A “Different” Date Night & Tips From a Chef

Happy Thanksgiving! I woke up this morning thankful for the smell of breakfast casserole wafting upstairs and even more so to have my husband in Chattanooga finally! Poor Robert had 3 or 4 flight delays to deal with yesterday before he finally made it to Tennessee. We held dinner for him so we were equally as hungry as we were happy to see him when he finally arrived around 9:00 pm. Renly most of all Smile One of the best parts of having a dog has got to be how excited they are to see you after an absence. In Renly’s case an absence can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 weeks. Sometimes I get the full “You’re home!I love you!Pet me!Pick me up!please please please” jumping barrage after a trip to the mailbox. Sweet (simple) boy.


Despite Renly’s doggy daddy withdrawals, we have had a great few days at home. Renly has had a ball playing with my parents dogs, and running laps around their huge yard. I have enjoyed catching up with friends over lunch, eating cheap tacos at my favorite local Mexican restaurant, doing a little shopping and spending time with my sweet grandparents.  I also got to spend most of Tuesday with my mama who treated me to a great mother-daughter date night. Last year my sister bought my mom and dad a gift certificate to Mia Cucina, a gourmet kitchen retail store who also hosts weekly cooking classes. As so often happens with gift certificates, my parents didn’t use it right away and therefore promptly forgot about it. When it was recently discovered (and about to expire!) my mom signed us up for Tuesday’s class. Classes are offered nightly, each with a different theme. Our class was titled “Recipes From Restaurants We Love” and consisted of four courses, each from a different local restaurant.

Corn Chowder 2
Poblano Corn Chowder


Spare Ribs and Shrimp and Grits
Molasses Braised Beef Short Ribs and Shrimp and Jack Cheese Grits with Tomato Ragout


Lava Cake
Dark Chocolate Lava Cake


Classes are BYOB and are either “hands on” or “demonstration”. In a hands on class, you actually make your own meal under instruction from a chef. A demonstration class, which is what ours was, consists more of watching and learning. I think a hands on class would be a blast but the demonstration was a lot of fun. We sat around the kitchen and sipped wine and beer while watching our chef, Hannah, prepare the meal. Hannah talked through each step and answered questions and offered helpful cooking tips along the way. Two assistants served each course to the crowd as it was ready.  The food was delicious and plentiful, one round was enough to have me feeling stuffed but seconds of each course were offered to those with larger appetites. You are also provided with a copy of each recipe and pens before the class begins so you can take notes and later prepare the dishes at home. I noticed that everyone dutifully took notes at the beginning of the class but after a few courses (and glasses of wine) the eating took center stage and the note taking became less diligent Smile


I learned a couple of great new tips from Hannah that I wanted to share here. The first has to do with food prep. Hannah is a Cajun cook by trade and said she starts most of her recipes with “the trinity” of celery, green pepper and onion. This diced trio is chopped small and cooked down to start as the base of many recipes. Carrots are often substituted for the peppers in many dishes. Anytime you are using a trio of vegetables for a recipe, dice your celery half the size of the other vegetables and when it is finished, all of the vegetables are finished. I’ve never heard this but thought it was a great tip, especially for cooks who aren’t the most attentive to timers (guilty). Hannah’s second tip that I found useful was that you should always season early. Apparently many recipes get this wrong and instruct you to add seasonings toward the end. According to Hannah, you want your seasoning to hit direct heat so that it will “bloom” and give you more flavor. So if you are making soup, season before you add your liquid, otherwise you will end up using a lot more seasoning as it will get lost in the broth. Fresh herbs are the only exception to this rule, those you want to put in at the end. This was another new tidbit for me and will really change the way I cook many dishes!

Prep 2 Instruction

Mom and I both really enjoyed the class and she vowed to come back with my dad who loves to cook. I vowed to look for a similar place in Hilton Head to try with Robert. Robert has no interest in cooking but I’m certain he would enjoy a class like this and it would be a unique and fun alternative to our routine date nights at restaurants. If you have a Mia Cucina or similar “cooking school” in your area, I highly recommend trying it out! It’s perfect for date night, girls night out, or even a fun family outing with older children. It would also be a great way to pamper yourself for some solo “you time”. The chance to sit back with a glass of wine and watch someone else cook you dinner has got to appeal to even the most enthusiastic of home cooks. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, whether you are slaving away behind the stove or watching with your glass of wine Winking smile Gobble Gobble!

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