After the whirlwind of 2020 — with #stayingathome becoming the social media norm, we’ve been staring at the kitchen in our home for far too long.
With that, came the daily debate of ordering in takeout versus sharpening those rusty cooking skills. As places start opening back up, polarizing viewpoints about staying out or going in ensue: Should I finally go out for dinner? Should I play it safe and have an at-home date night?
Luckily, Sur La Table, the Seattle-based cookware company has a solution for everyone — in-store cooking and virtual cooking classes.
Traditionally in-person, Sur La Table decided to lean into America’s most-used platform of the pandemic, Zoom, to cater to those who have been wanting to go to a cooking class. All the while, the company offers in-store classes to learn how to make handcrafted ricotta, a homemade taco feast and everything in between.
So, two commerce journalists from the New York Post Shopping team tested out Sur La Table’s in-store and virtual cooking classes, resulting in two different experiences.
Here’s a little bit about us, which classes we tried and our cooking preferences:
- Victoria Giardina: I’m a New Jersey-based girl who, like most of us, is reigning in that WFH life. I grew up in an Italian family who, naturally, loves food, so I decided to try Sur La Table’s ‘Online Date Night: Filet Mignon‘ class with my boyfriend.
- Camryn La Sala: I’m a New Yorker through and through, who grew up on Long Island and now resides in the Big Apple! After visiting India in 2017, I fell in love with their tasty cuisine and was thrilled to have the chance to create authentic Indian dishes with Sur La Table during one of their in-person classes.
Ahead, find our tailored reviews. We dished out not only how our yummy dishes turned out but our honest thoughts, experiences and all you need to know before signing up for a class of your own.
Our review of Sur La Table’s virtual cooking class
I love a good steak, and Sur La Table’s Filet Mignon Online Date Night was right up my alley. The menu? Butter and herb-basted filet mignon with a to-die-for romesco sauce, paired with blistered, lemon-drizzled asparagus and whipped potatoes. Yum.
Essentially, my kitchen turned into a steakhouse where I sharpened my knife (and my skills) to pan sear the meat, use white pepper — yes, white — to garnish my restaurant-style mashed potatoes and learned the perfect time to roast asparagus in the oven (four to six minutes for pencil-like asparagus, to be exact).
Sur La Table will send you a Zoom link about 30 to 40 minutes before your class starts, so your inbox, along with your dedicated list of ingredients, will be ready to start cooking. Which leads us to the cooking class prep.
What’s great about Sur La Table is its downloadable prep packet you can print out and reference before class begins. Inside, you’ll find an ingredient shopping list — divided by proteins, produce, dairy, pantry items and dry and canned goods — along with necessary equipment, like cutlery, hand tools and gadgets and cookware.
Plus, there’s a section on what to prepare ahead of class. For the filet mignon dinner, I was instructed to remove my steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes before class, season them with salt and pepper and wash all my produce.
As I was racing around my kitchen grabbing potatoes, Spanish olive oil and other essentials, my boyfriend noticed that there were way too many items taking up my kitchen island. Between a Vitamix blender (which is one of our favorites), too many pots and pans to count and a slew of other prep tools, it seemed like our date night was in overdrive.
That was the only downside to the prep. But, we put on our aprons and were so excited to see Chef Rich on the Zoom screen.
The experience was a unique twist on ordering Chinese takeout and going out to our favorite Italian bistro. Cooking together is the cutest date night idea, and filet mignon puts a five-star feel on any after-work meal — even at home.
As someone who has gone through half of my college experience on Zoom — and now, work — it was so interesting to see the video chat trend continue with online cooking classes. We saw other couples, clad in gingham-printed aprons and gathering their ingredients, on the Zoom screen. But, our cameras were turned off for privacy, and about half of the other attendees followed suit.
The class itself was a great experience. Although the filet mignon cooking class is labeled ‘date night,’ it’s more like a double-date night; it feeds four. My boyfriend and I couldn’t eat four steaks by ourselves, so we also cooked for my parents, which was a nice surprise.
