The Modern Pantry has officially hosted its first food education classes. On Saturday, October 26th a group of twelve eager, would-be bakers gathered around mixing bowls at Gretchen's Here and Now bakery in North Vancouver. The full-wall oven and hot apple cider did wonders to warm up cold fingers coming in from a fall day.
Participants got their hands dirty in two recipes: Orange Olive Oil Cake and Cornmeal, Dried Apricot, and Olive Oil Biscotti. Gretchen beat eggs and sugar to silky ribbons while questions like "can you substitute oil for butter in a recipe and how do you do it?" and "why does North American baking centre around butter?" were answered.
The smell of fresh baking lay the backdrop to the second half of the class: olive oil tasting. Each participant took their spot around the bakery's long serving table, planting their feet squarely in front of their own set of five plastic cups. Working methodically from left to right we sniffed, slurped, and swallowed oils from Italy, France, and California. We talked about growing conditions, olive varieties, cultural influence and the distinct flavour profiles of each oil. Then we compared them to 'off' oils - the result of not treating your EVOO with the respect it deserves.
Full of treats and knowledge, everyone left the class with a goodie bag of baking and a bottle of oil, ready to tackle the grocery store shelves with more confidence.
The second class came just a few days later at The Modern Pantry's pop-up location in West Vancouver. "Full Pig Butchery and Craft Beer Night" started off with all eleven hungry participants devouring porchetta sandwiches paired with Steamworks Pilsner. We talked meat, we talked beer and pairing notes, and everyone had the chance to make specific requests of what they wanted to learn during the evening.
Everyone then moved into the abandoned kitchen space of the old Beachside restaurant for knife skills training and demonstration on the first side of pork, led by Pasqual from Sebastian & Co in Dundarave. And then it was time to get in there. Wielding sharp knives and saws (in a controlled and safe manner, of course) everyone got a chance to break large primal cuts into more manageable, cookable cuts. By the end, everyone could even say with authority that the butt is, in fact, at the front of the pig.
We took a break half way through to have some more snacks. There are never enough snacks. Especially when what's on offer is freshly made pate de campagne paired with our second beer of the night: Stanley Park Amber Ale. Refortified, everyone made their last couple of cuts before collecting their bounty and heading home to fill their freezers.