Stunning accommodations at the luxurious 90-room Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook, Connecticut was part of A Taste of New England Food Lover's Package with cooking classes with Executive Chef Leslie Tripp featuring lobster rolls, chowders, oysters, and New England Pot Roast, and making new friendships, made for a memorable weekend experience.
We participated in A Taste of New England Food Lovers Package, the second of a three part series of weekend gourmet intensive seminars and classes (February 20-22, 2015) focusing on learning and sharpening skills, techniques, and recipes that explored the differences of New England's famous cuisine including Maine Lobster Rolls and Connecticut Lobster Rolls, about New England Clam Chowder and its lesser known "cousin" Rhode Island Clam Chowder, New England Pot Roast, and three types of oyster presentations: Oysters Rockefeller, Warm Oyster Ceviche, and Crispy Oysters with Mango Relish and Red Chili Crema. The class also included dessert recipes focusing on New England apple recipes: Apple Spice Scones, Apple Compote, and Baked Apples. (The next Food Lovers Package, Tour de France, will be held from March 6-8, 2015).
A Taste of New England Food Lovers Package
The weekend began with a welcome reception with wine and passed hors d'oeuvres on Friday night for students to get to know one another before we settled down to the business of cooking on Saturday morning.
Our class consisted of 16 enthusiastic students of mixed ages and varying levels of culinary skills with the common goal of all eager to learn, eat, enjoy, and make new friends over the course of the weekend.
After a delicious continental breakfast on Saturday morning, we entered our culinary classroom (Ballroom D), donned pristine white chef coats proudly bearing the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa logo, tied on our aprons, stood at our stations, reviewed the recipes, and were ready to begin.
Chef Leslie Tripp
Executive Chef Leslie Tripp told the class that the resort's gourmet restaurant, Fresh Salt, uses fresh, local products, and has daily deliveries of fresh seafood from arrangements with select fishing boats that bring his requested catches right to the pier of the property. Any fresher and you would have to eat the seafood on the boat.
Chef Bill Titus
For Chef Tripp, a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in France, who honed his culinary skills at the Hotel Ritz in Paris and at the Hotel Fleming in Rome, his training helped to instill the focus that quality and excellence go hand in hand. His impressive prior background includes working at the New Haven Lawn Club where he presided over Julia Child's 80th birthday, (also an alumni of the famed Le Cordon Bleu), and continued his culinary training in Europe under celebrated chefs Raymond Blanc, the Troisgros Brothers, and Georges Blanc. Chef Tripp has called Fresh Salt his culinary home since 2011.
Chef Leslie Tripp and Mrs.Tagliatela
Assisting Executive Chef Tripp was his Executive Sous Chef Gese Rodriguez, and Banquet Chef Bill Titus and Banquet Sous Chef John Simmert, so there was plenty of one-on hands-on assistance for the class of 16. We also had a special surprise visit from owner, Mrs. Mary Tagliatela, who welcomed us and enjoyed hearing from Chef Tripp what we would be making in our A Taste of New England class.
Searing Flat Meat to make New England Pot Roast
New England Pot Roast is a quintessential part of the regional cuisine, and we learned that one of the secrets to a great roast is braising it and cooking it "low and slow" with onions, garlic, carrots, herbs, Chianti, beef stock, and tomato paste so that the meat is beautifully cooked and fork tender.
Served with carrots, pearl onions, parsnips, and potatoes, the roast is a delectable taste of New England heritage. Our first task of the day was preparing the meat for the pot roast by adding seasoning, sprinkling the meat with flour and then searing it to caramelize it.
Cooking Roast in Red Wine
Next, we chopped the accompanying vegetables, added them to the meat along with the wine, beef stock, and tomato paste so that they could slowly cook together for several hours while we prepared the rest of the recipes for A Taste of New England dinner which would be served in the evening.
New England Pot Roast
Lobsters! One cannot think of New England shellfish and not include its famous lobster. We learned how to select lobsters, how to tell the difference between male and female lobsters by looking at their pinchers, and most importantly how to cook the lobsters by boiling them.
Chef John Simmert Chef Gese Rodriguez
Cooling cooked lobsters
Once the lobsters were cooked, they were plunged in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. We then learned how to crack and clean the lobsters, remove the meat, and prepare the meat for the recipes for the Maine Lobster Rolls and Connecticut Lobster Rolls.
Edward checking and cleaning lobster
The differences between Maine Lobster Rolls and Connecticut Lobster Rolls are that Maine Lobster Rolls are served as a cold lobster salad, whereas Connecticut Lobster Rolls are served hot with lobster meat tossed in melted butter.
