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Following the hectic year of 2020 — with #stayingathome becoming the social media norm, we’ve been gazing at the kitchen in our home for too long.
With that, came the daily dilemma of ordering in takeout versus honing those rusty cooking skills. As establishments begin to reopen, polarizing opinions about going out or staying in arise: Should I finally go out for dinner? Should I play it safe and have an at-home date night?
Thankfully, Sur La Table, the cookware company based in Seattle, has a solution for everyone — in-store cooking and virtual cooking classes.
Traditionally conducted in-person, Sur La Table decided to embrace America’s most-utilized platform of the pandemic, Zoom, to cater to those who have been desiring to attend a cooking class. Meanwhile, the company offers in-store classes to learn how to prepare handcrafted ricotta, a homemade taco feast, and everything in between.
Therefore, two business journalists from the New York Post Shopping team tested out Sur La Table’s in-store and virtual cooking classes, resulting in two distinct experiences.
Here’s a bit about us, which classes we tried, and our cooking preferences:
- Victoria Giardina: I’m a girl based in New Jersey who, like most of us, is reigning in that WFH life. I grew up in an Italian family who, naturally, adores food, so I decided to try Sur La Table’s ‘Online Date Night: Filet Mignon‘ class with my boyfriend.
- Camryn La Sala: I’m a New Yorker through and through, who grew up on Long Island and now resides in the Big Apple! After visiting India in 2017, I fell in love with their flavorful cuisine and was thrilled to have the opportunity to create authentic Indian dishes with Sur La Table during one of their in-person classes.
Below, you’ll find our tailored evaluations. We detailed not only how our delectable dishes turned out but also our sincere thoughts, experiences, and everything you need to know before enrolling in a class of your own.
Our assessment of Sur La Table’s virtual cooking class
I adore a satisfying steak, and Sur La Table’s Filet Mignon Online Date Night was right up my alley. The menu? Butter and herb-basted filet mignon with a scrumptious romesco sauce, accompanied by blistered, lemon-drizzled asparagus and whipped potatoes. Yum.
In essence, my kitchen transformed into a steakhouse where I sharpened my knife (and my skills) to pan sear the meat, use white pepper — yes, white — to garnish my restaurant-style mashed potatoes, and learned the optimal roasting time for asparagus in the oven (four to six minutes for pencil-like asparagus, to be precise).
Sur La Table will send you a Zoom link about 30 to 40 minutes before your class starts, so your inbox, along with your dedicated list of ingredients, will be prepped to initiate the cooking. And that brings us to the cooking class preparation.
What’s fantastic about Sur La Table is its downloadable preparation packet that can be printed out and referred to before class commences. Inside, you’ll find an ingredient shopping list — categorized by proteins, produce, dairy, pantry items, and dry and canned goods — along with necessary equipment, such as cutlery, hand tools, gadgets, and cookware.
Additionally, there’s a section on what to prepare in advance of the class. For the filet mignon dinner, I was instructed to remove my steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes before class, season them with salt and pepper, and wash all my produce.
As I hurried around my kitchen grabbing potatoes, Spanish olive oil, and other essentials, my boyfriend noticed that my kitchen island was overrun with too many items. Amidst a Vitamix blender (which is one of our favorites), a multitude of pots and pans, and various other prep tools, it seemed like our date night was in overdrive.
That was the only drawback to the preparation. However, we donned our aprons and were eagerly waiting to see Chef Rich on the Zoom screen.
The experience was a unique variation of ordering Chinese takeout and dining at our favorite Italian bistro. Cooking together makes for an adorable date night idea, and filet mignon adds a luxury touch to any post-work meal — even at home.
As someone who has spent half of my college experience on Zoom — and now work — it was fascinating to witness the video chat trend continue with online cooking classes. We observed other couples, clad in gingham-printed aprons and gathering their ingredients, on the Zoom screen. However, our cameras were turned off for privacy, and about half of the other attendees followed suit.
The class itself was a delightful experience. Although the filet mignon cooking class is advertised as a ‘date night,’ it can actually feed four. My boyfriend and I couldn’t consume four steaks by ourselves, so we also cooked for my parents, which was a pleasant surprise.
