyone who isn’t doing anything, these tomatoes need dicing!” called chef Bill Cosgrove to the dozen or so students gathered in the cavernous kitchen at The Silo Cooking School. Most were busily grating cheese, reducing balsamic vinegar, or coaxing a béchamel into thickening as they prepared an assortment of Italian appetizers. But one volunteered, and Cosgrove, of the Upper Crust Cucina Italiana just down the street, showed her just how to chop the fresh tomatoes for a Caprese salad garnish.
One of the first cooking schools in New England, The Silo is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The late NBC music director Skitch Henderson and his wife, Ruth, established the school and attached kitchen store on their western Connecticut estate in 1972 because they missed the kitchen tools and gourmet foods they could find easily in New York. Over the course of three hours on a September Sunday at the historic Hunt Hill Farm Trust property, we prepared — and consumed — roasted eggplant caponata on garlic bruschetta, grilled shrimp on corn sformata, rosemary grilled lamb chops, and roasted corn polenta with mushrooms, fontina, and amontillado cream.
For some, a cooking class is a highly anticipated annual event. For at least 15 years, Jean Bieluczyk, Marie Bass, and JoAnn Durkin have been taking a course a year together at the Silo. The day is a chance to celebrate their friendship and learn something new. “Seeing a dish made, as opposed to reading a recipe, makes a big difference,” said Bieluczyk.
For others it’s a surprise gift. Sean Kelley awoke on his birthday to the news that his girlfriend, Mary Elmore, had signed them both up for a cooking adventure at the Silo. He deemed it “a great present.”
New England is a treasure trove for foodies. In addition to cooking schools, several inns offer cooking experiences, and there’s a good assortment of cooking opportunities available in many tourist destinations. As Indian summer draws to a close and thoughts turn toward indoor fun and holiday treats, here are some appetizing adventures to consider.
A major benefit of cooking classes in any venue is learning culinary tips, such as how to extract the maximum amount of juice from a lemon, how to roast garlic, how to use knives and other tools, and how to “plate” attractively.
The Silo (Hunt Hill Farm Trust, 44 Upland Road, New Milford, Conn., 860-355-0300, www.hunthillfarmtrust.org, $80-$90) offers some 40-50 classes each year, taught by local chefs, school staff, and television cooking show celebrities. Gingerbread house classes for adults and children always sell out early, said acting director Nancy Stuart.
The Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School (2 Stonewall Lane, York, Maine, 207-351-2712, www.stonewallkitchen.com, $45-$80) offers short (90 minutes) classes in a variety of subjects including dinner party lobster, best burgers, and fall lunch and brunch menus.
Couples cooking classes — which focus on a range of ethnic cuisines from Cajun Creole to Thai — are some of the more popular offerings in the recreational program of The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (2020 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2020, www.cambridgeculinary.com, $85 and up). Other classes teach techniques, pastry-making, and gluten-free and vegetarian cooking.
In addition to certificate programs in culinary and pastry arts, Chez Boucher Culinary Arts Training Center (32 Depot Square, Hampton, N.H., 603-926-2202, www.chezboucher.com, $75) runs Saturday workshops for amateur chefs. Topics include artisan breads, candy making, and petit fours, among others.
At Johnson & Wales University (8 Abbott Park Place, Providence, 401-598-2336, www.jwu.edu/chefschoice/pvd, $80), “Chef’s Choice” recreational cooking classes combine hands-on experience with demonstrations under the direction of professional chef-instructors. Topics range from desserts to charcuterie to knife skills.
Last month, King Arthur Flour celebrated a $10 million expansion of its Baking Education Center (135 US Route 5 South, Norwich, Vt. , 802-649-3361, www.kingarthurflour.com). Classes for home bakers, which range from $65 for a three-hour class to $475 for a weeklong course, cover artisan breads, pizza, cookies, pastries, and cakes; children’s classes are also offered.
COOK AND STAY
Culinary packages at inns and bed-and-breakfasts include farm-to-table dinners, cooking demonstrations, and tastings, along with classes. (Unless noted, prices are in addition to the room rate.) Select Registry, an organization that conducts regular inspections of its member lodgings, lists “Fun-for-Foodies” packages at several New England inns (www.selectregistry.com/about-select-registry/funforfoodies.asp). Continued...