Chopped Lobster Maine Lobster Salad
The recipe for the Maine Lobster Roll was chilled lobster meat, mayonnaise, celery, shallots, fresh lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper, parsley, chives, and shredded Boston lettuce served on buttered and grilled New England style flat sided hot dog rolls. Fresh Salt restaurant uses brioche New England style hot dog rolls at the restaurant for the Maine and Connecticut Lobster rolls, which are really delicious.
Maine Lobster Roll
Connecticut Lobster Roll
The recipe for the Connecticut Lobster Roll was chopped lobster meat tossed with melted butter, lemon juice, and paprika, with nothing else added, and served on butter grilled New England style flat sided hot dog rolls. We enjoyed sampling both versions during our coffee break, and were split on which version of the rolls we preferred (Edward: Connecticut Lobster Roll, Debra: Maine Lobster Roll).
Debra enjoying a Connecticut Lobster Roll al fresco
Oysters! We learned how to make three wonderful oyster recipes: Oysters Rockefeller, Warm Oyster Ceviche, and Crispy Oysters with Mango Relish and Red Chili Crema, all of which we sampled in class.
The Oysters Rockefeller were delightful, made with oysters, butter, garlic cloves, panko, spinach, Pernod, heavy cream, salt and pepper, parsley, parmesan, Swiss cheese, and bacon, cooked in their shells in the oven until bubbly and golden brown.
Chef Leslie Tripp Folding in Spinach for Oysters Rockefeller
The Warm Oyster Ceviche was an interesting and tasty preparation made with oysters, white wine, olive oil, onions, celery, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, parsley, lime zest, tomato, and salt. The oysters were essentially poached in the liquid and then presented back in the shells.
Although all of the oyster recipes were delicious, the Crispy Oysters with Mango Relish and Red Chili Crema were our hands down favorites, and they made many new fans in the class of those who never ate oysters before. The oysters were dipped in buttermilk, Tabasco, and potato flakes with onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne, and then deep-fried until crisp and golden. Paired with the Mango Relish made with plum tomatoes, mango, red onion, cried cranberries, fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, garlic, and olive oil, and the Red Chili Crema made with mayonnaise, Siracha, lime juice, salt, and cayenne, they were a little bit of heaven on a shell.
In addition to learning to make new recipes, we also learned techniques and skills, and we were extremely proud of ourselves when we mastered how to shuck or "pop" oysters under tutelage from Chef Leslie Tripp and his team. The key is to learn where to insert the tip of the special oyster knife into the hinge of the oyster, twist your wrist to pry the shell open with the knife, and then run the knife along the edge to loosen the meat from the shell. It is all about leverage, and once mastered, it is very easy. We cannot wait to show and impress our friends with our newly acquired skill.
Debra and Chef John Shucking Oysters
Oyster shucked and ready to be enjoyed
Chowders! After a delicious lunch, we returned to the classroom to learn about the differences between New England Clam Chowder versus Rhode Island Clam Chowder. Although we frequently enjoy the rich and hearty New England version made with lots of cream and butter, we had never tried the Rhode Island version before, which is lighter, has a clear broth, and does not include cream.
Debra and Edward opening raw clams
Beautiful steamed clams ready for chowder
To instill friendly competition and team spirit, Chef Tripp had half of the class make one version of chowder and half make the other version. Banquet Sous Chef John Simmert lead our team making the Rhode Island Clam Chowder and Executive Sous Chef Gese Rodriguez lead the other team in making the New England Clam Chowder.
Chef Bill Titus brining home the bacon
Chef John Mixing up a batch of Chef Gese mixing up a batch of
Rhode Island Clam Chowder New England Clam Chowder
As the class oohed and aahed and murmured warnings of cholesterol, with each addition of butter he added to the New England version, Gese reassured the class not to worry, that butter was flavor and love, while John told us that our version would be equally delicious without the butter and cream, as he added white wine to the Rhode Island version, and sampling both, we agreed.
Chef Leslie and Debra sampling some Clam Chowder
Desserts! Pastry Chef Jillian and her assistant Chef Mackenzie Innis demonstrated how to make three typical New England desserts, which focused on apples: Baked Apples, Apple Compote, and Apple Scones. By now we were used to eating every 30 minutes or so, and to make sure we kept our strength up we sampled the delectable apple scones served hot from the oven; which were amazingly good.