Sur La Table catered to all our needs: a close-up, second camera to closely follow instructions, a chef who possessed extensive knowledge about what we were making, and ample time to ask questions. However, he did unintentionally skip a step, which caused us to lag behind the rest of the class. In the end, it was fun to pretend we were chefs alongside a professional.
After juggling multiple tasks, the meal turned out delicious. Everyone raved about the romesco sauce, in particular, which was a unique accompaniment to the meat. However, it would be preferable to roast your peppers ahead of time as it was somewhat challenging to roast them on the stovetop. I would have preferred to char them on my outdoor grill to infuse an even smokier flavor into the vegetables.
The combination of filet mignon, whipped mashed potatoes with buttermilk, and roasted asparagus was divine. Although I could have prepared this dinner without the class, it was intriguing to learn how to artistically create the meal as a professional chef would.
Our assessment of Sur La Table’s in-person cooking class
Cooking has become a fun pastime for me since I first tried out HelloFresh in college. While I’d like to consider myself a skilled chef, Indian cuisine takes cooking to a whole new level.
Often, there are numerous ingredients, spices, and specific cooking techniques to follow, which is why I knew attempting Indian cuisine on my own would be challenging. This ultimately led me to choose to review this particular class.
During Sur La Table’s Fresh Indian Favorites in-person class at their NYC location on the Upper West Side, the menu consisted of the following:
- Pot-roasted cauliflower with sweet potato topped with roasted coconut and almonds
- Cardamom and lemon-infused basmati rice
- Creamed spinach with fresh cheese (also known as Saag Paneer) with a side of spiced chili yogurt
- Candied ginger ice cream
Upon entering the Sur La Table store, the cooking studio was clearly labeled, and each station was neatly equipped with a red apron, cutting board, and most of the ingredients stored in a cubby beneath the table. The class consisted of eight adults, and the kitchen was divided in half to accommodate two “teams” of four.
After Chef Steven introduced himself, he eloquently explained each step throughout the evening. Each person in the group was assigned a task and took turns cooking various ingredients on the stove.
The class lasted approximately an hour and a half, with 30 minutes remaining to savor the meal with my fellow teammates. The Chef even gave us a 10-minute break to explore the store and take advantage of the 10% discount! I splurged on a bottle of the Bushwick Kitchen Bees Knees Spicy Honey.
Compared to an online cooking class, taking an in-person course at Sur La Table spoils you when it comes to preparation and cleaning! All spices and ingredients were pre-measured when we arrived in the kitchen, and the company provided two sous-chefs who kindly cleaned all our pots, pans, tools, and dishes throughout the night.
That being said, we still had plenty to do! One person diced the white onion and cheese, another was tasked with cutting the sweet potatoes and cauliflower, someone else chopped the garlic, and the fourth person started toasting the unsweetened coconut and almonds on the stove. After combining the sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and pre-made curry, Chef Steven placed both cookie sheets in the oven for approximately 30 minutes.
While that was cooking, one person lightly charred the diced cheese, and another person mixed together the creamed spinach, curry, onions, garlic, spices, and eventually added the cheese to create the iconic saag paneer sauce.
Simultaneously, another individual cooked the basmati rice and mixed together the yogurt and chili powder.
Overall, the experience was fulfilling and enjoyable! It was wonderful to collaborate as a team and create a different meal that I wouldn’t typically attempt. Chef Steven was incredibly patient with all of his students and gladly repeated any necessary steps when asked. Since the steps were distributed among team members, cooking became even more pleasurable as the entire recipe didn’t rely solely on one person.
The sweet potato and cauliflower medley with coconut and almonds was a hit! Everyone at the table couldn’t get enough of the veggies and yogurt. I particularly enjoyed mixing the rice with the saag paneer and topping it with sweet potato.
Over the years, I’ve taken a few in-person cooking classes, and I can confidently say that Sur La Table certainly knows what they’re doing. The class was well-organized, not overly challenging, and the food wasn’t half bad either!
Sur La Table Virtual & In-Person Cooking Classes, $29+
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