Besides binge-watching Netflix and coincidentally (and bizarrely, might I add!) running into actors from the shows we're watching (saw Rachel Brosnahan from House of Cards at the gym and Taylor Schilling from Orange is the New Black in the East Village), we've been actively adding dates to our calendar to help us get through the winter blues. February and March are the hardest months if you ask me. By this time of year, I'm ready to retire my heavy coat and reach for ballet flats instead of boots and run my errands without braving the icy and slushy sidewalk obstacles. However miz it is outside, though, I've discovered it helps to just get out and do something - preferably something fun. We chose to add a new wedding registry service to our list last year called Zola. It was great to register from a place that offered such unique gifts. And since we live in a very small home, we can only have so much stuff, so having the option to also register for activities was perfect for us. Some of the best marriage advice we've been given so far is to never-ever stop dating. I love that. And Zola helped us start things off on the right foot!
We were incredibly fortunate to receive a few amazing activities as gifts and we've gone on two of the dates this past stretch. I wanted to share in case you're in NYC or have similar opportunities in your area that you might like to try. The first was through Home Cooking New York where we, and three other couples, gathered on the border of Soho and Chinatown in a lofted cooking space. Patrick ended up knowing one of the guys which was hilarious -- what are the odds?
Our teacher was Erica Wides (she's amazing), and she taught us everything from how to properly chop, whip, and blanch to why it's so important to make sure your meat has warmed up on the counter before cooking it.
Oh and I should point out that there was a crisis with the egg separating portion of the class. In true spaz form, yours truly lost all dexterity and the ability to crack an egg. After four egg attempts, lots of broken shell where it wasn't supposed to be, four broken yolks when we needed them to be whole, a husband pretending he didn't know who I was, and tears because I was laughing so hard at myself, I let our instructor take over!
What did we make? A cheese soufflé, seared steak in a red wine shallot sauce, roasted potatoes + fennel, and string beans with orange gremolata!
I wish I could have this every night for dinner.
And here is the dessert, the best chocolate mousse with whipped cream I've ever had. Must try to recreate! We left with the instructions for everything so here's hoping I can do it.
Home Cooking New York offers such a variety of culinary education - everything from seminars on how to properly grocery shop to tasting tours through the city to even private cooking classes in your own apartment! I'm already wondering when we can do another class. It's refreshing to learn something so useful and practical for the everyday, you know?
Another activity that we were so generously gifted and enjoyed recently was a wine tour through City Wine Tours. We chose the West Village one since I used to live in that area and will always find it the most charming part of Manhattan. Plus, we heard that the different stops are pretty close together and we knew it'd be a chilly walk! We met up with a group of about 10 others at Grano Trattoria, where we enjoyed pizza and two types of Italian wine, including Prosecco, one of my favorites. From there, we went to A.O.C. where we paired olives and charcuterie with two French wines, my favorite (of the day!) being a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. And then we ended at Ayza where we paired dark chocolate with a red wine from Spain, and white chocolate with a Moscato dessert wine from Italy. Yum! (And then Patrick and I parked ourselves at Corner Bistro for cheeseburgers. An indulgent Saturday afternoon or what?!)
We learned a ton of history and tips and tricks for buying, opening, tasting, and storing wine. My favorite part might have been seeing the rules a sommelier must adhere to when opening a bottle for a table, from how many times he's allowed to cut the foil for removal (only two!) to the purpose of presenting the wine. While it obviously didn't compare to my experiences wine tasting in Italy or Napa, I still feel like I learned a lot of things I didn't know beforehand, and it was the perfect way to spend an otherwise snowy Saturday!
Do you like going on classes and tours? I think my dream retirement plan might be hoppin' on a tour bus (or cruise!) and going to different places and learning new things.