Caterina Giammarresi reviews the final Fine Food & Dining Society cooking class of the year: Gastronomic Gifts. 


Making Peppermint Bark

The Fine Food and Dining Society ended this semester’s fantastic line-up of cooking classes with a class on ‘Gastronomic Gifts’. I had been looking forward to attending this class all semester because giving food gifts is one of my favourite things to do, and I was hoping this class would expand my repertoire to include more than just the basic chocolate chip cookies and brownies that my friends are probably getting bored of receiving. I was pleasantly surprised to open the recipe book for the class and find the following items:  savoury scones, herb butter, tea with honey & lemon compound butter, Earl Grey chocolate truffles, spicy rosemary nuts, sweet and spicy rosemary nuts, toffee sauce, caramel popcorn, hot chocolate with marshmallows, lemon-thyme shortbread cookies, mulling spices, basil-infused oil, and peppermint bark.


Ingredients for scones 

The list was impressive, but the ambitious class lasted only two hours.  This class differed from most others that Fine Food and Dining has hosted; it was not structured as a meal, but instead as little tasters of all the different food gifts. It was a bit chaotic and difficult to follow at times since there were so many recipes going on at once, but that also allowed for a constant flow of food, which more than made up for a bit of confusion. Similar to the last class I attended, the class itself was not as hands-on as I would have liked (we got to mix a few things here and there), but the teachers did do a great job of demonstrating everything step-by-step.


Caramel for Caramel Popcorn

The recipes for the class were very well picked. None of them seemed too difficult or time-consuming, but if presented appropriately would make very impressive gifts, giving friends the impression that you slaved away for hours in the kitchen. Everything I tried was absolutely delicious. The basil-infused oil, which we tried with some bread, was surprisingly simple to make and was just as tasty as any store-bought infused oil that I’ve ever tried.  I was also impressed with the lemon-thyme shortbread cookies which I honestly didn’t think would make for a good combination, but they were glorious.  The butters and scones were fantastic and I now know what I will be bringing to every potluck dinner for the rest of my life.  They also accommodated for vegetarians and made a plain caramel popcorn along with the caramel popcorn made with bacon (which was a huge hit from what I could see).


Basil Infused Oil

Since the class was filled with so many incredible recipes, we ended up running out of time at the end. Two of the dishes that needed refrigeration (Earl Grey truffles and the peppermint bark) were not yet ready. However, we were still able to try the peppermint bark and take home the mix to make the truffles ourselves. As soon as I got home from the class, I finished making the truffles myself and they were heavenly. At this point, the class had left me too full to actually have a real dinner — but I was completely okay with that.


Caramel Popcorn

Though the class was a bit chaotic and we didn’t get to finish making all of the recipes in the book, Gastronomic Gifts was definitely a success. I had a lovely time, ate delicious food, and now have some new recipes to spice up my holiday gifts this year. I await next year’s line-up classes with an eager stomach. Maybe by then I’ll have managed to perfect at least one or two of their recipes.


Rosemary Nuts

The Fine Food & Dining Society hosts cooking classes on a variety of themes most every Wednesday in the St Andrews Episcopal Church. They also host a myriad of other food-related events. See what they’ve got going on via Facebook or their website.


Caterina Giammarresi


Photo credits:  Afsona-Bonu Mansurova