PORTSMOUTH -- Beat the winter blues this winter by learning how to cook.
There are a variety of classes offered in the Granite State that cater to couples on their date nights, families looking for a fun birthday party theme and people who want to travel the world through their palates.
At Tuscan Market in downtown Portsmouth, there is a class on Feb. 4 where people can learn how to make hand-stretched mozzarella from scratch. The cost is $28 per person.
Chef David Crinieri, the culinary director at Tuscan Brands, demonstrated how to make the cheese, which he says can be enjoyed with olives and tomatoes.
Crinieri said mozzarella is delicious when freshly made and warm.
“In the restaurants, we would serve this warm in a composed dish. If you wanted to save this for later, or save it for pizza toppings, you would put it in an ice bath and that will stop the cooking process and freeze the mozzarella right where it is,” Crinieri said.
Tuscan Brands buys the curd for making mozzarella in Rhode Island and it is made fresh for the restaurants daily, Crinieri said.
Tuscan Market in Portsmouth will be hosting a pre-Valentine’s Day cooking class on Feb. 13, where people can learn to make a three-course dinner for the following day’s festivities. The cost is $58 per person.
The class will teach how to prepare orecchiette pasta topped with Bolognese sauce made from scratch, a mozzarella ball and ricotta filling to stuff cannolis at home.
On Feb. 25, Tuscan Market in Portsmouth is hosting a kid-friendly event where a pastry chef will help children decorate cookies. The cost is $17 for kids and $20 for adults.
Organizers say there are similar classes going on at Tuscan locations in Salem and in Boston throughout the month of January and February.
In Derry, Kristen Chinosi owns The Culinary Playground on Manning Street. The business hosts birthday parties for kids, classes that become sold out months in advance, team-building events for businesses and private lessons for people who want to learn how to eat better.
“We do a lot of private classes for people who have just become diabetic, or maybe they are going gluten-free. I’ve had folks that have recently become single and maybe their spouse has done all of the cooking and now they find themselves alone in the kitchen trying to put meals together,” Chinosi said.
Chinosi said it is not unusual for people to be intimidated by the thought of cooking. That is why she only offers hands-on classes.
“We want your hands in that dough,” Chinosi said.
Couples' cooking classes at The Culinary Playground happen on Friday and Saturday nights. They cost $160 per couple.
In February, there is a SweetHearts SteakHouse class that includes a classic wedge salad with bleu cheese and bacon, a loaded baked potato, pan seared steak with porcini and bleu cheese sauce, and brownie sundaes.
Birthday parties for children turning 5 years old or older cost $340 for 14 kids. There are eight different menus to choose from and there is time to cook, eat, sing and open gifts.
Chef Ron Boucher is a hospitality management faculty lecturer at the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul School of Business and Economics in Durham. He owns Chez Boucher Cooking School in Hampton.
Boucher’s international cuisine six-week course starts on Feb. 25 at the Victoria Inn on High Street in Hampton. It costs $595 and will feature multiple course menus from Italy, France, Thailand, Spain, the Caribbean and indigenous North America.
Boucher not only teaches people how to make international cuisine, but he also brings his students on food and wine excursions to places such as Italy and France. This year’s trip is already sold out.
Boucher says cooking is what brings people together and that is why, with more than 30 years of experience, he still loves teaching courses.
“To me, there’s nothing more passionate and satisfying than creating food for family or friends. This allows people to get more comfortable in the kitchen, so they are not afraid to try a new thing and hone some skills,” Boucher said.
Boucher said people do need to have some basic cooking and cutting skills before they take his more advanced classes, but they don’t need anything special at home to recreate the menus they make in class.
“You don’t need to be in a professional environment to put out quality food,” Boucher said.
According to Seacoast Eat Local, there are also cooking classes offered at Berrybogg Farm in Strafford, Canterbury Shaker Village in Canterbury, The Juicery in Portsmouth, Brookvale Pines Farm in Fremont and Li Yuen’s Chinese Cooking School in North Hampton.