I have sweated onions in many kitchens in my lifetime, but never in one as well equipped or filled with as much good cheer as the teaching kitchen at the The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay during a recent weekend of their Global Cuisine Series 2018.
The once-monthly curated experience runs through December. Up to 16 guests enjoy an intimate hands-on cooking class with a celebrity chef, followed by a wine-paired luncheon where the student-guests have the opportunity to—pardon the pun—pepper the chef with their cooking questions. The culinary retreat also includes an overnight stay and the chance to enjoy a tasting dinner that features dishes by the guest chef.
My weekend had begun in style. I flew from Burbank to Oakland on a semi-private plane, one of the spiffy fleet that’s operated by the airline industry disruptor JetSuiteX. That meant a private terminal, no lines, the suggestion to arrive just 30 minutes before the flight, plush seats, very attentive flight attendants and, best of all, no stress.
So, I was already in fine spirits when, along with my cooking companions, I was introduced to the weekend’s star chef, Jason Fox, chef-owner of Commonwealth San Francisco, which earned a Michelin star for its progressive California cuisine. The menu features complex dishes like a pork jowl with strawberry and pea granola, kimchee, gold rice and seaweed or sea urchin served with buttermilk panna cotta, trout roe, chrysanthemum geleé and a rhubarb granite.
The recipes during our cooking class were more approachable for a home cook but still elevated. Those onions I was chopping were for a pea and mint soup with Meyer lemon, smoked trout and a garnish of local seaweed. I learned a foolproof technique for searing scallops that I’ve actually been successful in replicating at home (though I haven’t yet attempted the popcorn puree and yuzu kosho milk that accompanied Jason’s dish).
This is the kind of experience that The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, can recreate for groups with their own highly talented in-house culinary team. And you’ll want to know that the property, which sits on a majestic bluff, has more than 35,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, including the largest ballroom on the Northern California coast and a spectacular Ocean Lawn that overlooks the Pacific. There are s’mores every evening at sunset and musicians in traditional Scottish kilts playing bagpipes several nights a week. Their rendition of “Amazing Grace” the evening I was there was every bit as breathtaking as the view.