Cook’s Pots & Tabletops closed their 2012 cooking class calendar with a very fun class, “Christmas Baking Past and Present”, with instruction by Chef Kristen Murray from Portland. Given the subject of the class, there is no way to have this class other than to have it be fun, which it was with capital letters. The Sweet Savant for the evening was Kristen Murray, who came to us with a very impressive background,most recent as Pastry Chef at the venerable Portland eatery Paley’s Place, and she made the night extremely enjoyable. Typical of my usual Christmas attitude,  I spent most of the night with a goofy grin on my face enjoying the class and eagerly awaiting the desserts to be sampled. I think that I can confidently say that there was no disappointment to be found in the house.

Kathy gave a very warm introduction and acknowledgement of their dear friend and mentor Robert Reynolds, then set the tone for the evening with her much appreciated sense of humor.

Like a whirling dervish, Kristen jumped right in and started making the Gourges, her version of a French cheese puff with a twist.

Piping with a pastry bag, her technique was worth the price of admission.

If the eyes are the window of the soul, then the hands are the doorway of the mind. I enjoy studying the hands of people who work with their hands and I’m in awe of the knowledge and experience that is expressed with their efforts. Kristen has great hands and the proof was in the pastry!!

How do you go from this …

to this …

to this? I guess it’s like how you get to Carnegie Hall … practice, practice, practice!!! And eat your mistakes.

The hero shot of  candied “Man-qwuats” (??), which I heard was the star crossed love child of a mandarin and a kumquat. Probably not a true story, but for the color of the story I’m going to believe it.

Where would I start in describing this …Pate Brisee crust with cocoa nibs, dark chocolate Vietnamese custard, lemon creme, candied “Man-quat”  and creme fraiche!

That deconstructs the dessert but doesn’t describe it, so my best description would be to call it sinfully delicious … but definitely not “over the top”!

Keith and Kristen debriefing after slaying us with chocolate.

What makes a good cooking class great? A great instructor that shares their passion and enjoyment for what they do. Kristen definitely brought that tonight.

Watch for Kristen, Sweet Savant, in 2013 to open her own pastry shop in Portland, location to be determined. You may also catch her classes at The Chef Studio in Portland.

It wouldn’t be a food post without acknowledging my fondness for Kathy and Keith at Cook’s Pots & Tabletops and giving credit to their great staff. I am looking forward to continuing my food journey in 2013 and know that the road will run through Cook’s Pots & Tabletops. If you haven’t had the pleasure or opportunity to take one of their classes I would definitely encourage you to consider it in 2013. And if you do, I hope to see you there!



Donald R. Dexter, Jr., DMD