One of the most exciting things about living in the Hudson Valley right now is seeing the new and innovative businesses emerging. Even a few years ago, I felt sort of hard press to find ways to entertain my friends who came up to visit. It wasn’t exactly like I could offer them rooftop brunches or interactive exhibitions the way they could when I was down in their neck of the woods. But now that’s changing. There’s lots of stuff to do that goes beyond the hiking and other nature activities upstate is known for and embracing your inner chef at Main Street Cooking Studio is one of them.
Located on 2689 West Main Street in Wappingers Falls, Main Street Cooking Studio is owned and operated by husband and wife team Anthony and Nicole Michelin. Anthony is the Executive Chef at West Main Kitchen & Bar (also located in Wappingers) and Michelle has an educational background making the cooking studio a great pairing of their skillset. Together they offer a variety of classes Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings; teaching everything from donut making to healthy cooking techniques. A from scratch kitchen, it’s the place to take you from culinary wimp to wizard in the span of an afternoon.
And that’s what I wanted. I’m a decent cook (if I say so myself) but I’m the queen of semi-homemade. I window dress food, adding spices to ready made rice packets and other quick fix tricks I’m too embarrassed to put in writing. I wanted to learn how to cook the old fashion way, not only for health reasons but for fiscal ones. It’s almost always less expensive to prepare food from scratch. It’s also just a great skill to have and food taste better when made from fresh ingredients.
My mother is a wonderful cook (seriously, she should have gone pro) and I couldn’t have thought of a better person to share the experience with so I purchased her a gift certificate to join me at one of the studios classes. They list all their offerings on their website and after searching the selection we went with Pasta Making which would also teach us how to make homemade sauce-something that’s be on my ‘Must Learn’ list for at least three years.
The studio is lovely, with hardwood floors and lots of natural light thanks to the large windows at the front of the building. It has a country kitchen rustic chic vibe and there are individual cooking stations for students. Classes last roughly two hours and cost between $68-$85. Students eat what they make and are sent home with leftovers, as well as a recipe and instruction packet so they can recreate the dishes later on.
Our pasta class was on a Sunday. We were greeted by Anthony and Nicole who are a gracious and friendly couple who went out of their way to make us feel welcome. As soon as we arrived we were shown to our stations ( which were ready to go with all our ingredients and tools, including aprons) and invited to enjoy the beverages and hors d’oeuvre they had prepared for our arrival.
Lots of people shy away from making homemade pasta, citing it’s too labor intensive. Coming from someone who now has a cooking class under her belt, I encourage you to rethink this position. Yes, it requires some time but it’s not nearly as laborsome as it seems. It’s more of a matter of practice; familiarizing yourself with the different stages the dough goes through on it’s road to pastaville and having the patience to get it there.
First you make the dough by creating a nest with the dry ingredients for the wet ingredients to enter, working them together until they can be kneaded and then set aside to rest. We gathered around Anthony’s station while he demoed the process, so we could survey his technique. When we gave it ago ourselves, he came around to offer further tips and assistance.
As the dough rested we worked on the sauce; a process involving crushing tomatoes, softening onions and garlic in a pan before adding wine and other ingredients to simmer. The room became incredibly fragrant. While the sauce cooked, we went back to the dough, returning to Anthony’s station to learn how to prepare it to enter the pasta roller machine. This is the tricky part, as you must make sure the dough isn’t too thick or sticky to get through the press. If you do it just right, it will go through and emerge into a long doughy strip which you will collect, fold and rework again, repeating the process and adjusting the machine till the dough is the perfect consistency to form whatever type of pasta you are making.
We were shown how to make ravioli (cut the dough into squares, fill with just enough ricotta, fold), tortellini (cut dough into a triangle, fill with ricotta, fold and overlap the ends), noodles, and bow ties. Macaroni and other cylinder shaped pasta requires a different type of machine.
The overall tone of the class was very relaxed. Questions were asked freely and the conversations veered between storing techniques, ingredient swaps, and even local events and happenings. It was a no-pressure atmosphere, lending itself to the often overlooked fact that cooking really isn’t a chore but a fun way to nourish yourself and others.
Once everything was complete, we were able to sit down to enjoy the fruit of our labors and what a treat that was! Fresh pasta has a distinctly better taste than boxed. I don’t think my palette will tolerate the ladder ever again. My mother and I are already discussing other classes we can take (Anthony and Nicole shared their taco class shows how to make tortillas from scratch!).
Main Street Cooking Studio also offers kids classes, so if you have a little epicurean in your household, this could be a fun activity. They also host private events and offer space rentals. The culinary confidence that comes from visiting them is free of charge. To learn more, visit their website.
Hudson Valley based writer.