@ COOK’s Studio Kitchen

I loved everything about COOK, including the opportunity to experience Pumpkin’s starring night, so I felt they each deserved their own post. Check out my Halloween night full of autumn culinary treats from Chef Ian Maroney, his wife Hillary Bor, + their team from Pumpkin! 

 

I’ve done nothing but gush since the rumors of Audrey Claire’s COOK – a studio kitchen hosting cooking classes and chef tastings. The corner space that once housed Snackbar transformed over months into an intimate gathering space to learn, dine, and make new friends. I’ve stalked the class listings since it’s opening in early September, kicking myself over not committing to classes that quickly sold out. Before I knew it, Halloween was rolling around and dressing up just didn’t thrill me this year. You know what did though? The promise of an intriguing meal with Pumpkin at COOK on Halloween night.

After dodging some costumed Rittenhouse youngsters, I was relieved to seek refuge in the comfortable space that is COOK. Lily and Jackie – the unassuming power-duo of cuteness who run the show at Audrey Claire’s COOK – greeted guests, hung coats, and encouraged mingling & exploration like hostesses you’ve known for years. After a quick intro, I explored my seat options among the crisp place settings. The counter seating is like an open bracket commencing a night of gastronomic commentary. Low light kept the seating area ambient while the illuminated kitchen and counter were ready to highlight every angle & hue of the night’s fare. The stage was perfectly set for a intimate dinner among 16 strangers.

I arrived early, not only to lock in some prime seat real estate, but also to indulge a growing hobby of mine – cookbooks. COOK’s library had some personal favorites – my technical bible Larousse Gastronomique; the beautiful imagery of NOMA; my current love affair with Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, & Butter – and plenty others that went right on my Christmas list. I’ll definitely be back to cruise their shelves again, just hope that I can figure out if/when they’re open to the non-class-attending public.

COOK’s retail Pantry is tucked in a nook past the library with more awesome kitchen whatnots. I’ll take one of these beautiful leather knife bags in case you’re feeling generous – either color, I’m not picky.

If you have a friend who calls her/himself a “foodie”, just stop in COOK for the perfect birthday/house-warming/holiday gift. Place a tin of COOK’s own mulling spices with a bottle of full-bodied Cabernet in the center of a tea towel, gather the excess fabric, and tie with kitchen twine. Attach a gift certificate for Twenty Manning, Audrey Claire, or a class at COOK and you’re set!

7 o’clock rolled around and we took our seats, the chefs in final prep mode. Our lovely hostesses kicked things off with a quick ice-breaker – introducing ourselves and sharing our favorite Halloween costume. I had plenty to choose from – Madonna in full blonde wig & cone bra in college, Elvira with a hair bump taller than Snooki herself, and a love affair with my Elmo last year as Cookie Monster-ette.

And then it was on to the food! Pumpkin seriously impressed me with a technical, yet whimsical autumn tasting – an amuse en bouche and 5 beautiful courses. I have to give it up to our hostesses, especially Jackie, for the wine selections, too. I like wine, I just don’t know wine, so these 3 immediately go on my list of bottles to pick up next time I head to a BYO like Pumpkin.

Throughout the meal, Lily & Jackie were fully engaged with the room. They cleared dishes, poured soup & wine, snapped photos for the COOKbook blog, and kept the conversation going as the chefs focused on serving the next course. I’d love to have such an awesome job spending night after night with the city’s best chefs and culinary contributors. They were such great hostesses that they sent us all home with these cute little plants.

So I think this is more than a crush. I LOVE COOK! It was such a fun, educational, indulgent night and I can’t wait to get back there soon. COOK just launched their list of classes for December and they’re already starting to sell out, so make your reservation today.

COOK
253 South Twentieth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215.735.COOK
www.audreyclairecook.com

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@ Sunshine’s: Crawfish + Summer Corn Chowder

While my friends + fam were anticipating Hurricane Irene’s wrath in the Northeast, I was in sunny, hurricane-free Florida… oh, the beautiful irony! Sunshine, my dear friend and the amazing creative behind Blog Full of Jelly, moved to Sarasota this past spring and I was stoked to finally make a visit down to see her new home. Kelly, a baker at Whole Foods + Philly friend of Sunshine’s, was visiting at the same time so we had a killer trifecta of creative food lovers. We did our share of eating out, but Sunshine upped her wonderful hostess status by making her version of Martha Stewart’s Summer Corn Chowder. I’m glad I had my camera and the beautiful Florida sunlight to shoot our way to a delicious bowl.

And what could make a delicious corn chowder even better… crawfish!
Cornfed agreed.

