As we navigate the season of “who to give what”, I thought I’d chime in and give a plug for giving the gift of an experience. I was reminded recently of how much I love giving and, in this situation, getting the “experience” gift. Experience gifts, if done well, are the PERFECT gift. They are thoughtful, meaningful and the ideal way to create a memory with a friend or family member. The challenge is in pulling it off… it is a big step to take a nebulous idea from fun talk to a real life event! Choosing the ideal experience that suits the recipient can be a daunting task and securing a date that works for all parties may require a small miracle.
Well my friend Diane accepted all of the challenges involved and on my birthday presented me with a card and a thoughtful note explaining her gift. She was giving me the experience of a cooking class that we would take together of course. I can honestly say that just the words in the card and the thought of the gesture gave me all sorts of joy all by itself, but THEN she went on to make it happen. She found the perfect cooking class and them emailed/texted/called me until I committed to a date.
As the class Diane selected was in the, oh so busy, month of December, I allocated ZERO minutes researching the event. Diane chose well!!!! More then well! Diane knocked it out the park and the ball was never seen again. Our cooking class was in famed food writer and cooking teacher Gail Monaghan‘s apartment, which was more like a warm and welcoming art gallery.
The title of our class was: Christmas Menu with, the oh so charming and oh so handy in the kitchen, celebrity chef Alex Hitz. I am glad I didn’t research the evening in advance. Our chef’s resumes may have made me a bit starry eyed and shy.
We walked into a whirlwind of one of the most fun dinner parties I’ve ever attended. I must admit my favorite part of any dinner party is the pre-dinner preparation. I love when everyone is in the kitchen getting their appetizers ready or helping the host with the dinner. This “lesson” was that on steroids.
Gail and Alex shared their outsize personalities and outsize talents in the kitchen with the strong personalities of their “students” gathered around the outsize black marble island. To get the classes attention Gail rings a bell that, as the evening ensues, she needs to ring ever more forcefully as our conversations eclipse the process of creating the meal.
Jobs were assigned seemingly haphazardly, but no doubt strategically, as teaching moments, and well, because the scallions needed to be chopped and the grapefruits needed to be peeled and sectioned and Gail taught us how! Dutifully we gathered round the oyster soup to see the process of it’s creation.
Various people were in charge of keeping time for the soup, for the popovers, and for the sauce – so much pressure! Gail and Alex had prepared a fair bit of the meal before. Thankfully they had tended to the standing rib roast in advance of our arrival.
There was enough class participation that one felt like they contributed to the meal, but not so much that you felt like you were paying to work. It was more celebration than lesson and that was totally cool by me.
The meal that was produced was remarkable! And so were the people gathered round Gail’s island. I sat next to Diane (love her) and an editor from Rizzoli publishing (love publishing talk). We quickly learned that the man across from me lives in the same building as my Uncle Bob – small world. Next to Diane sat a wellness teacher from Connecticut and her best friend from Bedford, they were delightful! Most everyone around the table had dogs (my people!) and somehow (well, okay because of me) towards the end of the evening we landed on the topic of Cleveland. A critical mass of the crew were HUGE Cleveland fans.
I enjoyed the evening so much, I immediately started to think of ways to get my group back into that apartment for a private lesson with Gail. This is now on my list of things to do in 2018. If this sounds fun to you, perhaps it might be the perfect gift for someone you love!?? I am pretty sure Diane enjoyed giving the gift as much as I LOVED receiving it and that is the very best gift of all right??? Thank you Diane!!!!! Cheers to you!