“Discover, Gather, Cook” was the official name for Bambara’s inaugural demo-style cooking class on Saturday, April 24. I might have called it, “These are a few of my favorite things: on steroids!”---
It was all about spring, with fat asparagus from “Life’s a Choke Farms” in San Diego (which turns out to be the capital of organic farms in the US), as well as lavender and ramps, spring onions and wild Oregon morels. The star of the show: plump little rabbits from Heritage Valley Organics in Bothwell, Utah. To this the chefs added marcona almonds, pancetta, prosciutto, a little butter, a little wine…and a lot of solid cooking tips.
Now that Bambara has revealed its snazzy new décor, complete with elevated tables and chairs with views into the open kitchen, the restaurant can take advantage of the fact that it is indeed a great exhibition kitchen.
I’m not usually a fan of hands-off cooking classes – I’d prefer to get in there and learn by doing, but in this case, I was more than happy to sit back, watch, eat and sip. After all, we were in the capable hands of Bambara executive chef Nathan Powers and his friend and special guest, Christian Graves of Jsix Restaurant, another Kimpton property in San Diego.
Together, they whipped up a meal of beguiling flavors and textures: pairing asparagus with unctuous prosciutto de parma, fried almonds, spicy water cress and a light sauce noisette (simple Hollandaise sexed up with the nutty flavor of browned butter); ricotta gnocchi with morels, asparagus tips and an ingenious spring onion cream enhanced with the tender green stems of the onions. Pardon the clichés, but the gnocchi were ethereal, light, melt-in-your-mouth fabulous.
Then we hopped into bunny land with rabbit leg braised with bold herbs and tomatoes and finished with a slice of Pecorino Roman and fried sage for a brilliant sloppy Joe slider. We all thought it would make the perfect bar app.
Finally, “Dueling Bunny” – the climax of the meal. Nathan Powers made his pancetta-wrapped rabbit loin with grilled spring ramps and a whisper of lavender. By then my note-taking abilities had seriously waned, but trust me. You missed one hell of a class. (And I’m not even listing the perfectly paired wines… ) On the same plate, Christian Graves countered with grilled rabbit country sausage with shaved asparagus salad and – whole grain mustard Chantilly…a sauce I love so much I could marry it. Each course was served with a perfectly paired wine as it was completed.
Sadly, rabbit is a very hard sell for restaurants in these parts. It’s a shame, because if you had tasted rabbit the way we tasted rabbit, you’d find that it’s not all that hard to make the leap.
Thanks, guys! And, Bambara.
Things to know:
“Discover, Gather, Cook” Classes offered quarterly, one per season. Next one is summer, date TBD. Find out more at www.bambara-slc.com or call 801-363-5454. Reserve early, as space is limited to about 25 people.
Cost: $55 per person, not including tax, wine, or gratuity. $5 from each participant goes to help support Water for Wildlife Program of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt Foundation.