Food networking

A taste of Chico at The Galley’s cooking demos

Photo By meredith j. cooper

How it’s made:
The Galley cooking demos and classes, Saturdays, noon-2 p.m. Upcoming: Spanish chorizos, cured meats and cheese with Leonardo’s (Oct. 3); TBA (Oct. 10); Harvest baking with Carolyn Wadlow (Oct. 17).

The Galley

551 Country Dr.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-8820

Some people have absolutely no idea where or even what The Galley is.

That’s because it is located off the beaten path on the frontage road—Country Drive—next to Highway 99 just east of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

Those in the know, however—people who love to cook and appreciate top-notch equipment and ingredients—know exactly where to go to find this purveyor of fine cookware, wines, cookbooks, gourmet foods, dinnerware from around the world, kitchen attire and so on.

The really avid food aficionados also know the best time to go to The Galley: on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m., for the store’s free two-hour cooking classes and/or food demos. Pop in on a Saturday afternoon and you’re sure to see a crowd (mostly women) seated at the rear of the shop, at little round tables covered in red-checked tablecloths, watching a local food expert do his or her thing. Past demos have been conducted by Chico Natural Foods, local cake maker Juliecakes, Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. in Willows and The Well Experience Restaurant, among others. It’s like watching the Food Network, only it’s live in Chico.

On a recent Saturday, Melissa Peters, owner of Mim’s Bakery (890 Humboldt Ave.), was the featured expert. Peters was there to show the audience how to make a Kahlua-Chocolate Bombe Cake, which is a cake formed inside a metal bowl, chilled and then inverted and iced to resemble a giant truffle.

Peters stuffed chunks of chocolate cake left over from the previous day’s baking at Mim’s into the bowl, then pressed the cake along the sides of the bowl and plopped in generous dollops of freshly made Kahlúa double-chocolate mousse, and then more cake chunks, all the while chatting to the rapt audience and answering questions.

“You could also use sliced fresh fruit with whipped cream,” suggested Peters, “or for a really delicious Italian bombe, you could soak the cake with rum and add whipped cream, sliced toasted almonds and chocolate shavings.”

“How many cups of [mousse] filling do you use?” called out one woman.

“One-and-a-half to two cups filling to a 1 1/2 to two-quart bowl,” replied Peters, before turning to a second, already-assembled and cooled bombe and frosting it with a rich chocolate ganache.

“Here’s a good little trick,” offered Peters, as she smoothed the icing to a shine by sliding the edge of a large piece of thick cellophane several times over the top of the cake, before adding a fancy piped border and white-and dark-chocolate “plaques,” which jutted from the top of the cake like elegant sails.

Peters then cut up the finished bombe and passed around pieces of the delicious dessert.

“I started going [to The Galley’s cooking demos] late last year,” said Mildred Schneider, who lives in Biggs. “I’ve missed one, but I asked one of the gals who works [at The Galley] to save me the recipes.”

Schneider attends faithfully because she loves to cook and loves to learn new ways of cooking.

She recalled one of her favorite demos where a woman named Cheryl Flint from Greenville, Calif. (occasionally Galley manager Manny Muellenbach will bring in an out-of-area food expert, but he strives to keep it local) worked with raw foods.

“She turned raw zucchini into ‘spaghetti’ and it tasted just like spaghetti,” said Schneider. “It was marvelous. … Vegetarian food is not normally what I’d eat, but now I lean more towards that and away from meat and potatoes … because I have diabetes.”

Schneider’s friend, 72-year-old Blanche Hanna (Hanna and Schneider met at The Galley), drives from Orland to attend the free Saturday classes.

Recently, Leonardo’s, the new Spanish restaurant in town (973 East Ave.), made a version of paella called arroz negro—with sliced squid, squid ink and a Spanish paprika called pimentón—and a gazpacho-like soup called salmorjo.

“He said use converted rice, not Spanish rice,” offered Hanna, “and in a typical paella, they use saffron, but not in [arroz negro]. It’s little things like that that you pick up.”

Hanna hasn’t missed a demo yet since she began coming in March.

“Everybody’s laughing and talking, and everybody has cooking in common,” she said. “I plan to never miss any of it.”