Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cooking Class with Pam Anderson at A Southern Season

Yesterday was an exciting day for me. I was going to get to meet Pam Anderson in person! Pam and her daughters, Maggy and Sharon, have been exceedingly gracious and kind, and I've had a few email exchanges and conversations on Twitter with them. They were sweet enough to give me a shout-out on their blog ThreeManyCooks a while back for that ginger syrup recipe that they liked. I reviewed Pam's wonderful new cookbook, Perfect One-Dish Dinners here a little while back, and now I had an opportunity to go and see her teach a class based on it in Chapel Hill - about 2 1/2 hours from us here in Wilmington. The class was at 6:00 PM.

Now, those of you who know me are hopefully doing the math. And figuring out that this put me on the road coming back after dark, which is my bedtime. And I LOVE bedtime.

Always have.

So for me to be up and out past 7:30, well, it obviously was something seriously special.

My Good Neighbor Morgan went with me! (holla!) That made the whole trip so much better. Company in the car for the five hour (total) drive improved the situation considerably.

Isn't she freaking adorable?

We left early enough to get to A Southern Season and gawk a little. It was like we died and went to kitchen heaven. That place is pretty amazing. Check it. I did have to giggle over the initials, though. Oh, so shoot me. Sometimes I'm a ten-year-old boy.

After they called for cleanup on the aisles to mop up the drool we left, we scooted upstairs for the class. It looked more like a hotel lobby than a cooking shop. Very nice.
The view of the wine department from upstairs.

We approached a rather dour-looking man who was sitting at a table right by the entrance with a laptop.

Me: "Excuse me, good sir, are you the one we give our tickets to?"
Dour Man: "NO! I... am... the HEALTH INSPECTOR" (insert crash of thunder and evil, maniacal laugher here)
Me: "Ohhkaaayyy... thanks anyway, Igor. We'll find our own way in."

OK, no I didn't really say that, but I sure wanted to. Apparently, before the class, the Health Department had decided the cooking class was actually a restaurant, and therefore had to submit to a health inspection. By Igor. Of course, they passed with flying colors - that place is incredibly clean - but it did throw things into overdrive for a while. The staff seemed to be panting when we first started getting settled.

Before class, I got a quick hello from Pam and then she started right on the dot of 6:00. I love a punctual person.

Here's Pam making us a salad, while we sit on our butts and drink wine. Excellent!

I picked up an excellent tip from her cookbook and got to see her demonstrate it - tossing the salad with a simple oil and vinegar mixture rather than a dressing. Toss the greens with oil (it looked like she used A LOT of oil) until they're well-coated, then season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with a little vinegar (she used balsamic), then toss again. Don't overdo the vinegar. I admit, I was a little dubious. I do not like oily salads. I should have known better.

It was, of course, perfect. I mean for heaven's sake, she's Pam Anderson!

She spoke about "having people over" vs. "Entertaining", which is much more work and less fun. Like I imagine tap-dancing must be. It is something I was happy to hear her articulate, because I've found that as I've gotten older, I'm much more interested in less complicated, more user-friendly menus than when I was younger and getting my chops. Morgan and I had actually been talking about it on the trip over. Pulling out all the stops is fun, but it often backfires, since it intimidates people who aren't very interested in cooking. It can also BE intimidating, as Pam pointed out, because then you put pressure on yourself, thinking everyone is expecting the meal of a lifetime when they come over. That resonated with me and echoed my own experience here at Cafe 305. The meals have gotten a lot less showy and a lot more comfortable in the past decade.

Of course, it could also be that I'm getting old and lazy.

Back to Pam. 

She made us several dishes from her cookbook, but I think my favorite was the pimento cheese. Rather than put pimentos in it, she added chopped olives. MAN, it was good! She may live up North now, but she's from the South and it shows. (She hasn't lost her accent completely, either.)

It didn't stand a chance. I probably should have taken a picture before I ate half of it.

I have to comment on the cooking class space. It was amazing.

No, we didn't sit in the front. It makes me feel like a dork. And I would have felt weird about snapping pictures down there.

Isn't it pretty? Large, attractive, efficient, and did I mention clean? I highly recommend going to one of the classes they have there if you're in that area. Just sitting in the space and watching is entertaining enough.

Pam was very sweet and gave me a couple of shout-outs during class, which was way above and beyond. If you are visiting Cafe 305, welcome, and I'm sorry. I told you in class that I'm a hack. Pam doesn't have bad taste. She's just exceedingly nice.

She cooked and demonstrated several recipes from her book:

Roast Chorizo-Stuffed Adobo Pork Loin with Black Beans and Rice
Make-Ahead Jack Quesadillas with Salsa Verde
Field Greens with Apples, Dried Cherries and Pumpkin Seeds
Silky Chocolate Flan
Oven Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
Pimento Cheese with Green Olives and Flatbread Crackers (!!!!)
Miniature Lemon-Raspberry Cakes

Morgan made me put the raspberry back on top and take another picture. It didn't make the cut. 

I'm not posting them here. You should go buy the book. Seriously! And get it for someone for Christmas! The holidays are right around the corner! I'm totally making that pimento cheese for our party, by the way.

After class, Pam signed her books for people.

She was gracious and lovely to everyone who came to see her.

She was even kind enough to pose for pictures.

This, folks, is why I'm on the other side of the camera most of the time. Please remember that in my case, the camera adds 100 pounds and 15 years.

It was a perfect evening, and I didn't even mind getting home at 11:35 PM. Except for when I hit Wallace and still had an hour to go. Then I admit I thought, "(YAWN)... now wait... WHY am I doing this?"

But of course, it was worth it.

Now go buy her cookbook for yourself and your loved ones! You can't borrow mine, I'm using it.

And have some people over for dinner. Pam will make it easy for you.


Michaela said...

Loved reading this--especially as I met Pam for the first time last month (at the Blogher Food Conference in San Fran) I know her delightful daughter, Sharon, from The Taunton Press--AND, we spoke about you, Andie, and how generally amazing you are...
Thanks for this terrific review. This place looks incredible, and a smart-match for Pam's savvy Southern cooking.
I love your sassy-wit too. Made me envy your neighbor Morgan (who got to ride shotgun with you.)
Good read, good fun!

Restoring said...

Great article! Came in through Southern Food Network. Can't wait to read more from you! I'm in North Carolina too!