Sunday, February 17, 2013

Barracks Row Culinary Education Crawl

This past Sunday, February 17th Barracks Row along 8th Street SE, became a cooking school campus with the 2013 Barracks Row Culinary Education Crawl. Over 20 classes were offered from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from establishments such as Zest Bistro, Cava, Hello Cupcake, Senart's, Matchbox, Ambar, Lavagna, and Old Siam.  I luckily snagged tickets to the cooking class at Belga Café and dragged Keith along.

The class was taught by Chef Thijs Clinckemaillie, a Belgian chef with over 7 years experience in France and Belgium including stints at several Michelin Three-Star restaurants.  We were seated in the main dining room and watched as Chef Thijs demonstrated 3 traditional Belgian dishes.  He was very friendly and shared personal tips and tricks for executing each dish like a pro. We then sampled the finished product of each with a beer pairing.  First, we learned about Kazen Kroketten (cheese croquettes).  Chef Thijs stressed the importance of mixing the flour and butter well with the cheese and then allowing it all to set with gelatin overnight to get a thick consistency before you cut into little squares and deep fry it.  Paired with Stella Artois, a light lager, the cheese croquettes were super creamy inside and were served with a small salad with Parmesan cheese, bacon bits, and balsamic vinegar.

Next, Chef Thijs demonstrated how to make Mossels Witbier.  He explained the importance of thoroughly cleaning each mussel as sand and barnacles may still be in/on the shells and you don't want that in your food!  Look out for closed shells too, and throw those out as that means the mussel is dead.  Key ingredients to add in the pot are vegetables and garlic as they impart much of the flavor base into the mussels.  Then you pour beer - here he used his favorite, Hoegaarden - over to infuse even more flavor while the mussels steam.  Finish off with fresh parsley to brighten up before serving.  We enjoyed a nice little bowl of the hot mussels with a glass of the citrusy Hoegaarden.  The mussels were a hit at the table with many "mmms" as people slurped up the little guys and used the fresh bread to sop up the remaining broth.

For the dessert course, Chef Thijs demonstrated another Belgian classic - the Vanilla Waffel.  Using vanilla beans from Madagascar to season the batter, and then allowing the batter to set up overnight were two main tricks I learned.  Chef Thijs stated how "Belgium and waffles go together like two hands on your belly."  This saying rang true as we sampled the final product drizzled with chocolate sauce and paired with a robust dark Leffe beer.  The brown lager brought out the chocolate undertones and was a nice strong beer for the winter months.

Overall, we had a great time watching Chef Thijs - his charisma shined through each presentation and he made each dish seem approachable to a non-cook like me.  He will be leading the kitchen at B Too in Logan Circle when it opens this April.  While this class was not hands-on, it was still fun to learn first hand from the Chef and be able to taste each item right away. The beer pairings were an added bonus too.  The Culinary Education Crawl on Barracks Row was a huge success - with each class sold out. If you missed it this year, look out for it again next year - I know I will.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! I love to enjoy reading new things from any where because I am also from chef background. Thanks for share and keep it up.
    Culinary Business School


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