Simple food is good when you have outstanding, fresh ingredients, but it’s even better when you take those ingredients and combine them to make something more complex with layers of flavor. This is why I love French sauces. And this is how I found myself taking cooking classes at Le Gourmand with Bruce Naftaly.
I really appreciate Bruce’s approach to cooking—everything should be made with the freshest local ingredients, using only what is in season. People know and love him for this, which is why his customers are always approaching him with extra produce from their gardens.
So the class works like this: We all squeeze into the kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Chairs are lined up in a row in front of the counter, so there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Bruce talks about what’s in season and outlines the menu. Then he starts making the dishes, while everyone takes notes and tries to keep up. My technique involves having a large notebook and starting every recipe on a different page and then flipping back and forth through the pages as Bruce goes back and forth between the dishes.
About halfway through the class, the regulars hand out bread and open several bottles of wine. In this class, we drank an Argi d’Ansa i Rouleguy 2003, which Bruce said was a rose cabernet made with Tannat grapes. It was a beautiful color, like cranberry juice, and was light and refreshing.
Then as the courses finish cooking, they are served. This was the menu:
Garlic & Apple Soup – Good and very thick; slightly tart.
Halibut with Fennel & Chanterelle Sauce – This was my favorite. The sauce was HEAVENLY paired with a simple poached halibut.
Roast Pork Loin with Huckleberry & Lavender and Plum, Dill & Garlic Sauces – The pork loin was fantastic, but I wasn’t wild about the two sauces; they somehow tasted raw to me. Bruce said that when cooking sauces for the restaurant they have a longer chance to reduce and become more melded.
Peach, Basil and Mint Sorbet – Nice flavor combination, but I would have added way more sugar. It was more like a palate cleanser than a dessert sorbet.
I must say that Bruce loves his Cognac. It actually went into every single dish. By the end of the night I figured he went through about a bottle and a half. Every time he paused and said ‘I think this needs something’, the class would shout ‘More Cognac!’. It was a slightly raucous crowd and so much fun!
I think the food quality in the classes isn’t as good as if you ate in the restaurant, but it’s such an enjoyable experience being nestled in his kitchen, learning, laughing and eating great food.