Cooking with Strangers in Cinque Terre

Most people visit Cinque Terre (the five Villages) for 2 or 3 days then shove off to Pisa, Florence and Venice. But if you take some extra time to hang out on the Italian Riviera I recommend more beach time and a cooking class or wine tasing experience. Sure, it’s cool to see as much as possible when you’re abroad , but sometimes you have to slow down and smell the garlic.

For a taste of “slow Italy” I took a cooking class at the Cinque Terre Cooking School then a wine school to learn more about food and drinkies. So next time I order wine I can do more than just point at the cheapest glass on the menu and say ” err, uh…that one.”

The Cinque Terre Cooking School

This class takes place on the front porch of a restaurant high in the hills of Monterosso al Mare. A shuttle van picks you up in town and drives for 15 minutes up a steep winding road.. You never know who you”ll be in the cooking class with till you get into the van. It’s a little like moving into a college dorm room and meeting your roommate for the first time. The people in the class will be cooking, eating and drinking wine with you for the next 3 hours. Don’t worry about who your classmates will be. They immediately pump you up with cappuccinos and wine. After your 4th glass of Prosecco you could be cooking with Vladimir Putin and enjoying the chatter. You’ll be so buzzed everyone around you will seem cool.

Luckily I was in class with a nice young couple from Minnesota who were happily married and fascinated with their kids. Happy parents with no complaints. Amazing! But their children are still little. Give them 7 more years and teenagers, they’ll need a lot more Prosecco and more trips to Italy without the kids.

The Chef instructor was not an Italian. He was from the Philippines. What?? We’re not cooking Italian food with an Italian Chef? Isn’t that sort of like having to call your Stepfather Dad? Who is this guy and why is he posing as an Italian? To solve this, drink more prosecco At least Vladimir Putin isn’t teaching us how to make Gnocchi.

The first thing you cook is a desert bread that’s made of lemoncello, dried fruit and cement. It might be flour, but after a few bites of this cake it feels like you ate cement. In fact, after the cake comes out of the oven it feels like a heavy brick you can hurt someone with. Fun to make but don’t eat it. Make a list of all your enemies and give them cement cake for Christmas.

Next you make pesto by beating the hell out of basil leaves with a mortar and pestle. To achieve the smoothest creamiest textured pesto sauce, think about all your exes and bad break ups as you pound the garlic cloves and beat the pine nuts to a pulp with your bare hands.

Now, that you’ve worked yourself up into a hostile froth of vengeance energy —you can grab a sharp knife and fillet the fish. We had to chop the head off that mutherf*cking sea bass and slice the shit out of it till you get a nice fillet for baking. After all the mashing, pounding and stabbing I was feeling less like Julia Childe and more like one of Tony Soprano”s hit men.

We also made some stuffed vegetables and fresh gnocchi, which also included a ton of cement. When the meal was done we probably used enough flour to feed a third world nation. If gluten kills you, then write up a will before eating. The food we made was fun and delicious but, if you plan on eating it, just know it’s the polar opposite of Chinese food. It will “go right through you” in about a week and a half . It might happen when you’re on a train to Barcelona or in Venice during your gondola ride. It doesn’t matter. Your body clock is all screwed up any way. Have another glass of wine.

Cinque Terre Wine School

I wouldn’t call it a wine “school” but that’s what some clever tourist mogul branded 3 hours in a posh restaurant tasting 7 different types of wine with an extremely handsome waiter explaining each one as we slowly get sloshed drinking and tasting high end gourmet food.

Before the second glass of white the last thing I remember Lorenzo saying was that anchovies where called pan du mare ( bread from the sea) . There’s a shit ton of anchovies in the Ligurian sea and apparently every type of wine on the planet is paired with them.

After a few more flights of wine here’s what the “instructor ” said: ” Blaaabbaa blabba bla blabba bla” We learned that he is “almost engaged” to the daughter of the restaurant owner.

We admired his stunning blue eyes as he blabbed on about the wine. We took lots of pictures of Lorenzo.

I would highly recommend this experience, even if you don’t know sh*t about wine. The food & wine at La Tortuga restaurant in Monterosso is superb. If you sit outside you’ll have a stunning ocean view, but I would rather sit inside in air conditioned comfort with stunning views of handsome waiters and plates of amazing looking food.

Speaking of food, my next blog will be from Florence , on how to eat your way to through the Central Market.

How to book:

Cinqueterrecookingschool.com

Cinqueterrewineschool.com

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