Pastry Chef Jillian and assistant Chef Mackenzie
As for the Baked Apples filled with butter and maple syrup, we would get to experience that recipe as the dessert for the Taste of New England dinner, and we could sample the Apple Compote at the Pancake Station during the Sunday Brunch.
After a hard day of play in the culinary classroom, and with a few hours of leisure before dinner, we went swimming in the Inn's year-round heated outdoor salt water pool where rising steam off the water and lightly falling snow around us created a special atmosphere, then alternated soaking in the indoor hot tub, going outside for a swim, using the sauna and steam room, and swimming in the indoor pool. After standing on our feet all day, it felt heavenly to simply relax in the warm water. Refreshed from our hydro-therapy, we were ready for the evening's festivities.
Chef Bill, Chef John and Edward
We joined our fellow classmates for a pre-dinner reception featuring local artisan craft beers, wine, local cheeses and charcuterie, followed by a special dinner featuring the recipes that we had made in class.
A Taste of New England Menu
New England Chowder
Rhode Island Clam Chowder
Warm Oyster Ceviche
Crispy Oysters with Mango Relish and Red Chili Crema
Maine Lobster Rolls
Connecticut Lobster Rolls
New England Pot Roast with accompanying vegetables
Baked Apples served with Vanilla Ice Cream and
Chef Gese, Debra, and Chef John
On Sunday morning, we donned our chef coats and aprons again and helped out in the kitchen by adding the finishing touches to desserts, adding garnishes, and helping to set-up the weekly Sunday Brunch Experience, which takes place from 10:30 am until 2:15 pm, with the various stations set up in multiple rooms.
"Chef" Debra and "Chef" Edward dressing up desserts
for Sunday Brunch
When we finished the set-up, we looked around at the beautiful presentations of salads, shrimp cocktail presented over ice in a large silver bowl, carving station, pasta station, pancake station, sushi station, omelet station, bagels, smoked salmon and accompaniments, and dessert station laden with freshly baked scones, muffins, cakes, tortes, crème brûlée, and more, and we were proud of the team's efforts and achievements over the weekend.
From sushi station
From pasta station
Work completed, dressed in our "street clothes" and sitting with our classmates in the attractive Fresh Salt restaurant overlooking the sunny and snow covered marina with the warmth of a roaring fire in the stone fireplace to accompany the delicious Brunch, we toasted Chef Leslie Tripp and his excellent team at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa for creating a memorable and fun weekend of cooking, and to the camaraderie of our classmates whom we shared many a laugh.
Pancake Station Carving Station
We left the Food Lovers Weekend at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa with recipe booklets, chef coats and aprons, new friendships, and lasting memories of our gastronomic experience. We cannot wait to make A Taste of New England recipes at home for our family and friends.
Chef Gese, Nancy (Waitress of the Year), Chef John, and Edward
The next class, Food Lovers Package, Tour de France, will be held from March 6-8, 2015. Look for future seminars on the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa website: www.Saybrook.com under the Events section.
Food Lovers Package - Tour de France
Read the Chefs' Recipes section where Executive Chef Leslie Tripp shares the recipe for New England Pot Roast from A Taste of New England class.
Visually stunning with luxurious amenities and attentive service by professional, knowledgeable, and caring staff, is what sets the high standards for the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa and creates lasting memories for its guests.
A Taste of New England - Food Lovers
Guests who like to travel with their dogs will appreciate the Inn's pet-friendly policy welcoming dogs 50 pounds and under, and of special note is the dog-walking service and special canine packages available.
The Saybrook Point Inn & Spa is easily accessible by car, train, plane, or boat as the hotel has its own marina with transient slips available. Driving time from Boston and New York City is approximately 2 hours.
For guests arriving by Amtrak the Inn offers complimentary shuttle service from the Old Saybrook train station to the Inn. For guests who want to fly to Old Saybrook, the closest airport is Tweed New Haven Regional Airport located approximately 35 minutes from the Inn.
Read more about the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in the Hotels and Resorts section, about our dining experience in the Restaurants section, about our experience in Sanno Spa in the Spas section, about our bike adventures in the Adventures section, and Chefs' Recipes section for an interview with Chef Leslie Tripp who graciously shares a few of his tempting recipes from the restaurant.
Please visit their website, www.Saybrook.com, for more information on special packages and upcoming events.
Saybrook Point Inn & Spa
Two Bridge Street
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
Toll-Free Telephone: +1-800-243-0212
Read more about the Old Saybrook and the surrounding area in the Destinations section.
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