Down East 2013 ©
When you walk in to a kitchen set up to prepare a meal it is a little like walking into a lab or a magician’s den. The ingredients displayed on the counter peek your interest and the mind automatically tries to reference them to a known quantity. Chris Bassett, of Azure Café  in Freeport, had the marble topped farm table at Cellardoor  laden with ingredients last weekend.
Oyster mushrooms shaped like a coral reef and tinged with a yellow reminiscent of a baby chick were juxtaposed to ruby red beets, enormous basil leaves, petite spinach and slices of rosy pink Parma ham. Chris said that ingredients that are known to diners create a level of comfort that makes the food taste better to them. If you don’t have to ask yourself, “What the heck is that?” you are more likely to enjoy the meal, even when the known ingredients are used in an unexpected way.
Past classes at the vineyard have been held midday and participants nibbled on dishes as they were prepared. Chris’ class began at 4pm and culminated in a lovely sit down dinner. We watched him as he related stories, technique, and instruction. The menu was a mix of creative comfort food with hints of spring. We began with a Caprese Salad. Instead of tomato, a rare commodity in March, the salad was made with roasted beets. Our next course was a Couscous Risotto. The large beads of Israeli couscous were sautéed with onion and garlic, when done the mix was added to Italian Sausage and mushrooms and finished with cream and cheese. We had one of those moments of silence that visits a table when everyone is savoring something delicious.
The main course was roasted pork tenderloin over spinach gnocchi sautéed in nut brown butter. The little pillows of air with a tomato vodka sauce were the hit of the night. To watch flour, eggs, ricotta and spinach transformed into something delectable is as magical as Houdini escaping a sealed tank of water.
Though most of the people in attendance did not know each other before the class it is impossible to remain strangers when you break bread together. We shared stories as we shared food and wine. We shared laughs and book recommendations. We shared enjoyment on a Sunday night with the promise of spring. If we never meet again, we will have a joint memory of a very good time.