Saga Hill Cooking Class – Summer 2012


Last winter, my friend Jared and I attended a cooking class at Saga Hill Cooking School in Minneapolis. He had a Groupon for two, so he invited me to join him. The class topic was sauces and I was unsure what to expect, but decided to give it a whirl!

We had so much fun!

Chef Marianne Miller’s no-nonsense, yet entertaining approach in teaching is spot-on. I loved her philosophy of not just reciting a recipe, but instead, teaching a method and encouraging us to think for ourselves. {She doesn’t even send the recipes out until after class.}

We got the hands on experience, but cooked in a group so that we could still lean on our fellow peers. What’s more, Chef Miller was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and has used her culinary skills extensively throughout Europe and the United States. She’s cooked for several high-end restaurants in Minnesota; and I’ve even read some of her contributions to Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. She knows her stuff! I learned real techniques that I can use at home to become more confident in my cooking.

I sipped wine, ate the fruits of our labor and laughed a lot.

I knew that I would be attending one of her classes again. What’s more? Returning students never pay full price. {But then again, Groupon holders don’t either!} Unlimited wine service {help yourself!} is only about $15. {At the time of this writing the website states that if you want to pop the cork on your own bottle for a special occasion, the corkage is $15/bottle.} Overall, it’s an excellent value for the education and a fun night out.

How does it work? Well, a series of the same classes are only offered four times a year. For example, each season, the same class will be taught several weeks in a row. {Private events, team builders and catering are also available.}

Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the spring class. I decided that the menu didn’t excite me. I don’t like barbecue sauce and the menu advertised this heavily as well as baby back ribs, potato salads and such. Not my cup of tea.

What was I thinking?!

My husband looks through my DVR picks and asks me when I’m actually going to watch an episode of a cooking show on the Food Network that makes XYZ. I don’t even like XYZ. I would never even make XYZ. Those are his arguments.

“Because I always learn something!” is my rebuttal.

It’s true. I always learn some tip that I end up using somewhere else. Just to name a few:

  • Crack eggs on a flat surface, not the edge to minimize getting shell in the dish/bowl/pan.
  • Keep fresh ginger in the freezer and just grate it when you need it.
  • There’s no need for special equipment when separating egg whites. Just let the white fall through your fingers as you keep the yolk in your hand.
  • Smash garlic cloves with the side of your knife once to remove the paper easily.
  • Squeeze lemons or limes in the palm of your hand and let the juices flow through, catching the seeds in your hand.

These are just a few of the things I’ve picked up that have now become second nature to me! I often find myself giving fun wine tips like these at my Wine Tastings!

I really should have taken that spring class. Who knows? I may have not only learned something new, but learned to like barbecue sauce! {It’s usually too sweet and too smoky for me. I know, I know. Am I a true American? The verdict is still out on that one.}

However, my friend Jen and I did end up taking the Summer Class! It was her first time to Saga Hill and I let her know that she was going to absolutely love it.

And she did.

While I have no photos of the class, I can give you a couple of examples of what I learned and what you can expect, should you attend. And I hope that you do!

Both times I attended the class, I got so nervous about not being on time because I was cutting it close. Even with a GPS and directions, it can be a little confusing. The street to turn on seems like a parking lot instead of a road and the building isn’t very well marked. So give yourself some extra time for that and traffic if you are not familiar with the area. Parking is free!

I think the school comes to expect this because both times that I arrived, people were still in line to check in. I noticed that while the published class start time was 6pm, after a brief announcement and sending everyone over to wash their hands, we didn’t really start until 6:30. Smart thinking! It also gives you a little extra time to get settled, use the restroom, pour yourself a glass of wine and introduce yourself to your table-mates, etc.

The menu you follow and the techniques you learn may not mirror the one originally advertised, but it will be close. When it comes to food, you need to improvise! It really depends on what is available that day.

I share Chef Miller’s philosophy about quality ingredients. If you use the real stuff, you will get the best quality result. At Saga Hill, you learn techniques that are science-based. The steps are broken down simply. One thing from this class that stunned me:

Hollandaise Sauce is just butter, egg yolks and lemon juice.

Chef Miller told us that anyone can cook with fat. But truly excellent food is all about balance. What’s more important is the acid you add – lemon juice in this case. If we can figure that balance out, we know 10% more than most chefs. Yippee!!!

And to make Béarnaise sauce, just add tarragon.

Seriously. That simple.

And we didn’t get the exact amounts of each ingredient that we needed to make our concoctions either. We were required to taste and decide as a group how to adjust accordingly. We determined the amount of seasoning – salt and pepper – needed for every dish! Tasting is paramount in cooking!

In this Summer Class we made:

  • Hollandaise & Béarnaise sauces (and had them over scrambled eggs)
  • Tapas (stuffed Peppadew peppers)
  • Sushi (California rolls) – so much easier than I thought!
  • Champagne Mojitos
  • Lobster Rolls

I walk away from these classes having plenty to eat, but not feeling overly stuffed. For a night out, it’s an exceptional value. And yes, I’ve already bought my Groupon Living Social voucher for the fall class. You can get yours here. Don’t even worry about the menu. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Come join me!

What’s the best tip you’ve learned recently from a cooking show or class?



3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything « Season It Already!

  2. Pingback: Borough – Minneapolis « Season It Already!

  3. Pingback: Post-Op Foods & Saga Hill Cooking Class | Season It Already!

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