Bay Bites
Tuesday Night Cooking
by Mark Burns

For those with culinary aspirations, the Annapolis School of Cooking is the place to turn for a crash course in tasty, healthy cooking.

"Where else can you cook food, eat it and meet new people? This is wonderful," exclaimed Kathy O'Brien, student at the School of Cooking's Southwestern cooking class and former restaurateur of Giolitti fame.

The weekly enterprise of sisters Rita Calvert, with over 22 years experience, and Eileen Zack, with over 23 years, pulls in each Tuesday about 20 eager chefs, who learn from menus developed jointly by the sisters and featured in their cookbooks. While most of those who come are 30- and 40-something women, the class has taken in both men and women ages 10 to 80.

The promise of expert instruction and fine dining amid good company has brought in a wide range of talent, including some culinary pros. "We've even had the Naval Academy admiral's cooking staff come in here to learn new dishes," said Zack.

Much of the cooking crowd had been here before, including Pete DeNucci, who ran as a Republican in the Maryland Senate in District 30. "I've been here about 20 times," said DeNucci, who often repeats the dishes he learns at school.

The Annapolis School of Cooking has taken in many an aspiring cook since its founding nearly three years ago. Classes meet in the kitchen of Pease Porridge Hot, the catering firm and deli Zack founded and has run for 14 years. Both Zack and Calvert have traveled the globe, picking up exotic influences along the way. They find the food for their many exotic dishes at Fresh Fields.

The dishes for which people donned aprons the night I joined in were a bit less exotic but intriguing nonetheless. Twenty people came into the kitchen, divided among stations of their choosing. While one station worked on guacamole and corn salsa, another worked on the meats: rolled stuffed flank steak Santa Fe and chicken breasts Santa Fe. Other stations worked on the slaw with dried cranberries, Tex-Mex baked beans and dessert of chocolate biscuits with fat-free fudge sauce and a fruit filling of strawberry, raspberry and blueberry.

Calvert and Zack surveyed progress as they transited between stations, offering tips here and there but leaving it to the students to cook up their own concoctions as laid out by the recipes. During breaks, the chefs-in-training meandered station to station to see what they were missing.

After grilling, baking and stirring, the cooks tasted the fruits of their hard work. At decorated tables in the deli's eating area, the class dined on their dishes. Gradually, students cleaned their plates and filtered out the door, eager to go home and give it a go solo.

This Tuesday, Jan. 19, the sisters dish up diverse delicacies featuring the core combo of Asian Cooking - sweet, hot, sour and salty flavors - as you prepare and eat Thai Caesar salad, ginger noodle salad, spicy chicken with lemon grass & lime, shrimp in green curry with jasmine rice and ginger pear tarts. 6:30-9:30 @ Annapolis School of Cooking in Pease Porridge Hot, 911 Commerce Rd., Annapolis. $35, rsvp: 410/263-2895.

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Volume VII Number 2
January 14-20, 1999
New Bay Times

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