The Almond Zucchini Experience: Of Cooking Lessons, Chardonnay and Dinners

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I wanted to celebrate my birthday this year in a unique way.  After a quick beach trip, I invited some friends to a cooking class that will segue’ to a  dinner celebration at Almond Zucchini. If you are looking for a unique experience with your friends – something fun, something playful and something gustatory at the same time – I highly recommend that you book Almond Zucchini for your special occasions. It’s an experience worth trying more than once.

Did I say we were drinking chardonnay while cooking?

I found Almond Zucchini online when I was looking for cooking lessons that I can sign up almond-zucchini-signage_wmwith during the weekends, since that’s the only time I can spare for such activities. I found their web site and sent an email to inquire about the schedule and what kind of cuisines they are teaching.

I received an e-mail within the day informing me of their group classes and cuisines.  Rianto, the owner of Almond Zucchini and Pantry Magic (they actually cross-promote each other), was delightful to talk to. His response time was fast and he was patient when I had delays in my replies when I was traveling.

In the course of our conversation, I found out that they can also host private lessons amongst friends or for bigger groups as a team building exercise. I chose the package with a maximum of 6 people.  The choices for cuisines are Indonesian, Italian, Thai and a slew of desserts.

Since I really wanted to learn how to cook Indonesian food, I chose the Nasi Bali menu, consisting of:

  • Nasi putih – white rice
  • Jukut urap – blanched vegetable salad with fried chili dressing
  • Ayam pelalah – shredded chicken with chillies and lime
  • Sate lilit – minced seafood skewer
  • Sambal matah – Balinese chili
  • Dadar gulung – pandan pancake with coconut and palm sugar filling

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I chose the 4pm slot in time for dinner. Upon arrival at the Almond Zucchini Studio, we were greeted with a platter of fried zucchini covered with ground almonds and a pitcher of cold apple juice.  It was a good first impression. It also assured us that we won’t be starving while preparing our own dinner!

While munching on our fried almond zucchinis, we asked Chef Cindy why the studio was named as such. Apparently, and this one is a good trivia, it means that the cooking studio has everything, from A to Z. Smart and creative, if you ask me.

The cooking studio was very clean and organized. When we arrived, the lobby had several lockers where you can put your bags and things so they don’t get in the way of your cooking.

We were each given bright orange aprons and we were handed copies of the recipes.  All the ingredients, kitchen utensils and cooking paraphernalia were all prepared for us on the kitchen counters.

april-cooking-the-herbs-for-sate-lilit_wmSince there were only four of us, including my husband, we each chose one dish to prepare and cook. I chose the sate lilit and sambal matah since I was most interested in these two dishes.

Each of us was assigned a cooking station, armed with our laminated recipes. Chefs Cindy and Nurman were assisting us in cutting, slicing and dicing our ingredients. For my sate lilit, I had to use the food processor to ensure that my shrimps and fish are all properly minced.  I didn’t realize sate lilit was the most complicated to prepare! Nevertheless, I had fun preparing it.

Almost all of us were foreigners trying to cook local food so we all had a lot of questions. rinda-preparing-to-blanch-her-vegetables-for-jukut-urap_wmOur chefs were very patient in answering the barrage of questions we had, including where to source the local ingredients, some of which I have never seen in my entire life. Chef Nurman told us that we have to go to the local market for these, which was not surprising because I don’t see them when I buy my grocery at the Ranch Market.

While the chefs were guiding us in preparing and cooking our dishes, a staff was also arshad-cooking-dadar-gulung_wmgenerously pouring us our chardonnays, which added more fun in the process.

We managed to finish our dishes and plating before 6pm. To our delight, all the dishes were successful and more than edible. They were actually delicious!

Our table was set and we were served the dishes that we, ourselves, prepared and cooked in the afternoon. It was a lovely, unique experience. Of course, it was extremely satisfying that despite being newbies, we managed to cook decent Indonesian dishes.

mark-in-charge-of-the-plating_wmOverall, everything was done with the best and highest level of professionalism. Rianto, Chefs Cindy and Nurman and the rest of the staff were all gracious and accommodating. Almond Zucchini not only exceeded my expectations, but also made me want to do the experience all over again. I highly recommend this to friends who want an intimate way to celebrate milestones and occasions with a twist. In fact, I’m already thinking of another reason (or excuse) to do this again!

 

 

For more information on Almond Zucchini, you can send an e-mail to: info@almondzucchini.com.

Their cooking studio address is:  Almond Zuccini, Jl. Prapanca no. 6, Jakarta Selatan

Phone numbers: +621 7399303 or +6281 330 179 342

Rating of the experience: 

5-out-of-5

Second Wind

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Goodbye, excuses!

Here’s to coming back to the blogosphere, like a prodigal daughter that I am.

I’m not new to blogging. My first personal blog dated back to 2002, way back when the blogosphere predated Facebook and blogs were used as an online journal, shared to several friends to keep tabs with each other.

I was on a hiatus for 2 years and I realized I have outgrown my old blog. Ergo, I cajoled my procrastinating self to do what I wanted to do all along:

Begin again.

Creating Bella Expatria proved to be a challenge.

Now, that’s an understatement.

I’m a Filipina expat who carved my career on being a digital junkie and a user experience design executive. I work an average of 9-10 hours daily, also stubbornly refusing to let go of my daily fitness regimen and social calendar. So where will I squeeze the writing in?

In any way I can, through any time left that I can wrangle from my calendar, because I really, really want to write again.

So here I am, reclaiming my insy teensy space.

The focus of my writing will pretty much be where I would have a lot of material on: my expat life which takes me to my 3 key cities: Jakarta, Manila and Kuala Lumpur and other things I am strongly passionate about: travel, fitness, food, wine and books.

Being an expat married to another expat, traveling became second nature. I get antsy when I don’t travel and wanderlust is not an occasional bug that bites. It is my steady state.

Similarly, I get the jitters when I’m not reading anything. Yes, with fingers shaking and panic attacks! Reading is a favorite outlet and therapy. I don’t watch TV, except for the occasional interesting Netflix TV series, and I can’t even last beyond a single episode. I prefer to use my imagination, thus, my long-standing love affair with books.  Although I have a Kindle Paperwhite (best gadget investment evuuur), I prefer the smell and feel of real books.

The smell of old books and library…aaaaah…divine!

Another favorite topic and passion for me is my love of wine. Wine is my second water. I believe Bacchus is my long-lost Greek god brother and I rejoice the fact that turning water into wine is Christ’s first miracle.

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit vineyards and get acquainted with different wines produced by different kinds of rolling hills, weather and grape varieties.

To sum it up, a perfect day for me is this: a clear blue sky in a Tuscan vineyard with a glass of Chianti Classico Riserva, armed with a good Dystopian novel.

With that, I look forward to writing about remarkable moments like that.

Yes. I am saying yes to beginning again.