Sur La Table hit all the spots: a zoomed-in, second camera to follow instructions closely, a chef who truly knows everything there was to know about what we were making and time to ask questions. But, he did skip a step, which put us a bit behind the rest of the class. All in all, it was fun to pretend we were chefs alongside a professional.
After our triple-tasking was over, the meal was delicious. Everyone raved about the romesco sauce, in particular, which was a unique complement to the meat. However, it would be best to roast your peppers ahead of time because it was somewhat difficult to roast them on the stovetop. I would have preferred to char them on my outdoor grill to impart an even smokier taste on the veggies.
The trio of the filet mignon, whipped, buttermilk-added mashed potatoes and the roasted asparagus was divine. Though I could have created this dinner without the class, it was interesting to learn how to artfully make the meal as a chef would.
Our review of Sur La Table’s in-person cooking class
Cooking has become a fun hobby for me since I first tried out HelloFresh in college and while I’d like to consider myself a pretty good chef, Indian food is on a whole new level.
There are often tons of ingredients, spices and specific cooking practices to be followed so I knew jumping into the Indian cuisine on my own would be difficult — ultimately leading me to choose to review this class.
During Sur La Table’s Fresh Indian Favorites in-person class at their NYC location on the Upper West Side, the menu consisted of the following:
- Pot-roasted cauliflower with sweet potato topped with roasted coconut and almonds
- Cardamom and lemon-infused basmati rice
- Creamed spinach with fresh cheese (also known as Saag Paneer) with a side of spiced chili yogurt
- Candied ginger ice cream
When I first walked into the Sur La Table store, the cooking studio was clearly labeled and at each station neatly laid a red apron, cutting board and most of the ingredients in a cubby below the table. The class included eight adults and the kitchen was divided in half to encompass two “teams” of four.
After Chef Steven introduced himself, he clearly and simply explained each step throughout the evening. Each person in the group did a task and took turns cooking various ingredients at the stove.
The class took about an hour and a half, with 30 minutes left over to enjoy my meal with my fellow teammates. The Chef also gave us a 10-minute break to shop around the store and take advantage of our 10% discount! I splurged on a bottle of the Bushwick Kitchen Bees Knees Spicy Honey.
In comparison to an online cooking class, you’re definitely quite spoiled when you take a Sur La Table in-person course when it comes to prepping and cleaning! All spices and ingredients were already measured when we arrived at the kitchen and the company supplied two sous-chef’s who graciously cleaned all of our pots, pans, tools and dishes through the night.
That being said, we still had plenty to do! One person diced the white onion and cheese, another was tasked with cutting the sweet potatoes and cauliflower, someone else chopped the garlic and the fourth person started toasting the unsweetened coconut and almonds on the stove. After combining the sweet potatoes, cauliflower and pre-made curry, Chef Steven put both cookie sheets in the oven for about 30 minutes.
While that cooked, one person charred the diced cheese (slightly) and another person mixed together the creamed spinach, curry, onions, garlic, spices and eventually added the cheese to create the iconic saag paneer sauce.
At the same time, another individual cooked the basmati rice and mixed together the yogurt and chili powder.
Overall, the experience was rewarding and fun! It was great to work together as a team and create a different meal that I normally wouldn’t try out. Chef Steven was super patient with all his students and repeated any necessary steps if asked. And because all the steps were divvied up between team members, it made cooking even more enjoyable since the entire recipe wasn’t on the weight of one person.
The sweet potato and cauliflower medley with coconut and almonds was a hit! Everyone at the table could not get enough of the veggies and yogurt. I particularly enjoyed mixing the rice with the saag paneer and topping with sweet potato.
I’ve taken a few in-person cooking classes over the years and I can confidently say that Sur La Table definitely knows what they’re doing. The class was well-organized, not overly difficult and the food wasn’t half bad, either!
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