Amuse's Hands On in the Kitchen is the Perfect Date Activity

We really didn't know what to expect when Chef Danny Wells at Amuse Restaurant & Lounge invited us into his lair to take part in the Hands On in the Kitchen program. What exactly were our hands going to be on? Would we need protection?

Granted we had received an e-mail a few days prior from a restaurant rep asking us which appetizer (AKA small plate) and entrée (not so small plate) from the menu we'd like to prepare, so we assumed cooking was at least part of the deal.

His small plate menu offered options including foie gras and pumpkin gnocchi, but we chose crab-stuffed wontons with red pepper butter to pair with our choice of entrée, herb-crusted lamb with apple compote and sautéed baby heirloom carrots. Yes, it's a weird combination, but short ribs, seafood, and chicken were covered in the Biltmore Culinary Academy's boot camp, so we decided it was best to move ahead in other directions.

Upon entering the kitchen, we noticed the marinades and sides were already pre-made, so really all we had to do was assemble, saute, plate and eat. The $125 per couple price -- yes, only one couple partakes at a time -- includes dinner, however, so while the event may not be labeled a "cooking class", it does technically qualify as an activity date. (Don't expect to go home with an embroidered apron, pile of recipes, nor a certificate, either. A doggie bag? Perhaps.)

Pros: The meal was tasty, the one-on-one attention was nice, Chef Wells is charming and fun to learn from, participants are free to schedule their program at a convenient time and they get to choose what they'd like to cook, and the experience is intimate and entertaining.

Cons: Cooks with advanced skills won't find this experience challenging, so at least select menu items that involve proteins you aren't used to working with.

Here are a few more pieces of advice:

1. It's near impossible to find this restaurant from the info provided on the website, so just valet at the Marquis and head up to the third floor.
2. You may get a little dirty, so it's best to leave the expensive clothing at home.
3. Ladies, a professional kitchen is no place for 4-inch stilettos. Flats are a smarter and safer choice.
4. If you don't ask to create it as part of your experience, at least order Wells' inside-out BLT. It's a signature item and a real treat. Recipe to follow.

For reservations, call 786-369-1041 or e-mail tempo-concierge@rockresorts.com.

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