Flavours of Northern Italy – Seconda Parte

I could eat Italian food all day, every day for the rest of my life. Well…I could eat any type of ‘real’ food all day, every day.

And sure, I can cook some Italian food! I can whip up a few things – caprese salad, bruschetta with balsamic vinegar reduction, margarita pizza, creamy polenta, annnnnnd risotto (I am #blessed and was taught how to make it the classic Italian way when I was in Venice). But other than my training in Venice, all my cooking skills are self-taught.

As a die-heart Food & Drink collector (the LCBO’s free magazine which features regional and international wines, dishes using seasonal ingredients and interviews with local producers), I remembered reading about the different cooking classes offered at the Summerhill LCBO. I’ve always fantasised about learning from the Vogue of cooking magazines, but I needed a reason to sign up and someone to go with.

The toaster oven ping went off in my head, Christmas is coming!

I ran over to my computer and did a quick scan of all the courses and tastings they had to offer. The variety of cooking classes is incredible – The Paleo Gourmet, All About Duck, Indian Feast…the list goes on. The LCBO truly embraces the unique cultures that make Toronto so amazing by featuring local chefs and their signature dishes.

After reading all of the course descriptions, it was a no-brainer that I needed to sign up for the Terroni: Flavours of Northern Italy cooking class.

Mum’s Christmas gift – done!

So, on a rainy Tuesday evening (missed my Digital Communications class, sorry Donna!) we were transported out of the Toronto rain to an Italian test kitchen with Chef Giovanna Alonzi from Terroni.

On the menu: Casunzei Ampezzani, Baccala alla Vicentina, and Torta Fondente…Oh, and I cannot forget the Sud Forno bread and EVOO! Let’s eat!

Casunzei Ampezzani paired with a crisp Italian Pinto Grigio.

The Casunzei Ampezzani (which is Agnolotti with Beets and Ricotta in Poppy Seed, Butter, Sage and Parmigiano Sauce) was the most interesting dish. I’ve never made pasta from scratch before and since my boyfriend and I JUST bought a used standing mixer. Good timing!

It was a full class with about 24 home chefs, ready to learn from the experts of Italian cuisine. Since we only had two hours, the chefs got straight to work hand rolling pasta, puréeing roasted beets with ricotta, slow cooking cornmeal into polenta and sifting flour into dark chocolate.

As a first timer, my concept of a cooking class included a hands-on cooking experience while being guided by the expert. That was not the case in this class.

I’ve gone back and forth towards my feelings for this class but as much as I would have loved to be cooking myself, it was a nice after a day of work to sit back and admire the experts. I took notes, asked questions and tried to absorb as much knowledge as my bread absorbed olive oil.

Since I didn’t get my hands on cooking fix during the class, I was jonesing to get home and make it myself. You can read about my experience in Parte Terza (Part Three) of Flavours of Northern Italy here.

Baccala alla Vicentina paired with a French red…not the best choice.

The Baccala alla Vicentina (which is Salted Cod from Vicenza) was comforting for a rainy day, but underwhelming compared to the pasta dish. The meal had a similar texture to porridge and I felt the creamy baccala should have been paired with something more firm. Chef did mention that this dish was often served as a hearty breakfast to sailors. Cool!

Since my boyfriend is Portuguese, I’m pretty familiar with salted cod. In fact, I’ve even made Bacalhau A Bras before! If I were to remake this Italian recipe at home, I would put a different spin on the polenta by making crunchy polenta fries.

Torta Fondente paired with an Italian prosecco.

The Torta Fondente (which is a dark chocolate tort) was perfection and not overly sweet.

I am not a huge fan of eating desserts and I don’t bake either. Pastries are a challenge (which tend to result in anxiety, swears and eating too much butter) and I’m just figuring out how to make bread from scratch. But, as I mentioned earlier, we just bought a standing mixer so I think I could tackle this six-ingredient recipe (dark chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, flour, and icing sugar)!

I was going to check my calendar to see who’s birthday is next but really I need no reason to make this cake. (I just need to go to the gym after!)


In conclusion…

$75 bucks at any given restaurant will get you two courses and maybe a two glasses of wine.

$75 at this cooking class at the LCBO got us three courses, three glasses of wine, and the knowledge of how to make three new recipes! Plus, you leave the class with a little buzz and enter in the the Narnia of liquor stores.

Get out of your kitchen and try something new at one of the LCBO’s cooking classes!