If you have to leave the beach for an event, you just hope it is at a place as beautiful as the Biltmore in Coral Gables. The tired and hungover folks tried their best to be dignified in such a beautiful place as we began with wine, cheese and chianti jam outside overlooking the golf course before being lead into a ballroom.
The lunch was interactive, meaning we did the cooking for our meal. Although this was way better than cooking at home and it should be, tickets were $150 per person. We were given chef hats, aprons, already cut and measured ingredients, chefs instructions, and someone else did the clean up. It is strange to go to an event with a chef and not taste any of the food. Your table mates are responsible for the success of the meal. We relaxed by drinking the flowing wines provided by Entwine.
For the first course, we were tasked with making an asparagus, grape tomato and vermantino wine pasta dish over a ricotta-mascarpone cream using Barilla Gemelli pasta. We followed Barilla chef manager Lorenzo Boni through the steps.
Voila! It was a pretty simple recipe that felt light and healthy despite having a dollop of two kinds of cheese and olive olive hidden underneath delicious carbs.
For the second course, Katie Lee of The Kitchen walked us through her recipe for chicken with a mushroom and garlic gravy. The master of ceremonies was her co-host on the The Kitchen, Jeff Mauro. He was full of energy and walked through the dining room reporting back to Katie how people were doing. He even got people to chant, "Table 11 is the worst."
If that wasn't enough pressure, Next Iron Chef winner Marc Forgion walked in and gave us the "I'm watching you" look. He was hosting the interactive dinner later in the evening.
We dredged, sauteed and braised, and were left with a pretty delicious entree. Katie said that she was from West Virginia and gravy is its own food group that goes on everything. Our gravy was full of fragrant herbs, white wine and chicken stock.
The result was a flavorful chicken breast served with some dijon Brussels sprouts that were provided by the Biltmore.
This was not the result of our baking skills. The Biltmore provided us with our dessert course, it was a cinnamon raisin bread pudding made from potato rolls.
These kind of events are a risky purchase, the word interactive is open to interpretation and if you have a sucky table (looking at you, table 11) then you have a bad meal or worse, a bad time. Or you can have fun hosts, drink wine, learn something and make new friends. Thankfully, our experience was the latter. Each table was also given a student from the Coral Gables Senior High Culinary Arts Program for assistance. Last year, we weren't so lucky.
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It was a lovely and PG-rated afternoon, we even saw an FIU student get the Barilla scholarship. It was nice to be removed from the craziness at the beach for a few hours.
Speaking of the more scandalous, along with cookbooks, Katie Lee wrote a novel a couple of years ago that she described at the event as "very juicy." It is about a young woman who gets divorced from her celebrity husband, we are hoping for some Billy Joel stories.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst