Date Night Idea: Take a Cooking Class

This past Saturday my husband and I took a cooking class at CulinAerie, a local cooking school company, for our weekly date night.  The last time we took a cooking class was on our honeymoon in Bermuda.  We had a great time and had said that we definitely wanted to take another cooking class, but of course one thing led to another (buying a new house, moving, renovations…life!) and a year and a half passed before we started looking in DC for a class.  

My search for a local cooking class was extremely fruitful (thank you Google!) and I was able to put together a list of cooking class options.  From there I started asking around for feedback from my friends on any experiences they had had with any of the cooking classes on my list.  A few of my friends suggested I try out CulinAerie, as they had all had wonderful experiences there.  I shared this information with my husband and we decided to go for it!  

A close friend of mine, who had taken a few cooking classes at Culinaerie before, recommended that we arrive early in order to secure seats in the front row for the best view.  Let me just say, that I am so glad we did!  CulinAerie has video monitors throughout the classroom to ensure everyone can see what the teacher is doing, but I loved having the ability to watch the teacher's demonstrations up close.  

Once we secured our seats and got settled, a kitchen assistant came around with a tray of the most delicious Hibiscus Margaritas.   I wasn't able to obtain the exact recipe from the teacher, but I did track down a similar Hibiscus Margarita recipe on the web.  This a fabulous cocktail recipe to consider trying during the Spring and Summer months.  I am actually planning on serving this tasty cocktail for Cinco de Mayo tomorrow night!  

After we had enjoyed a round of very tasty margaritas, it was time to start cooking!  The theme of the evening was Vegetarian Mexican Cuisine.  Here is a recap of what we made:

The Menu

  • Hibiscus Ceviche- I had always assumed that Ceviche had to be made with a raw fish or a similar meat component.  Boy, was I wrong!  Rehydrated Hibiscus Flowers are actually quite meaty in texture and work beautifully in a ceviche recipe.  
  • Mexican Lentil Hash- This recipe was super easy to make and very healthy.  I loved the rainbow of colors used from all of the different vegetables and the overall flavor profile was excellent.  My favorite part about this dish was actually when my husband remarked "Hey, this is pretty easy to make.  I can definitely make this for you sometime."  Music to my ears!!!  (Picture of this dish is featured below)  
  • Roasted Poblano stuffed with Potato, Corn and Queso with Roasted Tomato Sauce-  this was another delicious dish, but honestly the highlight was learning a new kitchen technique.  I had previously roasted my bell peppers in the oven, which always took a long time.  Learning how to char poblano peppers over an open stove top flame was so much faster and the charred skin was a cinch to remove.  (Finished product is also pictured below)
  • Granita de Pitaya (or Red Prickly Pear)- This is a great dessert idea to consider making during the Spring and Summer.  It's light, refreshing and also easy to make!  Here is a similar granita recipe from Martha Stewart for Mango-Lime Granitas

Of course there are the obvious benefits of taking a cooking class for date night- learning a new recipe and having a delicious dinner with your significant other.  However, what I loved the most were all of the additional benefits I reaped from taking this class.  

Benefits Beyond the Dinner

  • Flavor Inspiration- Until this class I would have never had the guts or know-how to use hibiscus or charred poblano peppers in a recipe.  Now that I have had the experience from this class, I cannot wait to start incorporating roasted pablano peppers and hibiscus flowers into my culinary repertoire.  
  • Knife Skills- One of my favorite parts of the evening was when the teacher gave us a lesson on knife techniques.  Learning how to dice an onion like a pro, quickly chop cilantro and easily de-seed and dice a jalepeno was absolute GOLD.  I cannot tell you how much time I will save in the future when preparing dishes just from knowing these simple knife techniques.
  • Flavor Enhancers/Brighteners- Another great tip we learned during this class was the power of adding acid to a dish.  The addition of an acid (ex. lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar) can really bring out the flavors of the dish.  
  • Meeting New People- Lets face it, its not always easy to meet new people these days.   My days are spent blogging in the morning, going to work all day, coming home and spending time with my husband, and then repeating the same schedule the next day.  There is not a whole lot of time left over (or energy) in any given week for going out and meeting new people.  During this cooking class we were paired with another couple, who my husband and I both enjoyed meeting.  While I am not totally sure that we will become long term friends with this couple, I did realize that taking a class like this is a great way to put yourself out there and meet other people in your area with similar interests.  
  • Quality Time- This was probably the best benefit of the evening.  I had honestly grown so tired of the standard Movie and/or Dinner Date Nights.  Movie date nights have always made me feel silo-ed from my husband, since we are sitting in a dark theater for hours unable to talk.  In addition, dinner date nights at restaurants while nice, were tough places to have a conversation (since you are in a heavily populated room) and short lived (1-2hrs tops?).  I loved this cooking class because it involved teamwork, learning something new, enjoying a delicious meal and going outside of our traditional routinized date nights. 

My husband and I had the best time taking this cooking class at CulinAerie.  Not only did we learn something new and get to spend quality time together, but my husband has now offered to cook me dinner this weekend (yay!).  We have already been back on their website trying to decide on which class to sign up for next!  I have also realized that cooking classes are great for double dates, so we are planning on coordinating with another couple for the next class.  

After taking this class I am done with constantly defaulting to the standard dinner and a movie date night.  I have been completely re-energized when it comes to planning creative date nights and cannot wait to start researching new ideas.  Do you have any favorite date night activities?