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Holiday Gourmet

Culinary Concepts

With Thanksgiving and all the other holidays just around the corner, it’s easy to stress about food. But it doesn’t have to be that way; whether you are searching for solutions for creating the perfect holiday feast or some more creative gift ideas for the foodie in your life, here are some culinary ideas sure to dazzle.

For the culinary challenged or those who simply want to step up their kitchen skills, San Francisco offers some exciting classroom learning opportunities:

The good ole’ standbys Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma not only offer the goods for whipping up your next gourmet meal, but also have some intriguing classes to boot. The only class scheduled for the remainder of November at non-pretentious Sur La Table is the affordable ($55) “West Coast Cooking”. Taught by chef, culinary consultant and cookbook author Greg Atkinson, the menu for this class includes Sourdough Rolls, Kabocha Squash Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree, Tonkatsu with Dried Plum Sauce and Shredded Cabbage and Orange Sunshine Tart with Whipped Cream. Check the website for up-to-date listings.

Priced at $48, Williams Sonoma’s two-hour course offerings include Winter Soups (basics of making stocks and freezing homemade concoctions – Creamy Porcini Mushroom Soup, Bread and Onion Soup, squash and bean soups), Pizza and Calzone, Wild Mushroom Cooking and a Dungeness crab class, all taught by Chef Gary Bulmer.

Upscale kitchen showroom Purcell Murray in Brisbane also offers cooking courses. Upcoming classes include Holiday Buffet ($45) which features Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan Croutons, Cider Glazed Pork Loin Roast with Apples, Sage and Prunes, Barley Risotto with Walnuts and Cranberries, Potato Fennel Gratin and more, all packed into two hours. The Wines for Holiday Entertaining course taught by Linda Murphy will set you back $65 and seems like a stellar deal, starting you on your career as a sommelier matched against a holiday menu prepared by the Purcell Murray culinary staff. Caviar Tarts and Endive Spears with Crispy Duck Salad, Potato Fennel Gratin and Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola and Chocolate Mascarpone Cheese Tart are a few of the delicacies that will be offered.

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant also offers a series of “educational and entertaining classes that are designed to make wine more accessible, less mysterious and enjoyable.” In addition to the fundamental wine tasting techniques and food pairing classes, there are classes specifically for wine and cheese, chocolate and wine pairing, as well as champagne and sparkling wine classes. Classes range from $50-85.

Let’s not forget about dessert. With classes such as Pies and Pie Dough, Precious Tarts and Pastries, Eclairs, Cream Puffs and Profiteroles, Crème Brulee, Pot de Crème and Crème Caramel and Whimsical Cupcake Decorating, baking arts has something for everyone interested in sweets, including custom classes. Private classes cost $175 and the price descends with number of participants. All food, materials and handouts are included and gift certificates are available.

If you’re looking for more of a social experience, Hands On Gourmet offers cooking classes that you can host in your home or in a rented gourmet kitchen for groups of 10-100. For a new way to meet other singles, turn to Serendipity-sf -- upscale cooking parties hosted by pro chefs. Feast on the food you learn to prepare with other singles and confidentially select those you’d like to meet again after class. For an ethnic twist, check out the Art of Thai Cooking Series with Kasma Loha-unchit, who offers four-session, four-week beginning, intermediate and advanced series ($160 for four classes) in her Oakland home. Gift certificates for classes are also available.

Grocery Delivery
To up the convenience in your life, select your cooking ingredients and groceries and have them delivered to your door with Planet Organics or Organic Express. Both companies support local organic farmers and allow you to go with a preselected combo or choose your perfect custom mix.

Misc Components
It’s safe to assume that vegans and vegetarians already know about the wonders of Tofurky, but if you want to shave some fat and hold the tryptophan, give the organic non-genetically engineered tofu-wheat concoction a try. It’s rumored to have a remarkable turkey-like texture and flavor. Turtle Island Foods offers an all-inclusive Tofurky Feast comprised of one Tofurky Roast (pre-cooked), Cranberry Apple Potato Dumplings, Tofurky Giblet and Mushroom Gravy, Tofurky Wild Rice Stuffing and more. The feast takes about an hour to prepare and serves four and may be found at your local Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery and Mollie Stones.

If you want an icy sweet finish, the local options are great: MaggieMudd and Bombay Ice Cream to the rescue! MaggieMudd offers delicious traditional and dairy and lactose-free ice cream and delivery is free for ice cream cakes. They can make custom cakes bearing your favorite cartoon character or theme. Some of the more unique flavors of their dairy free ice cream include Chocolate Ginger, Lemon Poppyseed, Lychee Coconut and Pumpkin Peanut.

Bombay Ice Cream offers not only Indian ice cream, but Chaat dishes (Indian fast food), curries and samosas. With flavors like Chai, Fig, Bedam Kesar Pista (almond/saffron/pistachio), Saffron Rose and Cardamon, there are lots of choices, all of which are sure to spice up your gathering!