The Savvy Sylvanian: Gets Schooled in the Kitchen

By Mary Helen Darah

I was recently asked to attend a cooking class held at Maumee Bay Kitchen and Bath Center in Sylvania. The local Sylvania business has been hosting culinary classes in their fully equipped showroom with an eclectic group of chefs and cuisines. Although it sounded enticing, I must admit I was hesitant. Cooking is a passion of mine. In fact, I had just prepped for a cooking demo of my own on a local television program.I also have five continually empty mouths—including mine—to feed under my roof on a daily basis. The thought of slicing and dicing while a chef looked over my shoulder seemed anything but appealing.Yet, as I held a flyer for the class in my hand and saw ‘Shepherd’s Pie,’ a wild mushroom appetizer and bread pudding with dried cherries staring up at me, I began to salivate. I caved and made a reservation.

Liz Donaldson explains an important cooking tip while the Savvy Sylvanian focused on her favorite activity–eating.
Liz Donaldson explains an important cooking tip while the Savvy Sylvanian focused on her favorite activity–eating.

I was pleasantly surprised upon entering the showroom. The countertop seating areas were beautifully prepared and set with candles, a lovely assortment of cheese, and empty wine glasses. Even better, out of my peripheral vision, I saw neatly sorted containers of already prepped ingredients in the kitchen work area. My gaze was interrupted with an offer of wine. Life was getting better by the moment.

Guests took their seats and enjoyed a beverage while Chef Liz Donaldson discussed the cheese offerings before us. Chef Liz (or as she refers to herself,‘chef wanna-be’ – but I think she is the real deal) is a cooking class instructor veteran who has helped others feel confident in the kitchen, in such venues as Sofo’s Food and Gourmet Curiosities, for over 20 years. Currently, she is the official “Cheesemonger” at The Andersons on Talmadge Road.It was a pleasant, extra-added bonus to learn more about the world of cheese. I immediately made a mental note to stop in at The Andersons before my next social occasion.

The wine, served with the wild mushroom appetizer, warmed up the cold, rainy night.
The wine, served with the wild mushroom appetizer, warmed up the cold, rainy night.

I continued to visit with my “tablemates” while Chef Liz began her first dishes. I liked the fact that we could learn as she prepared yet we still had time to socialize and discuss everything from cross-country motorcycle travel, camping adventures and life in Sylvania. Chef Liz walked us through two soups— both delicious—and let us know a few shortcuts along the way. She was very informative and let us in on some premade items and seasoning that would allow the busy people in the room a way to push the “easy” button. Speaking of seasoning, Chef Liz also shared how to make “infused” sea salt using a nice coarse-grain sea salt. She added items to the salt,such as minced garlic (from a jar) and a variety of finely chopped herbs, and baked it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 190 degrees for one hour.Chef Liz recommended placing the salt in small jars for a perfect gift for friends and family.

Just when I thought I could not possibly eat another bite—after “Beef Brisket Pot Pie” and other delectables—I did. To finish off a wonderful evening of food and fun, Chef Liz gave us a marvelous and highly doable way to turn a Panettone (a sweet bread originally from Milan) into a warm, melt-in-yourmouth bread pudding with dried cherries and white chocolate. Our table conversation came to a complete standstill when it was placed before us.

The next class being offered at the Maumee Bay Kitchen and Bath Center is once again led by the competent and knowledgeable “chef wanna-be” Liz on March 8. I have yet to inquire what type of cuisine is being featured. Frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about is that for $30 I have a chance to meet new people and be “wined and dined” while enhancing my cooking skills from a comfortable chair—my culinary version of being a sideline quarterback.

Coach, put me in!