Living in New York City in our cramped apartments with non-existent kitchens, it’s difficult to get motivated to cook your own meals when you’re in the epicenter of culinary expertise.  However, it’s a good household skill to have, in addition to giving you an edge in the dating scene: every dude/gal is impressed when a prospective dude/gal cooks a romantic meal!

Enter: Alta Cucina.  We at Socially Superlative have been huge fans of Alta Cucina for quite some time (see exhibits:  wine tasting class, limoncello tasting, panini and gelato seminarSensofwine 2010 and 2009) and love their devotion to the culinary expertise of Italian cuisine and wines.  A fantastic resource for food, recipes, entertaining, wines and cocktails, they also have interactive hands-on cooking classes.  Choose from different types of foods and cuisines for all different levels.



To celebrate the recent launch of Rue New York, the latest in exclusive local group deals, Rue La La teamed up with Alta Cucina in giving members a fantastic deal on a cooking class of some basic dishes.  We started off by looking at all the fresh produce and ingredients that we were going to use, and the experienced chef demonstrated proper knifing skills.  Whether or not I ever get better at dicing vegetables is still yet to be determined, but it was great to see and hear first hand the correct cooking techniques in a non-judgmental and friendly environment.



This was a great course for beginners where we collectively cooked a delicious three-course meal.  With our efforts combined, we each were assigned to chop and dice different ingredients, and the chef pooled it all together to demonstrate how to properly heat and cook it all together.  After crying over onions, separating three dozen egg whites from the yolk, grating cheese, scooping out mushrooms, cutting up tomatoes, eggplant, basil, celery and a slew of other tasks, we celebrated by eating our efforts.

We started with a shaved portobello salad for the first course with celery, parsley, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  The dressing was a seemingly simple vinaigrette made from lemon juice, orange juice, EVOO, honey, and Dijon mustard, all blended together and adding a great kick to the salad.



The second course was a healthy pasta alla pecorara.  Saute some mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, peppers, olives and eggplant all together with EVOO and add some basil, salt and pepper to taste.  Top with (lots of) ricotta cheese.



For the third and final course, we made a flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  Flourless, whaat?  We learned that if you beat egg whites for a really, really super long time, they get really fluffy and pretty dense, which is what makes up for the flourlessness of the cake.  Our chef told us that it’s ready when you can hold the bowl of egg whites over your head without having it drip.  Other people took quite a while of ferocious beating to get to this point, but I guess I’m just naturally good at whipping things (woo-paah!).



Mix the separated egg yolks with granulated sugar.  Chop up a boatload of bittersweet chocolate and melt in a double boiler with some unsalted butter.  After it’s all nice and melty, temper the egg yolk mixture with a little bit of the chocolate mixture, to keep it from scrambling.  If you don’t know what tempering is, neither do I but it’s important so you should definitely look it up.  Then slowly incorporate the rest of the chocolate and mix it all together.  Take your nicely peaked egg whites and slowly fold it into the chocolate mixture and carefully pour into a buttered cake pan.



And, voila!  Simple as a… pie?  Top with some whipped cream, ice cream, caramel syrup, fruit – name your pleasure.

We enjoyed our creations with some wine and Alta Cucina let us take home a 15 lbs. gift bag worth over $150 filled with cooking treats!  Literally 15 pounds of Italian goodness, including pastas, olive oils, jams, vinegars, and a few packaged desserts so that we could all take a break from cooking for a bit.

Alta Cucina sure knows how to throw a cooking party so be sure to check out all of their events and classes.  And special thanks to Rue La La for helping to host a great event!  Be sure to sign up for Rue La La‘s City Picks for even more awesome local offers!  From comedy clubs to sample sale access and exclusive tastings and more, Rue La La will get you access to the city like we get.



Alta Cucina
22 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016