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Laguna Beach is Southern California's premier seaside destination, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beach goers, Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and surf.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kiss the Cook

Did you know that Laguna Beach has its very own culinary school? That’s right Laguna Culinary Arts  is a multi-faceted school, offering classes for the casual cook to the professional chef. I fall into the category of VERY casual cook, not doing much cooking myself, I tend to rely on my microwave quite a bit! So when I was offered a chance to take a cooking class on ‘Spanish Tapas,’ I was a bit nervous with excitement. I have a Spanish heritage, but have not ever been able to learn the family recipes since my grandmother passed away years ago. So I looked at this as my chance to learn some cooking techniques, as well as some recipes I can pass down to my children.

Our instructor was Alex Morales, ( a recent graduate of the Culinary Professional Chef School,) took a casual approach to the class. We each had a work station outfitted with a set of knives, cutting board and apron. We worked in teams of three in the preparation of our tapas and I was paired with two wonderful ladies who were true ‘foodies.’ In our class, we also had a young lady who was treating her mom to a birthday gift, two close friends for a ladies day out, and a wonderful local couple. Although we had a full class, were all able to work in the spacious kitchen. We started by preparing Chorizo cornbread and agave butter.

Then we moved on to ceviche, which was made with halibut, papaya, mango and cilantro. This turned out to be my favorite taste of the day, and a recipe that was surprisingly easy and will become a staple when I’m hosting parties  at my home.

For me, the two most difficult tapas we prepared, were fried goat cheese fritters and sautéed shrimp in sherry cream sauce. Admittedly, I have never deep-fried a thing in my life and as I watched those cheese fritters cook in the pot of oil, it was pretty amazing. The shrimp dish involved pan-searing the shrimp and then flambéing. It was spectacular!

The menu was rounded out with fried plantains and black beans.

While each group prepared their dishes, Alex mingled thru the kitchen answering questions and offering tips. He taught me a great technique for cutting parsley and cilantro that will change my cooking life. I will now be able to cut those leafy herbs twice as fast.

Once all the tapas were complete, we plated the food and carried it into the Culinary Arts Cafe where we sat at a banquet table and enjoyed our food together. What a feeling of satisfaction after the 2-hour class and now we get to enjoy what we made. When I got home and shared these tapas with the family. I received much praise and lots of kisses of gratitude. Maybe cooking has its benefits?

Laguna Culinary Arts has a long list of unique classes to choose from. There are a series of classes for the beginner to the advanced chef, wine lovers courses, cheese classes, International culinary tours, cake decorating, and much, much more. In addition to the array of classes, you can also enjoy food in their Café, wine and cheese tasting from an array of options, and wine tasting happy hour Monday through Friday.

If you are looking for a unique gift for a special someone in your life, give them the gift of food, a Laguna Culinary Arts gift certificate. You can even order them online.

By Anne-Marie S.

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