Monday, August 23, 2010

Cooking Class at the Mimosa Grill

If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I am in a book club that meets monthly. We call ourselves the Magnolia Readers. Every month we chose a topic or genre and then we each select a different book on which to report. We also take turns hosting the meeting at our homes; however, whoever hosts can choose to do something different if she wishes.

Well, my friend, Lynn hosted the club this month and treated all of us to something extra special. The topic was cooking, and rather than hosting at her house, she took us to the big city of Charlotte to a cooking class presented by Zink American Kitchen. It was held at the beautiful Mimosa Grill in the downtown area. I was so excited. I love watching cooking shows, but I had never been to a class before.

After driving for over and hour and relying on a GPS for navigational assistance, we arrived at our destination, The Mimosa Grill. It is such a lovely establishment. We were greeted with drinks and had a little time to sit and relax before the class started.

The class featured produce from local farmer's markets, and each dish was prepared by a chef from Mimosa. They each shared great tips for preparation and information on where to find the best local ingredients. After each dish was demonstrated it was served to us by the waiters. Each of the four courses was paired with a wine that was discussed by another chef.

Everything was scrumptious! The meal lasted for several hours. I wish that every meal was served that way, instead of in the terrible American habit of eating hurriedly then rushing off to do something else. It reminded me of my trip to Europe and the meals that I enjoyed there.

The first course was Yorkmont Tomato and Peasant Bread Salad paired with Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc, from Marlborough, New Zealand. This featured local tomatoes, organic cucumbers, red onion, basil and goat cheese. It was named for the Yorkmont Farmer's Market located near the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

This dish was my favorite of all of the dishes. It also happened to be the easiest one to prepare. (I will share the recipe later on in the week.)

The second dish was North Carolina Shrimp and Corn Etoufee paired with Silver Ridge Pinot Noir from California. This dish was made with fresh North Carolina shrimp and craw fish from Louisanna. It definitely reminded me of my trip to the gulf coast many years ago. I love it when a dish evokes a distant memory. Isn't that part of what enjoying a meal should be about?

The etoufee looks yummy, doesn't it? The local produce featured in this dish was okra, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and hot summer peppers.

I had my doubts about the next dish because I am not fond of turkey, but the American Turkey Melt proved that with the proper ingredients and techniques almost anything can become a gourmet dish. The smokey blue cheese, tomato, and crispy squash made this open-faced turkey burger special. It was paired with a very nice Ruta 22 Malbec from Patagonia, Argentina. I had never had a wine from Argentina before and enjoyed this one very much.

Plum Upside Down Cake with spiced gelato and spearmint simple syrup was served for dessert. I was especially glad to learn the proper technique for making a mint simple syrup. The trick to great taste is to remove it from the burner as soon as it comes to a boil. I think I would like to make some of this to keep in the fridge to add to tea. This dessert was paired with a sweet Gekkeikan Plum wine from Japan. I do not care for sweet wines at all so this was not my favorite pairing. I would much rather have a good cup of coffee with a sweet treat.

Of course, after this wonderful cooking and dining experience we were all stuffed. We decided to take a stroll down some of Charlotte's beautiful streets. If you ever get a chance to see this city, you should take it. There are fountains and beautiful artwork all around. Most people who come here are amazed by the abundance of trees. Charlotte probably has more trees than any other city of its size. That can be a problem when a storm with lots of wind blows through, but I think they add so much beauty to the cityscape.

I just had to throw in a picture of Mimosa's outdoor dining area. I love dining AL fresco, don't you? It seems that food just tastes better when enjoyed in the fresh air. I just wish this summer had not been so hot so that we could enjoy dining outside more often. Maybe the fall will bring better temperatures for that.

After a cooking school featuring local farmer's market produce, we had to visit the one on the square before our trip home. This seemed to be the perfect way to end the day. I took many more pictures of the produce at the market. I think I'll save those for a rainy day!

I would highly recommend a cooking experience like this one. If you love to cook or just love to eat, it is a fun thing to do. Thank you, Lynn, for giving us such a treat! The only negative at all is that next month it's my turn to host...whatever will I do?


Rebecca said...

What a fun experience! I love the format/concept of your monthly book club...I've been to Charlotte once (and didn't allow enough time to seem all I NOW know to be there). It IS a beautiful city!

Joan Elizabeth said...

That is an experience that will be hard to top. All the food looks very interesting.

Cameron said...

What a wonderful outing! As I was reading about all the wine pairings, I did hope you strolled around instead of driving afterwards! :-) Your menu sounded lovely (though I have a seafood allergy and couldn't have the shrimp).

Allison said...

It looks like you had such a fun time! THANK YOU for letting us look inside such an experience...but don't be fooled... in Europe people eat just as fast as in America. It just depends on where you are. My husband eats in 10 minutes flat! Ah! But I agree with you... slow dining is the best kind, especially among friends. Cheers Carla!

Paula said...

I commented yesterday but must have xed out of the screen before the comment verification came up.

This sounds like such a fun evening. I adore cooking classes and haven't had an opportunity to do one in a long while. Using local produce makes this one especially good. It's going to be hard to top this evening when you host!

A Hopeful Heart said...

This is my first visit to your blog. I saw your comment on someone else's post and just had to stop by because of your username....Southern Lady is one of my favorite magazines!! I am a Southern gal at heart, currently living in the rugged mountain West, but hoping to move back to my beloved South very soon. So, I just had to make your acquaintance.

Then, when I read this post, I fell in love with your book club's name. I LOVE magnolias, and, in fact, the blog makeover that I'm in the process of getting and which should be unveiled within the next couple days, will feature my beloved magnolia teacup.

So, you're kind of a blog after my own heart.

Blessings to you,
Patti (Fill My Cup with Beauty)

myletterstoemily said...

what a fun adventure! i could certainly use
some cooking lessons, as that is definitely
my 'short suit!'

Cindy said...

What an awesome experience for you! And in MY city too!!

Your food blogs always look so lucious, so I know that you were a prize pupal!!

Thanks for sharing,

From the Kitchen said...

I would love an invitation to join the Magnolia Readers!!!! What a wonderful treat. I'm going to tell my bookgroup, The Muses, all about it when we meet tomorrow evening. We meet once a month at different homes. There are, just like the Muses, nine of us. We all read and discuss the same book. My husband and I belong to a couples' book group (four couples) and we meet for dinner four times a year and discuss various books that we've read individually.


Denise said...

Wow, yes, that's a hard one to follow, sounds like a fabulous day. So what books did you all discuss? I'm in a book club but we all read the same book each month then discuss that. We take turns hosting too. I've not really heard of it done like that where you all pick different books and report on them, sounds interesting.
And what books are for your theme?

*Ulrike* said...

A fantastic outing! I haven't "stopped" in Charlotte for a long time. It is only 3 hours from here which would make a nice weekend trip. All of that food looks so delicious!, and yes, Europeans do take their time eating plus they are not hurried out of the restaurant as they do here. I am interested to see what you will do!!
Take Care,