Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Let's "Go Cooking"

I have to admit that I like learning about cooking almost as much as I enjoy eating what has been prepared. To hear someone who really knows what they're talking about is a bit of a treat for me and last night I attended one of the Go Cooking sessions put on at the Hamilton Spectator. Described as a "gastro-entertainment experience", each session features a chef from a local restaurant preparing a three-course meal and demonstrating the preparation of the recipes and answering questions during the process.
 Last night featured Brandon Ashby, Head Chef at the West Plains Bistro in Burlington assisted by his sous chef Ryan. Brandon previously was with the Rude Native and Limoncello here in Hamilton and he favours a mediterranean cooking style.

First on the menu was a dish of "Wine Steamed Clams with Lemon, Dill and Caper Butter". The 22 attendees were provided with copies of the recipe so that they could follow along and make notes as well as ask questions about the preparation techniques. It's a great opportunity to pick the brain of an actual chef on cooking challenges you may have faced yourself. You can also learn about ingredients that may be less familiar to you, such as caperberries which are the berries from the juniper bush and are used pickled in this recipe.

Sommelier Peter Kline from Bacchus Sommelier Services paired an Argentinian wine with this course and selected UMA Coleccion Torrontes which worked well with the citrus in the sauce. Another benefit of this series is that a sommelier is in attendance and pairs wines he has selected with the different dishes. He gives a bit of background on the wine and why it was chosen.
Next on the menu was "Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon and Lavender Glaze". Brandon provided some tips for ensuring that scallops are cooked properly so that they don't become too rubbery. He advises placing the scallops between two paper towels and gently patting them dry so they don't steam when they are cooked. He also says to cook until just golden in colour with a nice carmelization since scallops get chewy when even slightly over-cooked.

 While Brandon shows the preparation and cooks a single recipe size, sous chef Ryan begins preparing the larger sized meal for the group. He also prepared some golden beets and green beans to go along with the dish. They also showed how to prepare "Risotto with Chives" with tips on using a wooden spoon as opposed to plastic or metal and using warm stock. Phrases that stuck in my mind were "cook with your tongue, not your head" and "wine butter" which just sounds like the most wonderful thing to have with rice. A Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio wine from Italy was served with this course.

 The evening finished off with a lemon mousse and fresh berries in a phyllo cup. One attendee asked what to do with the leftover phyllo dough if you can't use it all up and Brandon said it's ok to refreeze it as he has done this and it tastes fine so long as it is well sealed. He also explained that these cups can be made a few days in advance and stored at room temperature in a sealed container. That makes this an easy make ahead dish that just requires assembly before serving. We were treated to Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut from Cava, Spain with this dish. This was a sparkling wine with a crisp grapefruit finish. Delicious.

 This is the 9th year that the Spectator has run the Go Cooking sessions and the current sessions run during July & August but there is another session that runs in May & June. They take place Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday evenings from 7 - 9pm with some Wednesday afternoon sessions. There are sessions still running until the end of August with some availability remaining. The cost is $55 per person or $50 for Spectator subscribers which is easily the cost of a good dinner out and you get a floor show thrown in as well. For more information on the Go Cooking series, please visit and Bacchus Sommelier Services can be reached at

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