Slapdash Gourmet: Foodie fun on a budgetWritten by Amy Campbell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Being a single foodie can be a little inconvenient — you’ve got one less person to cook for at home, and no ready companion to go out with. But I have learned from recent experience that being a single foodie is nothing compared to being an unemployed foodie.
Because I am, as one of my professors once put it, “not shy,” I am willing to go to food and wine events alone. But if I can’t afford to go, then I’m staying home. All the time. As you may have guessed, however, an unexpectedly jobless single mom really needs an occasional diversion, which has led yours truly to ferret out some affordable foodie fun.
Late last December I stopped at the Andersons Market on Sylvania Avenue after a long and unintended absence to pick up some gift wine. I was determined, due to my budgetary circumstances, to only buy what I went in for, so I made a point of walking with my head down to avoid being tempted by any other goodies. Fortunately, on my way out I lifted my eyes long enough to spot the store’s events calendar, and what I found there was like a little gift just for me: baking classes, cooking classes, cheese chat! I started picking up fliers like they were twenty-dollar bills blowing down the sidewalk, and when I got home I compared the event dates to my master calendar. (That’s a little joke. My “master” calendar is just a big empty page hanging on the wall.)
A few weeks later, my daughter and I claimed a couple of seats right down front at January’s Saturday morning baking class, “Desserts,” with guest pastry chef Brandi Phillips. For $8.50 each, we learned to make — and perhaps more importantly got to sample — two kinds of mousse, Baked Alaska with strawberry sauce, chocolate truffles and an “Elvis Napoleon,” a version of the classic dessert with banana and peanut butter added, to make it fit for The King.
We also got lots of great tips from Chef Brandi, including one I was able to put into practice just a couple of weeks later: Warm your egg whites in a double boiler before you try to whip them.
How do you keep from ending up with scrambled egg whites, you ask?
I did, too.
“These are great tools,” the chef said, holding up her hands. “Use your hand to keep the whites moving in the bowl. They’ll warm more evenly and you’ll be able to take them off before they get too hot.”
In addition to the goodies and three hours of good advice, class attendees got the recipes for every delicious creation.
Two other recent epicurean excursions were Michigan events, both easy drives from Toledo and both easy on the wallet. Blissfield’s Hathaway House restaurant kicked off February with Wine Tasting Wednesday, featuring five French wines, knowledgeable representatives from the vineyard and the distributor, and overflowing trays of hors d’oeuvres that were refreshed all evening.
Attendees got all of this — in a beautiful setting — plus a $10 gift certificate for a return visit to the Hathaway House for just $15 a ticket.
It’s no wonder attendance was nearly three times what the restaurant expected.
The Boulevard Market in Tecumseh, a treasure trove of artisanal cheeses and other gourmet specialties, closed out February with its first Stinky Cheese Fest, a $10 event that entitled ticket holders to unlimited wine and cheese tastings and featured a mac and cheese cook-off. The Stinky Cheese Fest was just the latest of the Market’s offerings, which include food shows that spotlight local specialty-food purveyors, and a regular calendar of cooking classes and demonstrations.
When I had a job I wasn’t exactly raking it in, but food was my hobby so I was willing to pay to attend events where I’d taste and learn new things. I wasn’t particularly a bargain hunter when it came to groceries, either — I was lucky to get something palatable on the table, so my primary concern back then was not ruining some precious ingredient I’d paid a premium for.
But now, I’m always on the lookout for a deal: the biannual one-day meat sale at my local grocery, Sofo’s Foods’ customer appreciation days and ALDI in general.
One of the very unexpected and — very few — perks of being unemployed, it turns out, is that it’s made me a more creative foodie — an asset in the culinary arts.