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USA: Cooking appetisers in Sonoma

There’s nothing as cool as learning to cook creative little morsels when travelling. Well, for me at least… I can feel my mother recoiling in horror. She goes on holiday to get out of the kitchen!

But when I heard about Relish Culinary Adventures in California’s Sonoma County and that I would be there on the night of their Christmas nibbles class, I booked in quick smart!

Relish Culinary

Donna will probably hate this pic, but she is the lovely owner of Relish Culinary Adventures

Delightful owner, Donna Del Rey, even came and picked me up as I was in a pickle trying to fit everything in – and chef Ann Cornell dropped me at my hotel for a bit of shut-eye at the end, before my 4am bus departure to San Francisco the next morning. But I digress.

Relish cooking class

Chef Ann shows off a monster celery root to be shredded

Relish (based in the gorgeous town of Healdsburg) has a plethora of local chefs they call upon for cooking classes and events throughout the year, and so it was that on a rainy night in December I donned my apron and scrubbed in like a surgeon.

On the menu

We were divided into groups of two or three and set with the task of making vegetarian samosas, lamb kebabs with tzatziki, shrimp in tomato sauce, fried beer-battered goat cheese balls, apple and celery root slaw on lettuce boats and finished with individual caramelised apple tartlets.

The class was filled with happy locals and a few visitors staying with family members for the holidays. There were 17 of us, including five staff/helpers, at four work stations.

Relish culinary adventures

Squished minced lamb and spices are wrapped onto sticks for grilling. Delicious!

Masterchef have no fear

I have often toyed with the idea of taking my culinary prowess to Masterchef. I don’t any more. It’s a gloopy business this!

So, as I had my camera and was there as a “blogger” I managed to get out of the seriously mucky jobs and instead floated from station to station taking photos and trying to look official so that no one would ask me to mould a cheese ball, de-vein a shrimp or butter layers of filo.

We also all had a glass of prosecco to get into the festive mood too, so I was very busy…

Sonoma cooking class

Cheese balls are moulded then dipped in batter and rolled in crumbs

Culinary class Sonoma

Brushing filo sheets and placing mixture for folding

The verdict

Unlike the classic childhood tale Little Red Hen, even though I had only helped with grating apple for the slaw, I was still allowed to sample the final outcome.

The goat cheese balls were extraordinary. The tip is to refrigerate them before dipping in batter lest you end up with gloop halfway up your arm. The samosas were also fantastic and fun to prepare, folded with military precision. These were oven-baked so the picture of healthy eating (don’t mention the filo butter).

The biggest lesson learned

Due to a toffee malfunction we were treated to an unscripted lesson: make sure the sugar mixture is bubbling hot and use a candy thermometer, otherwise your caramel will be chewy and you will not be able to extricate the pastry tarts with their perfectly sliced apples underneath from the ramekins.

Sonoma cooking

Never fear! When the tart won’t come out, just add cream and eat them in the ramekin


If cooking classes are your thing when you’re on vacation – or you live in Sonoma and need that perfect gift for the foodie in your life – check out Relish Culinary Adventures upcoming classes and wine and beer tastings.

You can also read my post on 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Sonoma here>>

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!