USN Evening Classes Offer More Culinary Options

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You'd better get cracking if you want to sign up for University School of Nashville's slate of evening classes this year. The catalog just went online last weekend, and enrollment goes live this Thursday, Dec. 6, at 9 a.m. Popular classes fill up quickly, so take a look to pick your favorites. Here are some suggestions for the best of the food and drink offerings.

Some of Nashville's best chefs are pitching in to help raise money for USN, and the chance to learn from them is usually big fun. Deb Paquette will be cooking up a five-course dinner of what she calls "Etchy Food" in a private home and promises to serve her decadent butter tasting and a tasty dessert from pastry chef Megan Williams. Ashley Quick from Miel is offering two classes where he will teach students how to make seasonal soups and the methods for making stock bases for home use.

Nick Pellegrino brings a little bit of the Mangia experience to another home as he leads students through the process of making his delicious gnocchi. This is a great class for folks who want to learn about how to make pasta without having to invest in a stand mixer and the pasta attachment. He'll probably sing too. Jamie Watson of Cafe Fundamental will be teaching fundamental French techniques at his East Nashville restaurant. I've taken classes from Chef Watson before, and he is a really entertaining teacher. If you've seen his segments on the Channel 4 morning show, you know that he certainly doesn't lack for energy.

The good folks at Silo are also inviting diners into their restaurant to enjoy a four-course dinner. Instead of teaching a class, they are simply offering a table for 12 where you'll be treated like a king or queen and the proceeds will go to the school. A new and intriguing class is the opportunity to visit DeSano Pizza Bakery and learn all about pizza making from their head pizzaolo Brandon Blumber. I'm on record about how much I enjoy the pies there, so this class will be high on my list.

Scene critic Carrington Fox raved last week about the vegetarian specialties at the new Sunflower Cafe, and chef Gabrielle Mittelstaedt will be preparing vegetarian and vegan dishes in her class and addressing the importance of seasonal cooking and food sensitivities. F. Scott's chef Kevin Ramquist will also emphasize local ingredients in his class and share hints on cooking techniques like braising and roasting to make the most of your locavore foods.

Bites favorite Laura Wilson of the Grow Local Kitchen at the Nashville Farmers' Market will teach a class in poultry butchering, and each class member will roast a chicken to take home with them after the evening is done. Meg Giuffrida, who succeeded Wilson as head chef at the Turnip Truck Urban Fare, will lead a session on healthy cold weather comfort food. The menu includes Fall Harvest Quinoa, Cider Braised Greens, Tamarind Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Beets with Citrus Vinaigrette and Bleu Cheese, and George Washington's Mother's Gingerbread, so I wouldn't care if I learned anything as long as I could eat!

Ethnic cooking classes are also featured, with Italian, Thai, Indian and Mexican food on the syllabus. There will also be a couple of bread-making classes if you want to ramp up your baking skills.

Spirits and wine will also be well-represented in the class offerings. I'll be teaching my annual Classic Cocktails class with David Paine, Mr. Martini. We'll be tasting through the basic spirits while you learn the history and techniques behind several cocktails that will make you a welcome addition to any social situation. If past classes are any indication, we'll also have a helluva good time. I'm teaching a new class with the fabulous Kim Totzke of Provence. In addition to running the operations at all the bakery locations, Kim is a gifted mixologist and a hoot to spend a few hours drinking with. This year's class will concentrate on rye: in beer, in bread, in whiskey and even in vodka. With the boom in interest in this spicy grain, now is a perfect time to learn about all the new offerings that are hitting the market. Plus we'll certainly be drinking in somebody's phat pad, so it's worth it just to see how the other half lives.

Thomas Haehn, who I wrote about recently for his expertise in German wines, will be teaching two classes about how to best choose and enjoy some new favorite wines. There will also be classes on sparkling wines and Champagnes and how to best match drinks with food.

So what are you waiting for? Head over to the USN Evening Classes website and pick out a few for yourself.

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