For Christmas, one of the things I bought for T was a class at the new Barbeques Galore in 4S Ranch (not Forest Ranch, people). The new store allowed them to include room for their Outdoor Cooking School, which is a little misleading since the class is held inside. But, all the recipes can be made on a grill. And when I say all, I mean all. Even creme brulee. The class is taught by Carissa Giacalone, who came in third in the first season of The Next Food Network Star (the one that gave us Guy Fiore).
The “classroom” seats 12, but we only had 10 in our class. There really isn’t a bad seat and it’s like sitting at the kitchen bar while your friend cooks you dinner. It’s pretty cool. Carissa is really nice and friendly and answers any question you throw at her. I imagine the tone of the class varies hugely depending on who is there. We had a group of 6 friends, another couple, and then us. You get a list of all the recipes shown in the class, a Viking brochure, and 15% off anything in the store that night. You can also bring in your own wine or beer, something we didn’t know ahead of time but will pay attention to if we take another class there. The guy at the other end of the bar went through his first bottle of wine before we even got through the second dish. So, you know, some people are there more for their friends than for the cooking lessons.
We took the Entertaining with Easy and Elegant Dishes class and the dishes were certainly pretty easy and elegant looking, especially with the plating techniques and garnishes. You get to eat everything she cooks and we were pretty full at the end of the class. It’s actually more than a bite of each dish, but way less than, say, and appetizer portion. The soup was plentiful, we had one scallop, two lamb chops, a handful of the potatoes, and everyone got their own creme brulee (which was one of the best I’ve ever tasted).
The class is really designed for the lowest common denominator. If you’re at all comfortable in a kitchen, you probably won’t learn anything new from these classes, aside from some recipes and maybe garnishing ideas. That is me being snobby, because I felt like an accomplished chef next to my “classmates”, but I still had a really fun time. And I was impressed with all the foods that you can do on a grill, even if I would probably still do most of the dishes on the stove or in an oven. I think the idea is to just get people thinking about all the things they can do on a grill, besides sausages and hamburgers and chicken wings. I could totally see us cooking a full meal outside in the summer, around a fire pit, if we ever get the backyard patio concept done. So, that’s a cool idea – cooking everything from appetizers to dessert at your bbq, without having to run inside, away from your guests, and serving a fancier dessert than grilled pineapple (which is awesome in its own right, by the way). Especially here in San Diego, where our summer nights are gorgeous and meant for enjoying outside.
The Barbeques Galore cooking class is not hands-on; you basically sit, watch, drink, and eat. Oh, and shop. A lot of the gadgets Carissa uses are sold in the store (15% off), just “out the door and to the left” – they set up a display island featuring the rubs and tools she uses for each class. If you want a technique class, or something where you’ll learn how to prepare fancy dishes, this isn’t the school for you. But, if you want a fun class with dishes you might actually make back at home, I think you’d enjoy it.