By MIKE NORTON Well, it's been a typical on-again, off-again spring here in Traverse City. So naturally, as I do whenever the weather gets iffy, I've been thinking about food. By now it's no secret that The Teece (my shorthand for TC) has gotten a big national reputation as a "foodie town" thanks to all the creative stuff that's been going on in the kitchens of our local restaurants, bakeries, chocolate shops, wineries and breweries. Here at the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, we've done our part to spread the word by publishing a sort of "walking guide" to some of the best foodie shrines in the area. But it occurs to me that some of the most interesting and exciting stuff in the world of food isn't just eating it or watching it getting made; it's actually getting the chance to do a little TC cooking on your own. And really, there's no better time than early spring to enroll in a cooking class or two. Sometimes local hotels and resorts put on special "cooking weekends" -- the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa and Shanty Creek Resorts have both done these - but lately I've been intrigued with what's been happening out at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula with two of our most charming wineries. The folks at Chateau Chantal have been holding cooking classes for several years, featuring instruction from two great local chefs, Nancy Allen and Lynne Brach. The classes (which usually last for five hours) end with a dinner where participants get to eat what they've helped create. (In the old days, you used to have to book a stay at the Chateau to participate, but now anybody can sign up for the classes.) In March they were exploring the cuisine of France and Spain, and April looks even more interesting. Next week there's a program on Italian cookery (minestrone alla Genovese, Tuscan bean soup, grissini, potato focaccia, gnocchi, insalata di mare, cauliflower with raisins and pine nuts, zucchini a'scapece, Italian stuffed cabbage, risotto alla Milanese, fried calamari, polpettone (large meatballs) in a porcini gravy, sole in "saor" and a flurry of Italian desserts like apple tart in pasta frolla and semi-freddo.) And in the following weeks there's a class on sautéing and sauces, and one on spring cooking in Tuscany. Dang! I honestly don't know if they have any spots left, but you can try by calling 1-800-969-4009 for reservations. Just up the road, at the 2 Lads Winery, they're getting even more exotic with a two-day "sushi school" April 8-9 led by chef Keil Moshier from Chez Peres on Seventh Street. He'll lead students in a hands-on class to help unlock the secret behind the perfect roll, how to pair it with wine and how to "think outside the bento box" (OK, I really like that expression!) for new sushi ideas. Students will learn about the time honored tradition of sushi preparation and have a chance to practice rolling their own. (Don't get any funny ideas.) Each student will take home a sushi rolling mat and spoon. Interested? You can call them at 231-223-7722 to reserve a spot.
- Cooking with Chef Nancy at Chateau Chantal