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Acing the Cheese Course at Central Market

Editor's Note: Since we're not especially scholastic at City of Ate, we recruited our intern Brooke Nottingham (who's probably a whiz with a highlighter and page marker flags) to attend a few local cooking classes. Her occasional series of reports begins today with a cheese class at Central Market.

Fortunately, I wore out all of my cheese puns last week. The following will be a purely professional, dry and crumbly recount of Central Market Cooking School's Cheese Please! Class. It will be cheddar that way.

Cheese Please! is part of the Central Market Cooking School's Learn @ Lunch series, a program of hour-long recipe demonstrations featuring Central Market products.

First, we had to learn the rules before we could play the game. A proper cheese plate should be ladled with a variety of textures and flavors. Good: Velveeta cubes on a Formica tabletop. Better: Hard, blue-veined cheese on a glass pane, marble slab or wicker placemat (all available for purchase downstairs.) Apples and pecans are a good idea, but if you set out strawberries or any kind of rapidly decomposing berry - well, your amateur is showing.

We learned the warning signs of a shifty brie. If your brie is red and runny like an allergy attack, leave it. If it's white and bulging like a flabby tummy, it's a keeper.

Since the short class didn't allow time for hands-on, my classmates and I munched on pre-prepared portions and watched as the instructors took turns making apple brie soup (a delicious, velvety soup sweetened with apple and sprinkled with meaty almond slivers), basil spaetzle with appenzeller, caramelized onion and proscuitto (a salty dish with doughy noodles, crisp prosciutto and peppery basil) and port poached figs with preserved lemon and goat cheese (well... I just don't like figs. But a woman in my class claimed it was the best dessert she'd ever tasted, so listen to her, not me.)

My classmate Licci Ryu said she was relieved when the class wasn't hands on. It would've been too messy for a lunch break activity.

"But maybe if it were longer and we were making dinner, then I'd want it to be hands-on," Ryu said.

She's in luck. Central Market Cooking School offers a variety of classes, most of them longer, later, and more expensive but with hands-on components. There are classes aimed at beginners ("Knife Skills" on Oct. 26) and students looking for something more specific ("Pumpkin Carving for Adults" on Oct. 28 and "Soufflés" on Oct. 30.)

Cooking School manager Michelle Rodarte said the classes are about tying in all aspects of the store. "Sometimes our buyers will look for ingredients to unveil in these classes," Rodarte said.

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Only a handful of students showed up to Cheese Please!, but Rodarte says that many of the classes attract clusters of friends and office groups. Central Market has also been known to organize private classes, like the time they organized a private herb party for a garden club.

"We really want to take these ingredients and celebrate with our customers," Rodarte said.

And that's a great attitude - especially for somebody who handles your food.

Seats are limited. A complete list of classes and registration information is available here.

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