the pantry: how to taste wine

I am a self taught cook. When I was in junior high, my best friend Amanda changed my life by telling me that I needed to preheat the oven before putting the cookies in the oven. It seems like a small, silly thing that I should’ve known but I didn’t. That moment really changed the game for me. Thanks, Amanda!

That experience, much like the rest of my culinary learnings, have been from practice. Like most things in life, I found that I improved my cooking skills by observing, reading, and doing. Interestingly enough, I also found that the best way to understand food and flavors is just to eat a lot of different foods. I used to watch chefs on TV and wondered how they knew to pair flavors with other flavors to create something even better. Was it a gift like being a natural athlete? To some extent, it might be, but food experiences have made me so much more knowledgeable than I ever thought possible.

Still, a part of me sometimes day dreams of going to culinary school — or more realistically, taking a cooking class. After years of searching and (mostly) putting it off, I found The Pantry

What is The Pantry? The Pantry is a community kitchen that specializes in:

cooking classes that focus on traditional food crafts and technique, five-course family-style dinners, culinary camp for the kids, power lunches for makers who are itching to enter the food industry, food swaps for people who are looking to keep their cooking time social, and cookbook club potluck suppers.

I found The Pantry on a best culinary classes in the city list through a basic Google search. I was also excited to find that it was in my neighborhood, but a little discouraged that all the classes were booked full for THREE MONTHS. Holy cow. Luckily, I persistently checked the website every day and finally a class opened up: How to Taste Wine.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s not a cooking class, Tiffany. But remember what I said about understanding taste? Well, wine has always been one of those mysteries to me. I really wanted to understand the flavors that I liked and didn’t like, and to have a better general understanding of picking wines that I enjoyed and how to pair them with food. I wasn’t expecting this class to answer all of those questions, but it seemed like a good place to start. Also, tasting wine on a Sunday didn’t seem like shabby way to spend an afternoon!

A few learnings from the class:

  • A strip of treated paper can tell you if you’re a non-taster, taster, or a super taster. I’m a super taster and that piece of paper was AWFUL.

  • Smell can be deceiving. We smelled several white wines that seemed like they were going to be intensely sweet, but were actually the complete opposite.

  • If you plug your nose while eating a jelly bean, you’ll only taste the sugar. It’s only once you breath again, do you taste the flavor of the jelly bean. It seems crazy, but it was totally the case. Flavor is developed from a combined sense of taste + smell.

Verdict on The Pantry? I can’t wait to take my next class! It was so much fun. I’m enrolled in a few cooking classes for the spring, including an Everyday Wines class with a couple of friends. I’ll be sure to post about an actual cooking class when it happens — in the meantime, I highly recommend signing up for The Pantry mailing list and checking out some of their classes if you’re in the area!

Special shoutout to my friend, Maureen, for joining me (thanks, Maureen!) on this new experience and class!