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Cooking Classes at Two

Learn to cook with more flavor and flair at Two

Saturday night is date night for my boyfriend and I. The tradition started when he first invited me over one night to eat a barbequed rack of ribs and a spinach salad. I decided to repay him the next weekend, so I toted over my well-worn copy of The Greens Cookbook and nervously prepared my first dinner for him. In the following months, we settled into a system of him grilling the meat and me making the sides, though we’re always looking for new recipes to challenge ourselves or new techniques to improve on our favorites.

I’d been itching to take a cooking class to learn a few tricks, but my schedule doesn’t leave me a lot of time to commit to a weekly course. A cooking class at Two restaurant in the SoMa was the perfect solution.

Class participants are chosen by a lottery system at least a month in advance. I signed up online for the “Indian Summer” course, hoping my name would be picked. A couple weeks later I received an email response and paid the $100 per person fee. The cost covers the class, a seated lunch with wine pairings, sales tax and gratuity.

Classes are set to start at 10:30 in the morning one Saturday a month. Being the punctual one that I am, I rolled in just about the time class was set to start, but I still made it in time for the mimosas and freshly brewed coffee at the bar. A group of about 25 people, made up mostly of friends celebrating birthdays or couples on dates, perched atop stools around the oblong bar and sipped on their drinks of choice.

When we were settled and thirsts satiated, Two’s proprietor, David Gingrass, came out and introduced himself and went over the menu of the day. After we were handed our aprons and led back to the kitchen.

Strangely, by the time this particular Saturday rolled around, San Francisco’s Indian summer had ended early and we had our first good soaking of rain. Since rain leads to rot for some vegetables, the eggplant soup that was originally picked for the menu was scratched. A warm local calamari salad with gigante beans, cerignola olives, prosciutto broth and arugula stood in for the first course.

After discussing how the squid should be prepared, classmates were asked to come around the counter and get it ready for the salad. These classes are hands on, but you can be involved as little or as much as you wish. I admit that I was a little lazy that morning (maybe it was the mimosas), so I didn’t jump right in. I munched on one of the fresh savory pastries that was set on the counter and watched the others clean the pieces of squid.

Some people like to watch a good Hollywood thriller or blockbuster. Well, if there was a movie where someone talked about food as passionately and at the same time with the sense of humor that David does, I’d pay to see it. David explained why he chose the ingredients for that day’s meal. He talked about how he knows how garlic was prepared by the taste it gives off. He told us about what cuts of beef are best and where we can buy it. He talked about why he chose the beans that he did and why we shouldn’t salt the water. And then he showed us how to cook all of it.

After the ingredients for the first course were prepared, we were sent over to the station of pastry chef Andrea Mautner. She broke down the steps of making puff pastry for the Warren pear tarte with caramel, cranberry swirl ice cream that we’d have for dessert. I’ve heard of the difficulties people have had with puff pastry. Not having made puff pastry myself, I never understood why people are often intimidated by the process, but now I do. Andrea made the process look manageable, if not necessarily simple. She also taught us how to cook the caramel sauce, careful to point how not to burn the sauce.
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After we checked out how the sweets were made, we made our way back to the savory station. The second course to be prepared was roasted dry-aged prime New York striploin of beef, Yukon gold potatoes and mutsu apples cooked in duck fat and caramelized broccoli, garlic and lemon.

For this course, duck fat was heated in a pan in which potatoes and apples were sautéed. This was a fitting accompaniment to the striploin, which David showed us how to rub with oil and season with thyme and pepper before it was seared. As for the second side of broccoli, it was cut and caramelized in a pan. David explained that there is enough sugar in the broccoli that comes out in this process that it is sweet enough even for picky kids who might not normally eat their vegetables.

The best part of the day, of course, is the finished product. All the classmates sat down together to eat what we all had prepared (well, kind of prepared). Bringing the experience one step further, the first and main courses were paired with wine from Adastra Vineyards in Napa. A winery representative took the time to explain what it was that we were drinking and why it was chosen. A 2005 Chardonnay was paired with the salad and a 2004 Merlot was selected for the beef course.

If I’ve piqued your interest, the next cooking class coming up on Saturday, November 17th, is “Thanksgiving 2007,” and also costs $100 per person. Though, spots are likely filled at this point. Try signing up for some of the other classes. Upcoming menus include “Christmas Dinner” for $120, “Lighten Up (post holiday food that is flavorful but less fattening than holiday fare) for $80, and “Valentine’s Menu for Two” for $100.

There’s parking available at the Moscone Parking Garage, adjacent to Two on Third Street just south of Howard Street. They’re pretty generous with the wine though, so you if you’re partaking, you might want to pick an alternate form of transportation.

In The Kitchen: Cooking Classes at TWO
22 Hawthorne Street
Cross: Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: 415.777.9779
Once a month on the second or third Saturday (check website for classes)
Hours: 10:30am – 2pm
http://www.two-sf.com/inthekitchen/