For those of you that have been under a rock for the past year, The Greenhouse Tavern is one of the hottest restaurants in Cleveland, even being named one of the top 10 new restaurants in the country in 2009 by Bon Appetit Magazine. The Greenhouse Tavern is the dream of Jonathon & Amelia Sawyer, among others. Jonathon has worked in many great kitchens around the country, including under Charlie Palmer in NYC and Michael Symon at Lolita in Tremont and Parea in New York City before returning to his hometown of Cleveland to open Bar Cento in Ohio City, another Cleveland gem. He received lots of recognition while running the kitchen at Bar Cento but was eager to open his own restaurant. That's where The Greenhouse Tavern comes in.
The Greenhouse Tavern was the first green certified restaurant in Ohio. From the recycled decor that decorates the restaurant, to composting their food scrapes, to toilets that don't use water, The Greenhouse Tavern truly practices what it preaches. Oh yeah, they also serve some pretty good food. You're not going to find any "foam" on the menu and Jonathon isn't likely to be seen using an immersion circulator or molecular gastronomy on his menu. Jonathon is one of many Cleveland chefs who follow the Earth to Table movement. His menu focuses on preparing high quality, local, in season ingredients as simply as possible to let the ingredients shine.
The Greenhouse Tavern Chef Series Schedule - Click to see Details
The Greenhouse Tavern recently started a program called Chef School. Once a month they are hosting "students" like me into the restaurant for the ultimate hands on cooking class. As a birthday present, my awesome wife sent me to Chef School in February for their pasta making class. I recently read a book (Playing for Pizza by John Grisham) that really got me interested in Italian cuisine, so the timing couldn't have been better. Earlier that week, I took my first cooking class, the basic knife skills cooking class at the Viking Store at Legacy Village. I was extremely disappointed in the class at Viking (biggest. understatement. ever!) so my expectations were pretty low as I headed into The Greenhouse Tavern. I should have known better.
The class was on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I arrived a little early to pick up some beans from Erie Island Coffee Company on E. 4th. It was great to see so many people out and about downtown, walking their dogs, and hanging out on E. 4th on a Sunday afternoon when there were no sporting events going on. There was also a steady crowd of diners at the Greenhouse Tavern throughout the afternoon / evening. After picking up coffee I was still 15 minutes early so I sat at the bar and enjoyed an Ithaca Brewing Company Flower Power IPA while watching the Cavs battle the Magic. Once all the students arrived, we were invited down to the kitchen and offered a glass of Monmousseau Brut Champagne and a spread of food to snack on. While we were snacking and drinking, Jonathon began talking to us about the history of pasta and introduced us to one of his cooks, Dan, who joined The Greenhouse Tavern after working under James Beard winner, and pasta guru, Barbara Lynch in Boston.
Jonathon & Dan teaching us about basic pasta dough
For the next 4+ hours (the class was advertised as being only 2 hours long), Jonathon & Dan taught us not only how to make delicious homemade pasta, but also provided us with the historical and regional context of the dishes we were preparing. I also learned many great tips for working in the kitchen throughout the day. I feveriously took notes & pictures on my iPhone (sorry, the iPhone doesn't take the best photos) while they were demoing how to make each pasta and then they set us lose to make it ourselves.
We started by making linguine. We were told this was a Roman pasta typically made by less weathly people. We used the well method of cracking one egg into a well of flour and slowly working the flour into the egg with a fork before using our hangs to knead the dough. We kneaded for 10-15 minutes, fully developing the gluten that gives pasta its toothsome bite. After the dough had the proper texture, it was put in a bowl covered with a damp cloth for 45 minutes before we rolled the dough and cut it into linguine. We were able to try a manual pasta roller / cutter like in the picture above as well as the pasta attachment for a kitchen aid mixer.
Rolling egg yolk ravioli dough
The second dough we made was a 3 egg yolk raviloi. Originating in the Emelia Romana region (Bologna), this was a heartier, richer pasta due to the use of only yolks and was more fitting to the people in this colder region of Italy. This dough also used the well method and hand kneading to develop the gluten that gives raviloi its toothsome bite.
After the dough rested, we rolled it into sheets, used the rings shown in this picture to layout the ravioli on the dough, stuffed it with a mixture of potato, housemade fromage blanc and fresh herbs, brushed the pasta lightly with water, covered it with a top layer of pasta, and cut them into ravioli.
The final pasta we made was a light, pillowy potato gnocchi. The process for making gnocchi dough is similar to making pasta dough, but unlike the others you do not want to develop gluten. It should be handled as little as possible to ensure it remains light & airy. We made a well out of poached potato, covered it with flour, and cracked an egg into the well. This dough is much stickier than the other doughs but once it had the texture of scrambled eggs, we worked the dough with our hands until we could roll the dough into "cigars" and cut into 1" or so gnocchi.
Potato Gnocchi w/ Brown Butter & Crispy Sage
Jonathon and his kitchen staff then used the pasta we made to serve us an amazing meal: Potato Gnocchi with brown butter & sage, New Potato & Fromage Blanc Ravioli, Linguine alla Vongole (Linguine & Clams), and a scoop of Jeni's coffee ice cream.
I had no experience making pasta prior to this class. Similar to what I mentioned in this post on baking bread, I always thought making pasta was a difficult, time consuming process. The class showed me that it is actually pretty easy and the results are well worth the time. I am eager to put my new skills to work in my kitchen. Luckily, one of the recipes in Michael Symon's Live to Cook is egg yolk pasta dough!
If you are interested in a hands on cooking class, I highly recommend checking out the rest of the Greenhouse Tavern's Chef School series. I am very disappointed that I can't make it to the March class where they will be teaching you how to butcher a whole 300 lb pig but I am sure I will be at another one soon enough.
Ok, now it's your turn. Tell me about the best cooking class you've ever taken.