By SUSAN ERICSON
A dozen guests gathered at the counter of Taste and Technique Cooking Studio on River Road in Fair Haven last week, absorbing the pearls of culinary wisdom of chef and retaurateur Marilyn Schlossbach.
Cooking studio owner Carolyn Rue has managed to bring in some of the most sought-after local restaurant chefs, making sure that the classes are not only informative and delicious, but often entertaining.
The class, titled ‘Jersey Farm Fresh Table,’ consisted of a full dinner, cooked by Schlossbach.
Starting with a salad of arugula enhanced by chunks of watermelon, herb-marinated feta cheese, pepitas, baby kale and Sweety Drops, the chef had everyone’s attention.
“Sweety Drops?” In unison, eyebrows and hands went into the air. What are Sweety Drops, and where do we find them?
Schlossbach patiently explained that Sweety Drops are tiny Peruvian peppers she calls “pop rocks.” With just a bit of heat and a tangy flavor, they do indeed “pop” on your taste buds.
This is one of the best reasons to take a cooking class from a seasoned professional: her knowledge and experience add layers of flavor to the ordinary.
Schlossbach also shared with the class her opinion on where to find the freshest produce in New Jersey. A proponent of sustainable and organic foods, she practices what she preaches by using locally sourced ingredients at her “vacation-inspired destination” restaurants.
In addition to a creamy risotto and a grilled tuna dish, Schlossbach prepared Cast Iron Steak Scampi, which was meant to have organic garlic from Merrick Farm, in Farmingdale. But the impact of recent cool weather and downpours on the crop prompted this self-taught chef and self-proclaimed “picky eater” to go with supermarket garlic.
On that note, Schlossbach touched on the need for flexibility in the kitchen and how substitutions are often necessary in a recipe.
“I know what the end product should taste like,” she said. “Don’t be afraid in the kitchen. We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn.”
Some of the classes at Taste and Technique are demonstration-only, usually led by an authoritative chef who will teach the fine nuances of preparing a gourmet meal, and often sold-out, as was the case with Schlossbach. Others are hands-on, and teach the techniques of roasting, baking, and the all around how-to’s in a kitchen. For $75, it’s a lot like dinner and a show. Just remember to sign up in advance and bring your own bottle of wine.