I did a bit of corn kernel removal, but mostly harassed Sunshine w. my camera.

Some of the tiniest, cutest potatoes I ever did see!

Kelly (wo)manned the grill like a champ.
I can handle a gas grill, but she was definitely a pro when it came to charcoal.

BBQ Chicken + Kielbasa right off the grill – a perfect accompaniment to the chowder.

Crawfish + Summer Corn Chowder topped w. bacon + a whole lotta love!

Family-Style: Grandma’s Ham Sandwich

I love my Grandma and I have such a deep food love because of her. Some may call it sacrifice, but I consider her life-long dedication to feeding others a home-cooked meal a true, honest labor of love. Stories of prized fresh cream skimmed from the top of milk; years of entertaining trustees at The Hill School; the freshest, purest applesauce in all the universe – no matter the menu, she insisted that hard work and integrity were the best ingredients.

Something about a Grandma’s touch makes even the simplest of meals taste even better and, these days, her 90-year-old hands can only do so much. You can’t visit Grandma without being offered a snack and, on this trip, she was so proud to make me and Gramps ham & mustard sandwiches. Built with the sincerest food love, I savored the best ham & mustard sandwich I’ve ever tasted. Thank you, Grandma. Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me.

@ Matt Mayhem’s (but, in my kitchen): Seared Duck Breast, Zucchini-Honeycomb Mushroom Egg Noodles, & Blood Orange-Mango-Dandelion Salad

Matt Mayhem is one of my all-time favorite people and my longest friend in my time living in Philly. Each year we get together to celebrate our friendiversary and this time it was a bit of reunion. Life gets away from us sometimes, but great friends never fade. There are very few people I truly trust to have my back, and, possibly even less that I trust in my kitchen. Matt’s a lucky guy to fall into both categories!

My Matt Mayhem

Matt scooped some ingredients from Reading Terminal Market and I scooped him on my way home from work. It was nice for once to focus on pics and eating, instead of always being the cook (not that I usually mind!). I was so pleased to sit down to a meal I wouldn’t usually think to prepare, either. Matt artfully seared Duck Breast, sauteed Zucchini-Honeycomb Mushroom Egg Noodles, & tossed a Blood Orange-Mango-Dandelion Salad with a Grapefruit-Shallot Vinaigrette for a truly fresh, delicious dinner. Thanks for the yummies & 6 years of friendship, Mayhem!

Seared Duck Breast w/ Zucchini-Honeycomb Mushroom Egg Noodles

Dandelion Salad w/ Mango, Blood Orange, Bean Sprouts, & a Grapefruit Vinaigrette

@ Sunshine’s: Swedish Meatballs, French Blue Salad, & Curvy Girl Vintage

After a long Wedding Open House at work, I made my up to Fishtown to visit my favorite vintage-crafty fashionista, Sunshine. She recruited me to model some fun vintage clothes for her blog, Blog Full of Jelly, and her Etsy shop, bubblepipe. My favorite was a 1940s German Black Wool Dirndil with ruffled detail that I may have to scoop up for myself! I can def see myself rocking it on a long-overdue visit to my birthplace.

German Black Wool Dirndil

Sunshine’s a great cook, too, so I was pretty pumped to hear she was making Swedish Meatballs. Why so pumped you ask?

A. None of my regular dinner guests eat red meat (except for a burger here and there)

B. Dre refuses to eat meat in the form of a ball (or loaf for that matter!)

Swedish Meatballs a la Sunshine

She paired the meatballs with some crusty bread, rye toasts, and, what I coined, her French Blue Salad. Simply enough, it’s blue cheese crumbles mixed with French dressing over Bibb lettuce. Sooo good and so on my list of regular salad preparations. Tuning into the retro ambiance of her amazing home, our dinner was served on vintage TV trays as we enjoyed classic Simpsons episodes, orange-y cocktails, & each others company!

Swedish Meatballs & French Blue Salad

P.S. I left Sunshine with a pint of Cream of Asparugus Soup that she enjoyed the next day with the rye toasts and French Blue Salad for a Leftover Lightning! of her own.

@ Tom & Sarah’s: Chili-Brined Ham, Red Cabbage, & Sweet Potato Biscuits

Perfect beer glass. Perfect sized biscuits.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Braised Red Cabbage w/ Caraway Seed & Apple

Ham Bone

Grapefruit, Crispy Pork Skin, & Frisee Salad

Sweet Potato Biscuit Stack

Chili-Brined Juicy Fresh Ham

Lily loved Pork

Rummikub

Thanks, Tom & Sarah!

I’ll eat pork & cabbage, drink yummy boxed Shiraz, and play Rummikub with you any day!