Cooking class

Mayan flavors: fish with achiote paste

Mayan flavors: fish with achiote paste

Floating just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, the island of Cozumel was first settled by the Mayans about 2,000 years ago. The San Gervasio archaeological site on the northern part of the island shows the Mayan presence long before European contact. The language and the folkways are largely gone, but the Mayan heritage lives on through the foodways. That's why chef Ismael Hernandez of Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com) decided to conclude my introduction to local cuisine with his adaptation of the traditional dish Pescado Tikin Xic. In this case, the “pescado” was the fresh mahi mahi that we also used for a delicious ceviche (see previous post)....Read More
Tasting the Yucatan at Occidental Cozumel

Tasting the Yucatan at Occidental Cozumel

In all my years visiting Spain, I've stayed in a number of Barceló hotels. Founded in Mallorca in the 1930s, the group is now the third largest chain in Spain. They also have properties in another 20 or so countries. On a short winter break to Mexico, I finally experienced their international hospitality at Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com). The property is less than 20 years old, but it has a gracious, settled feel. Low-rise buildings in Colonial Mexican style sit in a natural preserve. Nobody blinks at iguanas lounging by the swimming pool or raccoon-like coatis hanging out near the bridge across a mangrove swamp to the white sand beach. Resort...Read More
Cruising with an appetite on Oceania Marina

Cruising with an appetite on Oceania Marina

Despite an industry-wide upgrade to shipboard dining in recent years, few cruise lines dare to make the culinary experience a brand signature. But Oceania (oceaniacruises.com)—the middle sister in the Norwegian-Oceania-Regent family—has embraced the plate. We sailed the western Caribbean aboard Oceania's Marina in February and can report that it was a tasty trip. The Marina's galleys were designed before the rest of the ship. With a capacity for 1,250 passengers, she has the largest number of square feet of galley space per passenger of any comparably sized vessel afloat. That translates into a massive central galley and smaller galleys for each of the individual restaurants and for cabin service. Marina was originally planned at 54,000 gross tonnes, but the finished galleys pushed her over 60,000....Read More

Exploring KY cooking with top Lex chef Phil Dunn

When England's horse-loving Queen Elizabeth first visited Lexington, her personal chef was Phil Dunn. We don't know what dishes he served to the Queen, but we do know that Dunn favors gourmet meals and enjoys exploring international flavors. He's particularly fond of making European pastries—and anything with pasta. A gorgeous display kitchen at Architectural Kitchens & Baths (345 Lafayette Ave., www.akandb.com) is the perfect setting for Dunn's popular half-day cooking classes. We attended a recent session and learned that Dunn is equally comfortable with down-home Kentucky cooking. He makes familiar dishes his own through refined technique and a penchant for turning larger plates into finger food—perfect for parties in this most social of cities. Dunn makes a spicy version of Kentucky Beer Cheese (a cracker...Read More

Lake Placid Lodge honors Adirondacks style

Rainy weather showed me just how good the rebuilt Lake Placid Lodge really is. I say “rebuilt” because the original 1880s rustic lodge turned 1940s resort hotel burned down in December 2005. An exemplar of the Adirondacks rustic style, it had been a great example of American vernacular vacation architecture. The owners rebuilt, opening in 2008, and I'd put off a visit for fear the new wouldn't live up to the old. Then Truman Jones -- a talented chef I met some years ago when he worked for Gordon Ramsay -- took over the kitchen and Cape Air launched 90-minute flights between Boston and Saranac Lake, a half-hour drive from Lake Placid. It was only raining lightly when I flew up, and the pilot did...Read More

CIA classes bridge to Latin cuisines

There's nothing like a cooking class to build bridges across cultures, and the San Antonio branch of the Culinary Institute of America has a special interest in the cuisines of Latin America. Its spacious and modern campus opened in 2008 in some of the larger buildings of the former Pearl Brewery. It was a keystone in the development of the Pearl District, a lively area of restaurants and shops and site of a Saturday farmer's market. In addition to professional chef training, the CIA offers enthusiast classes for home cooks. During Culinaria in May, we joined a Latin Boot Camp class for a crash course in several styles of South American cooking. The class was led by Sergio Remolina, who hails from Mexico City and...Read More

Making crawfish étouffée

There are as many recipes for crawfish étouffée as there are cooks in Louisiana, but that's probably because the basic recipe is so simple that everyone wants to add something to give it a personal touch. As part of my instruction at Crawfish College in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, I had the good fortune of meeting chef Dustie Latiolais of the hugely popular restaurant Crawfish Town USA (2815 Grand Point Highway, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517, 337-667-6148, www.crawfishtownusa.com). He showed my class how to prepare a classic crawfish étouffée at home. The key elements are the so-called “Cajun Trinity” of chopped onion, celery, and green pepper, and (of course) the crawfish. Latiolais thickens his with a red roux, which includes paprika as well as flour kneaded into...Read More
Cooking in Marrakech with Souk Cuisine

Cooking in Marrakech with Souk Cuisine

The Boston Globe recently published our abbreviated tale of taking a cooking class with the wonderful Dutch and Moroccan folks of Souk Cuisine in Marrakech. You can find the piece on our Sample Articles page. It was some of the best cooking instruction we have experienced because it enabled us to get intimately involved in the life and rhythm of the city and its inhabitants. Even if your goal is to bargain your way through the souks (Pat was told she bargained like a Berber), it is hard not to work up an appetite when you keep encountering vendors like the back-street fruit man (above) or the citrus juice truck that stands on the main square, Jemaa El Fna. Everywhere you look, there is food....Read More

Mad for macarons

Montrealers have come to rival Parisians in their passion for macarons. Slowly but surely, pastry chefs all over the city have learned the techniques of making fabulous macarons – those delicate meringue sandwiches that bear only the slightest relation to the much cruder coconut-based American macaroon. The leading macaron boutique for our money is Point G (1266 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-750-7515; www.boutiquepointg.com). The name refers to ''Glaces et Gourmandises,'' or ice cream and small pastries. In practice that means some fabulous artisanal ices (including a foie gras ice cream to take home and dollop on steamed asparagus), and close to two dozen inventive flavors of macarons, including lavender-blueberry, roasted pistachio, orange blossom, crème brûlée, lime-basil, and chocolate-hazelnut. The shop even has clear-plastic containers fitted to...Read More

Making pâté chinois the cooking school way

In our most recent Montreal residency we were amazed by the explosion in cooking classes. Montrealers have always loved to go out to eat, but more and more they're also dining well at home. One of the pioneers in teaching classes for the general public was the Académie Culinaire (360 rue Champ-de-Mars, 514-393-8111, academieculinaire.com), which has its offices and kitchens in a modern facility on the edge of Old Montreal. The Académie created a modernized, jazzed-up version of pâté chinois that reflects the increased sophistication of even basic Quebecois cookery. We find it a wonderfully comforting supper dish on a cold winter night. The recipe required no tinkering at all, except that we adapted it for cooking in a 9x13 pan. If you prefer, individual...Read More