We read a solid review of the place in the Charlotte Observer and combed through its menu online plotting out our gastronomical feast in advance. Their menu features a number of “small plates” that are excellent for sharing and we planned to order several of them to sample diversity of their menu. The calamari was one of the best I’ve ever had and while the flavors in their pork belly sliders had so many moving parts it just worked.
One thing we noticed was that they held cooking classes once a month and as we were leaving I made a reservation to attend their “Love the Pig” class that was held this past Saturday. As I left the house to head out for class my wife joked that I should bring my knives with me.
Thankfully, I didn’t.
As I entered the restaurant I scanned the bar area that I was being directed towards and noticed a large group of people. There was a large table in the center of the room with mis en place ready and immediately I knew that something wasn’t right.
I stood there frozen wondering how they were going to accommodate all these people in the restaurant’s kitchen. Then there was the painful realization that it wasn’t going to be a hands on cooing class, but rather a local, more intimate version of watching the Food Network.
As I sheepishly wandered the room looking for an empty seat, I found a group of people kind enough to let me join their table. The pangs of guilt at being there without my wife began to wash over me and I fired off a text message to her apologizing my ignorance in advance for the experience I was about to have alone.
Over the next three and a half hours I had a front row seat to watch Chef Tom Condron do what he does best – create beautiful dishes using simple ingredients and inexpensive cuts of meat. We had the opportunity to sample a soup, two entree dishes and a dessert that, yes, featured pork and that were all paired with a wine chosen for that day’s menu.
As I finished the dessert course those pangs of guilt returned. However, The Liberty provided all in attendance with a complete list of recipes so that we could try our hand making them at home. I will most certainly be making the slow roasted pork belly with curried lentils, as well as the bittersweet chocolate and chorizo crostini.
The thought of chocolate and paper thin slices of smoked sausage doesn’t sound like a logical fit, but it was amazing. A terrific balance of salty and sweet.
Leaving The Liberty I scanned the list of remaining cooking classes with every intention of returning, this time with my wife and maybe even a small group of friends. I had an excellent time and loved the leisurely pace of the meal.
If you think about it, you can go out to a nice restaurant during dinner hours, be in and out in an hour and a c-note lighter with having only sampled what you ordered (and possibly what your date had). I paid $25 plus tax and tip for a three and a half hour experience, tried four different dishes paired and just as many different wines and got to meet some really nice new people.
I strongly encourage you to seek out restaurants in your area that offer cooking classes and try them out. These classes represent an incredible value for your dining dollar, plus you might go home with some inspiration to try something new in your kitchen.
We are already making plans to attend their Thanksgiving dinner class next month. Maybe I’ll try to bring my knives anyway.
Photo credit: ishane on Flickr