By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — A feast of food fun is on tap at the annual Festival of Foods Saturday.
Presented by Northwestern Michigan College, the event features 16 different sessions packed with tips from culinary experts with demonstrations and tastings in every room. A record 125 to 130 attendees are already registered.
The Festival of Foods began in 2009 to showcase local foods, college cooking classes and the newly renovated commercial kitchen in the Oleson Center. Attendance and enthusiasm have steadily grown to make the day a winter happening for foodies.
"It's a fun day and people look forward to it," said Julie Doyal, program coordinator for NMC's Extended Education Services. "We always get a good chunk of repeats, but also some new people, too."
The day features four time slots, each offering four classes at a time for attendees to choose from. Topics are varied, fun and intriguing: following a chocolate bean from "bean to bar," learning secrets of knife care and use, cooking without recipes, making ravioli minus the pasta, air brushing cakes, a taste of Japan, farm breakfasts, vegetarian tarts and salsa secrets.
A mix of local chefs, including some staff members at NMC's Culinary Institute, and local culinary artisans who run specialty food businesses are among the presenters. The festival mixes new faces every year in a roster also featuring veteran presenters.
"We have a couple that come back year after year and what they prepare is always different," said Doyal. "Year round, I'm always looking for what would be good for a one-hour demo."
Stacey Wilcox, owner of Bay Bread Company, will delve into the world of bread. She will show attendees creative ways to use spreads, toppings or dipping oils to create tantalizing yet simple appetizers using bread. The first-time presenter will also provide samples of a variety or artisan breads.
"Bread is an easy thing to talk about — I love sharing about it and showing people the difference between breads," Wilcox said. "If you have good basics, you can do anything with it."
NMC offers a range of cooking classes in its commercial kitchen throughout the year. The Festival of Food helps spread the word about them within the food-loving community.
"We have a popular cooking program but a lot of people don't know about it yet," Doyal said.
For more information, call 995-1700 or visit www.nmc.edu and click on Extended Education.
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
10 oz. heavy whipping cream
Warm heavy whipping cream in a double boiler, add chocolate and stir slowly until combined. Do not let chocolate mixture come in contact with water, as this will seize your mixture.
This can be poured directly over a cake and will be smooth and shiney, or you can wait for it to cool and whip it with a mixer to incorporate air into it. Use a knife to ice onto your cake.
Any leftovers can be stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
--Ann Barraclough, Aunt B's Cakes & Desserts and Festival of Foods presenter
Spinach Gnudi (typically called Spinach Malfatti)
1 c. whole milk ricotta cheese
1 10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and finely chopped (See note)
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
5 T. all-purpose flour, plus 1 c. for coating
Homemade, or commercial marinara sauce, heated
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
In a large bowl, mix ricotta, spinach, Parmesan cheese, eggs and yolks. Stir in nutmeg, salt, pepper and 5 T. flour. Form mixture in to small, flattened quenelles (oval shaped dumplings).
Dredge the formed gnudi in flour to coat, tapping off the excess. Slide formed gnudi into the simmering water. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Remove the gnudi using a slotted spoon after they float to the top, and have cooked for about 4 minutes.
Arrange these dumplings on a platter and lightly drizzle with marinara sauce.
Or portion out the dumplings into a baking dish that contains a layer of marinara sauce of your choice. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake till the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned.
Note: Using freshly steamed spinach, which is then squeezed dry and finely chopped, is always somewhat better, but does require another step.
--Chef Pete Peterson, former owner of Tapawingo and Festival of Foods presenter