The Italian Cooking class that I’m not teaching…

Is being taught by Debe Averill…through the RSU 26, Orono and Hampden Adult & Community Education program.  Debe Averill is a woman about town in Orono.  She is well-known as customer, and sometimes a vender at the Orono Farmer’s market. She is an “old school foodie”, passionate about using quality ingredients and supporting local farmers.  She has been “buying local” since way before it was the cool, and trendy, thing to do.  Debe learned Italian cooking from the best possible teacher she could have…her grandmother…who grew up in Italy. She has been cooking since she was a little girl, owned a restaurant at one time, and has been teaching cooking for years. I meet Debe back in July of 1995, I had just been hired to manage the (soon to be opened) Bear Brew Pub.  I was introduced to her by Milos, the owner. They were good friends and she and her family were “regulars” at the brew pub. She and I have bumped into one another over the years, and since opening the wine shop in 2004, she has been a regular customer.  We started talking about my getting involved in this class last year.

This class, a four-week introduction to Italian Cooking, is broken down by region on a weekly basis.  The first week we will be covering Northern Italy, specifically the regions of the Alto Adige, Lombardia, Piemonte, and Emilio-Romanga. Our evening begins with a traditional “Antipasto” of Speck, Bresaola, Taleggio,Red Onion Bread, Grisini, Tuna Peppers, Olive Paste, and Mostardo.  I chose the traditional wine of Emilio- Romagna to compliment this course…Lambrusco.  Vecchia Modena Cleto Chiarli & Figli Lambrusco di Sorbara.  I presented the wine to the 14 students (and 4 staff members) before telling them what it was.  I asked them all to taste the wine on its own, and then again after tasting the speck and the cheeses…then… I told them it was Lambrusco…there was a pause, a silence, and then a collective…”that is really good“…followed by…I’ve never had Lambrusco like that before! This was a great way to start the night. Next, we prepared Saffron Risotto…The great thing about this class is that we prepare, and then enjoy each course…all working together…and then eating together. I presented a white wine from the Alto Adige to accompany this course…Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco…most of the people in the class had never had Pinot Bianco before…everyone thought it was delicious…We all agreed that it went well with the Risotto…things were going great.  Our next course was much more complicated…first we made Polenta…to accompany…Involtini di Milano… A meat lovers delight…thinly cut, pounded sirloin, wrapped around a filling of pulverized pork, chicken, beef, and herbs…covered in tomato sauce, then baked and served with Gorgonzola and the aforementioned Polenta…For this mouth-watering dish, I chose a wine from Lombardia…specifically from the Oltrepo Pavese…Martilde Bonarda…This wine is a perfect pairing for beef…and went especially well with this dish…Everyone thought that it tasted great…(and so did I). Whew!  Then we made dessert… 2 desserts actually…Crostada di mele alla crema di mascarpone…and…baked apples with chocolate, lemon and hazelnuts…I resisted the opportunity to pair a “desert” wine…instead I choose something a little drier two cleanse the palate after all those apples and creme… Cuvee Beatrice Prosecco…a drier finishing Prosecco that’s bubbles left us feeling refreshed and guilt free… A great first class…Thank you Debe Averill…looking forward to next week.